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Big Job (1965)


Main image of Big Job (1965)
35mm, colour, 2 mins
Production CompanyNational Coal Board

Recruitment film encouraging young men to take up "an exciting lifetime career in mining".

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"It's a go-ahead age, off duty and on. Behind the bright lights, the glitter and the glamour, behind the surging power of Britain's industrial might stands coal, our most basic industry. It's an industry of men and machines undreamed of a few short years ago."

The arresting opening montage sequence with its iconic imagery of 1960s pop culture fused with the above commentary aligns Britain's centuries-old coal mining industry with all that is cutting-edge in the mid-1960s. Whilst the National Coal Board was indeed renowned for its technological breakthroughs and innovative training opportunities, the industry had been going through a period of contraction since an all-time peak in British coal consumption in 1956. Since then, consumption had taken a dramatic plunge, largely attributable to competition from alternative fuels, in particular oil. Whilst the NCB's prevailing policy at the time this film was made would have been a dramatic reduction in recruitment (around 50% during the 1960s), it also had to go some way to meet the demands of unions and take steps to curtail what was fast becoming an ageing labour force. Big Job was distributed in cinemas and intended as a direct appeal to young men to take up "an exciting lifetime career in mining".

The NCB recruitment films that were periodically released during the first part of the long-term decline of 'king coal' therefore targeted school-leavers. Here young people are urged to call into their local NCB office for all the facts on the exciting opportunities available. In reality, behind the purported 'glitter and glamour' the cumulative effect of recruitment reduction and other contemporary measures - such as the cessation of overtime work and closure of collieries - had already started to break down the traditional perception of coal as a 'big job' for life.

Katy McGahan

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:41)