Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Kensington Calling (1930)

Courtesy of Catalyst Housing Group

Main image of Kensington Calling (1930)
35mm, 8 min, black & white, silent
Production CompanyKensington Housing Trust

An appeal for funds from the Kensington Housing Trust, showing slum housing and some of the new flats built by the Trust.

Show full synopsis

An emotive campaign film, Kensington Calling! arises from the same sense of shame about slum housing that gave birth to the later Housing Problems (d. Edgar Anstey/Arthur Elton, 1935).

While it makes substantial use of intertitles to get its message across, the film also makes powerful use of images, particularly interiors, to show the cramped and unhygienic living conditions in the terraced houses. Stark images - used in isolation almost like still images - make a strong impact: a baby's very thin legs; a carpenter making a tiny coffin; a dead rat held up by its tail.

The film makes ingenious use of animation techniques, often combined with live action. The strapline with moving text at the bottom of the screen is a surprising precursor to contemporary television style, while the jumble of animated numbers from which emerges the total number of residents in a single house is reminiscent of Norman McLaren's inventive and acclaimed animation. The makers of Kensington Calling!, however, are uncredited, and the film would have had a relatively small audience, being intended for local use. The success of the appeal is unknown.

Ironically, blocks of flats like those advocated here have subsequently been seen by many as eyesores to rival the slums they replaced. The film, though, stresses the dramatic improvement in living conditions that they provided for many people.

Ros Cranston

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (8:02)
Housing Problems (1935)