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Mind How You Go (1973)


Main image of Mind How You Go (1973)
16mm, colour, 12 mins
Directed by Don Higgins
Produced by London Balfour Films
Production Company Central Office of Information
For Department of the Environment
Produced by Anne Balfour-Fraser
Written by Don Higgins
Photography Jack Atcheler

Presenter: Valerie Singleton

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Valerie Singleton shows children of primary and middle school age how they can cross the road safely by following the Green Cross Code.

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The Green Cross Code was introduced in 1970, replacing the previous Kerb Drill, which had constituted official advice to pedestrians in general and children in particular since 1942. The latter had come under much criticism for its relatively sparse information and militaristic tone (the chorus of the accompanying song went, in part, "Eyes right! Eyes left! Eyes right once again. Then, if the road is clear, quick march!"), and so in the late 1960s a sub-committee was established by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to establish how children reacted to various traffic situations, and to devise an appropriately child-friendly form of words that they would quickly understand and translate into safe situations when crossing the road.

In December 1971, the Department of the Environment set aside £14,000 for a film aimed at 5-11 year olds, to back up the existing publicity campaign aimed at promoting the Green Cross Code. The aim was to treat the subject in more depth, but in a highly accessible fashion. Because of the perceived need to disseminate the subject as widely as possible, the DoE formally approached the Treasury for permission to distribute the film free of charge, to encourage schools, local education authorities and road safety officers to avoid incurring the usual booking charges. Valerie Singleton was chosen as presenter because of her longstanding association with the BBC's children's magazine programme Blue Peter (1958-), which she had presented since 1962.

Mind How You Go stands apart from many 1970s safety films for its comparative lack of shock tactics - unexpectedly, given the nudge-nudge treatment that hints at danger lurking around every corner, young Graham manages to get safely home as a result of remembering and following all the advice that he'd been given. Surprisingly, this benignly conscientious approach was criticised by the Times Educational Supplement of 1 February 1974, which argued that: "it is debatable whether this kind of format provides a better means of bringing home its message than the shock tactics used on television where a picture and a caption are flashed consecutively onto the screen. A wide selection of short, dramatic examples of the hazards which confront children, their relations, their pets and their toys on the road, shown one by one at intervals throughout the school year either before or after the longer films used in lessons, might achieve the same purpose more effectively."

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'The COI Collection Volume 4: Stop! Look! Listen!'.

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Video Clips
1. Meet Graham (2:20)
2. School lessons (2:18)
3. Hurrying home (4:20)
Complete film (11:25)
20 Times More Likely (1979)
Singleton, Valerie (1937-)