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Tomorrow's Saturday (1962)


Main image of Tomorrow's Saturday (1962)
16mm, black and white, 16 mins
DirectorMichael Grigsby
Production CompanyUnit Five Seven
Production CompanyBFI Experimental Film Fund

Impressions of a typical weekend in Blackburn in the early 1960s.

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Before Michael Grigsby's Enginemen (1959) appeared in the last Free Cinema programme, Grigsby and his Manchester-based Unit Five Seven colleagues were already beginning their next documentary. The subject was the typical weekend of a community of cotton workers in a Lancashire mill town. The film was shot in Blackburn and Preston over two summers, 1959 and 1960. The crew worked in their spare time with extremely limited resources and borrowed equipment, with another crucial completion grant from the BFI Experimental Film Fund. The film was completed in Summer 1962, and was first shown at the NFT alongside three other BFI-sponsored shorts that November.

Tomorrow's Saturday opens with a panning shot of a northern industrial town, in which the mill progressively dominates the landscape. The camera takes us inside the factory, where female workers, with their mechanical gestures, seem mere extensions of the looms. But soon an alarm signals the end of the working week, and an anonymous voice tells us "tomorrow's Saturday". The rest of the film is not about work, but about that community's spare time over the weekend.

Perhaps better than any other film associated with Free Cinema, Tomorrow's Saturday conveys, in just over fifteen minutes, a real sense of working-class culture in provincial Britain in the early 1960s. Far from the glamour and modernisation of the swinging metropolis, it still revolves around the same traditional places: the cobble-stoned back streets where children play while mothers and grand-mothers chat; the football stadium, where hordes of men converge on Saturday afternoon; the local pub, where the whole community gathers for drinks and songs. In this context, only the ultra-modern launderette reminds us that times have changed.

While some of the later, bigger-budget Free Cinema films like Every Day Except Christmas (d. Lindsay Anderson, 1957) discarded some of the movement's original aesthetical principles, Tomorrow's Saturday marked a return to early uncompromising Free Cinema style. For instance, Grigsby again refused to resort to staged scenes and a didactic voice-over commentary. Instead, he combined a creative use of mostly unsynchronised sounds - snatches of dialogue, children's screams, radio news, pub songs or barking dogs - with spontaneous close-ups of faces, affectionate community tableaux and haunting shots of the industrial landscape. The result is a realistic yet highly poetic tribute to working-class everyday life, but also arguably the most faithful example of the 'Free Cinema attitude'.

Christophe Dupin

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Free Cinema'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (16:22)
Production stills
Enginemen (1959)
Spare Time (1939)
Grigsby, Michael (1936-)
Beyond Free Cinema
Free Cinema
They Started Here