Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

Melvyn Bragg presents a reel history of Britain for BBC Two Daytime

Esteemed broadcaster Melvyn Bragg is to present a brand new series for BBC Two Daytime retelling the fascinating stories about how life in Britain used to be, through the film collections of the British Film Institute and regional film archives.

These films have now been restored and are available to be seen again for the first time in generations. Throughout the series, Melvyn Bragg will be touring the country in the UK's only surviving vintage mobile cinema; custom built in 1967 the vehicle is complete with a 22-seat, fully tiered cinema.

Commissioned by 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 Keelan, Controller of Daytime, 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."

Melvyn Bragg 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 one hundred years later, we can share the many secrets of this forgotten archive. 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."

Dominic Bird, Creative Director, BBC Entertainment North, says: "This is another important commission for Manchester entertainment and we are delighted to be working with BBC Two Daytime and Melvyn in bringing Britain's forgotten worlds to life through compelling archive footage."

On The Reel History Of Britain, Melvyn Bragg, travels back in time to reveal what life was really like for ordinary British people. In the 1900s documentary film-makers began to capture for the first time real stories of everyday life; over many decades, this passion for film-making grew in confidence and technical skill and produced an extraordinary and compelling authentic archive.

These films have now been carefully restored and are available to be seen again for the first time in generations. They showcase the people and places of Britain; their preoccupations, lifestyles and ambitions for the future. They reveal a forgotten Britain that has since changed forever.

The Reel History Of Britain is being made in Manchester by BBC Entertainment Production North for BBC Two Daytime – 6.30pm, 20x30mins and is being executive produced by Pam Cavannagh, Kieron Collins and Dympna Jackson is series producing. It will transmit Summer 2011.

Notes to Editors

The BBC is working with the following archives for The Reel History Of Britain:

BFI National Archive
Amber Films
East Anglian Film Archive
London Screen Archives Network
Media Archive for Central England
North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University Screen Archive
Screen Archive South East
South West Film and Television Archive
Yorkshire Film Archive
Wessex Film and Sound Archive

BBC Entertainment Productions North is the BBC's Manchester based in-house entertainment team. They are responsible for some of the UK's best loved and most popular entertainment and factual entertainment shows including Dragons' Den, Mastermind and Question Of Sport. The department is also behind other new formats including BBC Two's Antiques Master and BBC Three's Young Talent Of The Year. Recent new commissions include Pop's Latest Dance Crazes and Beyond Walford, both for BBC Three.


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