Day 29 of our 30 Days in May Challenge: Cine-Sister

This is not your regular cinema, this is a film being hosted at the John Clare Theatre which is held in the Central Library on Broadway. Tucked away on the first floor where it offers comfortable raked seating for 146 people. However, this is not part of the Peterborough Arts Cinema it’s part of a Cine-Sister project.

Cine-Sister puts on film screenings and workshops promoting female identifying filmmakers in a leadership role. Their aim is to give a voice and a platform to a diverse range of women with amazing stories to tell and share them with the public in a range of locations around the UK. Founded in 2016 by Emily Steele, Cine-Sister launched with its first screening in March 2017. She introduced the film to us and covered details about the female director, write and screenwrite Muriel Box and her life.

The showing that I’ve booked to see is The Happy Family made in 1952 (black and white and very square!): 1951’s Festival of Britain was considered a morale booster for a post-war, austerity-weary nation – but not so for one aggrieved London family. The House of ‘Lords’ is a grocery shop that sits on the South Bank of the river Thames close to the site of Festival Hall which is noisily under construction. It is owned by the Lord family, a husband and wife with several children. Lillian Lord runs the shop, while Henry is a British Railways train driver, who has worked on the railways for over 30 years and who is just about to retire. He is looking forward to enjoying a quiet retirement at the family shop looking after his pet hare, Winston, though his spiritualist sister-in-law Ada has had supernatural visions of “men in black” bringing discord. Their plans are disrupted by the arrival of Filch, a senior civil servant dressed in a black suit. He announces that he is overseeing work on the Festival of Britain, due to begin in just six weeks. He explains that, due to an error by one of the planners, the Lords’ shop and house will have to be demolished to allow an entrance route to be built assuring them that they will be financially compensated and will be moved to a new house in South Harrow. Ordered to vacate their shop and home to make way for the Festival, the Lord family stands their ground in a siege against the system. Superb performances from the top cast of Stanley Holloway, Naunton Wayne, Dandy Nichols and especially Kathleen Harrison who all enrich this cheerful comedy.

‘The film was definitely a step back in time with music played instead of listening to silence or the sound of what people were doing, the class divide was evident with posh accents from the BBC reporter and journalist against the common London accent of Mr & Mrs Lord and their children. It’s comical but poignant about the working class man buying his own house, going through the good and bad times, not being able to feed themselves because of no money, but all in all still proud, and proud of his achievements of work from his past 30 years on the railway. We look back and wonder how people lived like this and remember our own childhoods or our grandparents that would have done so like this.

  • No TV just radio. Simple food, nothing complicated.
  • Keeping a hare in your backyard and your Mrs shouting at you for having it on the table.
  • Buttering bread on the loaf before cutting it.
  • Old money two and six.
  • Sitting around the living room table which was the hub of the house for everything back then.

We do live in a fast-moving, futuristic world compared to the 1950s.’

At some point in this present century, a British woman will direct her thirteenth fictional feature film. Until that day, Muriel Box’s record – who single-handedly directed a dozen such pictures from 1952 to 1964 – will stand intact. You’ll learn about this pioneering British director and see her fantastic comedic satire.

The film concluded with a talk by Peterborough Trades Union Council’s Hazel Perry, on the relevancy of the film’s themes today. She spoke about housing in Peterborough, the introduction of council housing and new estates in Peterborough way back when Dogsthorpe was created and also gave statistics on the number of homeless in Peterborough whilst buildings and housing are left empty.

(Funded by Film Hub North as part of WOMEN’S HISTORIES)

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