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Farmer Moving South (1952)


Main image of Farmer Moving South (1952)
35mm, black and white, 17 mins
DirectorsJohn Taylor
 Charles De Lautour
Production CompanyBritish Transport Films
PhotographyJames Ritchie
EditorKitty Marshall
MusicThomas Henderson

A record of a winter journey, when a farmer decides to move his whole stock by rail from Yorkshire to Sussex.

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Farmer Moving South (d. John Taylor and Charles de Lautour, 1952) is one of the finest examples of the early British Transport Films. Sponsored by the British Transport Commission Railway Executive, and produced by Edgar Anstey, this atmospheric and often humorous film, which follows a farmer's relocation from Yorkshire to Sussex, offers superb black and white photography from James Ritchie, Reg Hughes and John Page, and features a touching narration by one of the most famous broadcasters and authors on rural topics of the day, A.G.Street.

Typical of Anstey's desire to produce films which were technically excellent, Farmer Moving South describes a complicated railway transport operation, made all the more difficult by the small capacity of the rural stations. The farmer's move from Skutterskelfe Hall Farm, near Stokesley in North Yorkshire, to Perryhill Farm, Hartfield, Sussex takes place in a bitterly cold December 1950

Anstey entrusted directors who he knew by reputation were capable of making technically perfect productions, and John Taylor and Charles de Lautour were two such people. Anstey had met Taylor (brother-in-law to John Grierson, the father of the British documentary movement), at the GPO Film Unit, where Taylor began as a cameraman, later working for the Strand, Realist and Crown Film Units, before eventually joining Anstey at BTF and becoming a major influence in the unit's output.

With music specially composed by Thomas Henderson, the film leaves its audience with a heartwarming feeling that, despite the cold and the blizzard conditions, something new and positive is waiting:

"In the house there will be the discussion about whether the piano should go against this wall and whether Aunt May's present should go in the dinning room or the attic. For the animals, good hay tastes the same in Sussex as it did in Yorkshire; and for the farmer, under that snow is Sussex soil. It's different, it's new to him, and it's waiting for him."

Steven R Foxon

*This film is included on the BFI British Transport Films DVD compilation 'Running a Railway'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (16:09)
British Transport Films