Memory Lane: Be part of Blackpool’s reel history

Crowds on the Golden Mile in the late 1950s
Crowds on the Golden Mile in the late 1950s
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FOR The South Bank Show read the South Promenade Show, although doubtless it will take in the Golden Mile, too, and other parts of Blackpool’s famous seafront.

Lord Bragg of Wigton, or Melvyn Bragg as most of us know the veteran North West broadcaster from his days of anchoring the former arts programme, is heading to Blackpool at the end of next month, as part of his new BBC Two series, The Reel History of Britain.

Melvin Bragg

Melvin Bragg

Yes, that is “reel” as in cinema reel, an appropriate title, because the programmes will tell the history of modern Britain through archive film footage, in association with the British Film Institute and regional film archives.

And, as you might guess, Blackpool with its holiday fun enjoyed by millions, has earned an episode of its own and Memory Lane readers might end up becoming “Seaside Stars” themselves.

Over the 20-part series, Melvyn will be touring the country in the UK’s only surviving vintage mobile cinema - purpose-built in the 1960s and now full restored, complete with a 22 seat, fully tiered cinema.

The films have now been restored and are available to be seen again for the first time in generations, but along the way the programme wants to hear stories from families, with personal accounts of how people and their relatives lived through the momentous changes the 20th century brought. Whether it’s a story, a photo, a diary or even a home movie the programme makers want to hear accounts of the reel, or make that real, history of Britain.

Melvyn says: “At the turn of the last century one invention changed the way we recall our history forever, the motion camera. Thanks to Britain’s pioneering film-makers, we can still glimpse a world long gone. Most of this unique footage has never been seen before, but now, more than 100 years later, we can share the many secrets of this forgotten archive.

Melvyn adds: “I’m going to explore some of the most remarkable events of British history as captured on camera. Reaching back into the 20th century, this is an absorbing and entertaining insight into how we became who we are.”

Commissioned by BBC Daytime Controller Liam Keelan, the show will be produced by BBC Entertainment Productions North. Each episode will focus on a different aspect of British life, highlighting the hardships and simple pleasures, as well as the enormous social changes that took place from the 1900s onwards.

The Reel History Of Britain will trace the descendants of those featured in the films, as they come face-to-face with their ancestors, to discover how they lived their lives. Along the way viewers will see how ordinary British people worked, loved and lived in the 20th century, as seen through social documentaries, tourist information films, newsreels, and government propaganda films.

Liam says: “It’s fantastic to have such a highly respected broadcaster fronting this fascinating new series for BBC Two Daytime. It’s testament to the broad range of distinct programmes we are now commissioning for BBC Two from Great British Railways with Michael Portillo and Climbing Great Buildings with Dr Jonathan Foyle.”

Assistant producer Gordon Hart says: “We will be filming in Blackpool and the surrounding area on Monday, May 30. We are particularly interested in stories relating to people who came to the resort in the 1950s. We have found a fantastic film called ‘Holiday’ and it would be great to find people who appeared in this film or anyone who has great memories of the resort during this time. We would also welcome any great stories that people might have about any aspect of British life in the 20th century.”

n Memory Lane readers with stories, photographs, diaries or memories that you would like to share, should ring the Reel team on (0161) 244 3289, email or write to: Reel History of Britain, Room 4061, BBC Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M60 1SJ.

n Hit to see how the 1960s mobile cinema has been painstakingly restored ahead of the series, which will air later in the summer.