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East Anglian Holiday (1954)


Main image of East Anglian Holiday (1954)
35mm, 20 mins, colour
DirectorMichael Clarke
Production CompanyBritish Transport Films
ProducerEdgar Anstey
Commentary WriterPaul Le Saux
PhotographyBob Paynter
MusicDoreen Carwithen

A tour of East Anglia, with its water-ways and low-lying country.

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One of British Transport Films' relatively early travelogues, this guided tour of the sights of East Anglia follows a virtually identical formula to that established by the previous year's West Country Journey (d. Syd Sharples, 1953). It too was shot in Technicolor (by Bob Paynter, previously an assistant on 1952's The Heart is Highland and 1953's This Is York), and its narration (also written by Paul Le Saux) similarly combines clipped patrician received pronunciation with occasional interludes delivered in a strong local accent.

It makes an interesting contrast to Fenlands (d. Ken Annakin, 1945), another official sponsored documentary about a similar subject. The earlier film was primarily a history and geography lesson, concentrating on the mechanics of fen drainage and the struggle between man and nature that has turned the flatlands into rich arable pasture (alluded to only in passing by the BTF commentary). Ironically, the earlier film also features more shots of trains, as it describes how a new light railway has made a huge difference to the local economy.

By contrast, East Anglian Holiday's priorities are firmly to do with boosting the newly burgeoning leisure economy and the encouragement of people, especially families, to visit. The historical and geographical detail has now become a colourful backdrop, interspersed with poetry and references to John Constable's paintings of the region ("you can see it all around these parts, along with a lot more he never had time to paint"). The film dutifully ticks off the major sights - Ely and Norwich cathedrals, guildhalls in Norwich and King's Lynn, holidaymakers and fishermen coexisting side by side at Lowestoft, the latter's work accompanied by a traditional dialect poem about herring fishing.

But at least as much attention is paid to achievements of the past: the Normans, whose still surviving fortifications kept out subsequent invaders (the region having previously been attacked by Britons, Angles, Saxons and Danes), or the weavers whose wealth built many of the villages and the great city buildings. The same year, director Michael Clark would apply a very similar formula to his better-known treatment of the Cotswolds, The Heart of England (1954).

Michael Brooke

*This film is included on the BFI British Transport Films DVD compilation 'See Britain By Train'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (18:51)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
British Transport Films