Film ID: NEFA 8261 Video of NEFA 8261 Billingham at Play (1956) BILLINGHAM AT PLAY 1956 Visitor TabsDescription An ICI Billingham Film Unit short documentary on Billingham’s Synthonia Club Sports and Gala Day, June 1956. The film documents the annual sports day, and includes footage of the athletics, gymnastics, and Punch and Judy events, as well as views of the various fairground rides. It is accompanied throughout by music track and voice-over commentary. Title: The Billingham Film Unit Presents Title: Billingham at Play [Bagpipe music plays over the title sequence, and throughout the first two minutes of the film.] The voice-over commentary explains the significance of the event: “Every year on the last Saturday in June, thousands of people who work at Billingham come to the great day in the Synthonia Club’s calendar: Sports and Gala Day – and they don’t come alone, this is very much a family affair.” The film begins with views of a smartly dressed crowd of men, women, and children queuing to buy tickets to enter the Synthonia Club’s sports field. Close-up views of their faces. Shots of people buying their tickets. Close-ups of tickets being torn from paper reels. Two cub scouts amongst the crowd queue up, wearing full uniform. A woman leafs through a paper programme of the day’s events. Views of the Moss End Pipe Band of Scottish bagpipers marching in formation, and wearing full regalia: kilts, sporrans, high socks and berets. The band’s mascot is 10-year old Greer Little, the daughter of one of the band’s drummers, George Little. Views of the marching band are intercut with views of the watching crowd, seated and standing behind a rope cordon. Greer Little performs a traditional Scottish folk dance. Although the bagpipe music continues to play, some of the pipers rest on the grass in front of the assembled crowd. A comic section of film follows, recording events at the Canine Show, where “the dogs await the judges’ decision with varying degrees of patience”. Close-up shots of each of the participating dogs follow, and a voice-over articulates the dogs’ thoughts – in the same style taken up by Johnny Morris for 'Animal Magic' in the 1960s. “What a stupid business” “I know, I’m tired too” “So am I” “Downed that lunch” “I rushed mine too” “How much longer now?” “Thirst is my trouble” “’Ow much longer?” “Couldn’t care less, me” “What are we waiting for?” “Let’s all bark”. The final dog barks. Close-up shots of an arranged flower display at the Gardening Show, “always an outstanding feature of the Sports and Gala Day”. Views of the Juvenile Talent Competition underway. A young girl stands on a stage, singing into a cloth-wrapped stand microphone. Brief shots of the judges and some of the other competitors follow. One girl is changing into her outfit: a pink 1920s-style cabaret or circus costume, complete with pink top hat. Shots of dancing girls on stage, and the assembled watching crowd. In the background, a fairground carousel ride spins around. A view of crowd members applauding closes the sequence. Elsewhere on the sports field, young men take part in a gymnastics exhibition. The young men leap in turn on to an unrolled mat, and each perform a cartwheeling somersault. A tug o’ war is underway. Views of middle-aged men heaving on the rope. The judge wears a woollen jumper decorated with sheep or reindeer. Enrico (?), the high wire walker, performs daring tightrope tricks. He rides a bicycle from one high platform to the other, holding a long balancing pole. Views, next, of him sat on an office chair, balancing in the middle of the tightrope. Close-up of a man and woman holding hands. Athletics and sprinting races are underway: first of all a women’s 100 yard sprint; next a men’s track cycling race; a men’s sprint; a men’s long distance race; a men’s walking race; the false start of a men’s sprint, followed by the race itself. Intercut with these athletic scenes are views of the judges and crowd. A men’s hurdling race takes place. Young men are battling it out in the judo ring. Views of children enjoying the gala, “and what a whale of a time they are having, with sweets and ice cream, lemonade and lollipops, roundabouts and swings”. One young lad plays with a piano. Close-up of a child wearing a peaked “Drink Coca Cola” visor hat, who has ice cream smeared about his lips. Shots of children riding on a fairground carousel. A crowd of children are gathered in front of a Punch and Judy show. Shots of them enjoying the show, as the Punch and Judy puppets are engaged in a violent tussle. Some of the children hold balloons. Various brief shots of children and their families enjoying the fair. Close-up shot of a baby wearing a blue bonnet, sitting up in a pram and watching the events of gala day. Two young teenage girls play on an upright pinball-like coin-slot machines. The commentary waxes, “It really is a wonderful day for the children”. Shot of a smartly-dressed baby sat up in a pram, a helium balloon fastened to the pram. A girl and two boys enjoy bottled fizzy drinks. A little boy cries as he walks along waving a balloon on a stick. A barman serves bottles of Pepsi to two young girls. The unseen commentator interviews one of the young cub scouts attending the gala day, the boy clutching a microphone: Commentator: “Hello. Would you like to tell us what you think about Sports and Gala Day?” Cub scout: “Oh, I have no idea… [indistinct]”. Commentator: “What time did you get here?” Cub scout: “I came at about half past eleven”. Commentator: “And what have you been doing?” Cub scout: “We’ve been running around and doing messages”. Commentator: “Well thanks old chap, bye bye”. Views of the busy sports field. The commentator announces that 5000 people have so far entered the gala. Women take part in a high-jump event, each in turn scissor kicking over the high bar. Men compete in the shot put. Men compete in a sprinting race. Men compete in a long distance race. A portrait shot of the winner follows. Women compete in a sprinting race. A portrait shot of the winner follows. Following this sequence, views of shirtless men performing a gymnastics exhibition, vaulting over a wooden horse, “yet another fine display of the sort of physical fitness that comes from hard and conscientious training”. Shots of the gala day crowd, whilst a sports field announcer pronounces that Mrs Ward, the wife of the Synthonia Club president, will be presenting the sporting trophies, and Mrs Taylor, those from Billingham Urban District Council. Two women, likely Mrs Ward and Mrs Taylor, are presented with bouquets of flowers by a young child. Shots of the prize-giving ceremony to different ICI works teams: it is announced that Workshops have won the Norris trophy with 37 points. Research department were second with 24 points, and Castle Works (?) third with 15 points. The competition for the Kimpton (?) Cup, the ladies’ trophy, is won by Research department with 12 points. Commercial Works are announced as winners of the tug o’ war cup. Dean Willis is announced as the winner of the Coronation Trophy. He shakes a woman’s hand and is presented with the trophy. The commentator briefly interviews the cub scout again: Commentator: Well, you’ve enjoyed yourself? Cub scout: I’ve enjoyed it very much. Commentator: And so say all of us. The film ends with views of children enjoying the fairground rides. [The end titles overlay images of children spinning around on a chain swing ride.] Title: The End - A Billingham Film Context A thrilling 50s Gala in Billingham Coca Cola and calisthenics! This workers’ Sports and Gala Day at the ICI Synthonia Club is packed full of visually lush 50s fun and fashions. It’s a great chance to show off: the breath-taking feats of a high wire artist thrill the crowd, and local girls mimic Shirley Temple in tap dance routines. In a light whimsical touch, the stars of the dog show are ‘voiced’ by a variety of silly characters, in a style later popularised by Johnny Morris in the children’s TV show Animal Magic. The annual Billingham ICI (Imperial Chemicals Industries) Gala attracted more than 5,000 people in 1956, but attendance later declined with the increase of private motor cars, and the chance of holidays further afield. Glimpses of rock-and-roll fashions and Coca-Cola branded sun-visors sported by children hint at the creeping Americanisation of British post-war culture, accelerated by British dependence on American aid during and after World War Two. Even wartime star of cinema and music hall, Gracie Fields, topping the bill at the 1951 Festival of Britain finale, demanded payment in dollars.