Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Packs

Reel History Of Britain presented by Melvyn Bragg

Episode 11, Monday 19 September
The Birth of the NHS (NHS)

Today, Melvyn Bragg travels to the College of Medical and Dental Sciences in Birmingham, to look back to 1948 and the formation of the NHS. He'll meet doctors, nurses and patients who all have memories of those early days of the Service. We'll see the terrible suffering endured by millions before the birth of the NHS, the fight required to get the service up and running and the impact it had once started; when the health of the nation was changed forever. Melvyn will hear first hand accounts on how the formation of the NHS changed their lives. From Aneira Thomas's unique claim to fame, being the first baby born into the NHS to Nola Ishmael's account of how she travelled to Britain from Barbados to join the NHS and would become one of the top nurses in the country. Melvyn will also meet modern day nurses and midwives, to see how more than 60 years of the NHS have changed the health of the nation.

Episode 12, Tuesday 20 September
Steel Ships and Iron Men (Shipbuilding)

Today Melvyn Bragg travels to the site of the once great John Brown's shipyard in Clydebank near Glasgow to look back to the Thirties when Britain's shipyards, once the wonder of the industrial world, were fighting to survive.

Melvyn meets shipbuilders and their families to hear their accounts of the shipyards. From 78-year-old Charlie Grozier's account of growing up near John Brown's and watching in awe on launch days the ships his father worked on; to Tom Graham who explains how his family were affected by the collapse of the industry as well as his late father's involvement in the Jarrow March, when over 200 unemployed shipbuilders from the town marched 300 miles to lobby politicians at Westminster.

Melvyn also travels to the top of the Titan Crane, all that remains of the John Brown's shipyard, to talk with historian and shipbuilding expert Anthony Burton about what caused the decline in the industry and what effect it has on cities around the UK.

Episode 13, Wed 21 September
A Right Royal Knees-Up (Jubilee)

Today Melvyn Bragg travels to Countesthorpe in Leicestershire, to look back to 1977 when in this village, and around the country, a right Royal knees-up was taking place in honour of the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

He'll meet people who celebrated in style, as beauty queens, party goers and those involved in running the whole show explain how their Jubilee year went off with a bang. From Ruth Girvin's account of organising a street party in Belfast and inviting people from both sides of the sectarian divide to join in and George Major, the Pearly King of Peckham since 1958, recounts his meeting with the Queen on her tour of London, to royal historian Hugo Vickers' account of his role in the London celebration committee which helped arrange over 5,000 street parties in the capital.

Melvyn will also meet and hear anecdotes from the residents of Countesthorpe whose Jubilee celebrations were captured on film.

Episode 14, Thursday 22 September
Britain's Green and Pleasant Land (Rural Life)

Visiting the Museum of Kent Life, in this episode Melvyn Bragg explores Thirties British farming, when the industry was on the brink of mechanisation, a move which would change the face of the countryside forever. He meets land owners, farm workers and hop-pickers from across the country, who tell their stories of life in rural Britain when man and horse power still worked the land. Eighty-six-year-old Gerry Smith began working on a farm aged twelve in 1937. He paints a vivid picture of the tough but satisfying life he led as a young farm-worker and the sadness he felt when his beloved horses were replaced by machines. Brothers, Frank and Wilf Harris come from a long line of Kent farmers and they remember when their father was one of the first in the country to embrace the new technology. Also in this episode Melvyn meets broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby to discuss the massive impact these changes had on rural life across the country.

Episode 15, Friday 23 September
Reel History of Britain: Britain's Secondary Modern Schools (School Days)

Today Melvyn Bragg travels to the Francis Combe Academy in Watford to look back to the 1960s and a time when passing or failing the eleven-plus exam could map out a child's future.

He'll meet pupils and teachers who encountered the eleven-plus as well as supporters, who argued that it gave people opportunities based purely on merit, and critics, who claimed that failing this one exam could doom you for life. Melvyn will also meet educational historian Dr Catherine Burke to discuss the history behind the eleven plus, from its initial intentions, to its eventual demise.

The Academy was once known as the Francis Combe Secondary Modern and featured in a film from 1962, showing parents a typical day at a Secondary Modern. Bragg will meet two former pupils who talk about their experiences participating in this film as well as the filmmaker John Krish who recalls the formation of the film and what it feels like to meet the pupils he once filmed almost 50 years later.

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