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The spirit of '45.

  • Loach, Ken.
  • Videos

About this work


An archive led film by Ken Loach with support from the BFI and Film 4 which looks at the expectation of a better life post-war using the words and testimony from people who had experience of the time. In black and white (regardless of whether the footage was originally in colour), the film is both a social history of Great Britain and a history of socialism. Memories of the 1930s are of poverty and of people having a diet of bread and jam. Doctors and nurses who were on the frontline of the war effort and poverty comment too. Education in politics was provided by the state for the armed forces so it was not surprising that there was a collective movement to change things for the better after VE day. William Beveridge, a Liberal, published a report 'Social Insurance and Allied Services' which looked at the five 'evils' of society (including unemployment and poverty) - this was the beginnings of the National Health Service (NHS). An election was called weeks after VE day with Labour gaining a landslide under Clement Attlee as the prime minister. They began by nationalising many industries (all this is amply illustrated by newsreels of the time). In 1946 a bill was proposed to establish a national health service as the alternative for working people was 'the panel'; a subscription insurance service usually only available to working people. For many, paying for health care was a struggle. Aneurin Bevan, Health Minister, nationalised all the hospitals which was not originally in the Labour party's manifesto. People reminisce about the early days of the NHS and how it revolutionised peoples' lives. In 1947 the government set up the National Transport Commission which was the beginning of the nationalisation of transport. This was followed by the nationalisation of coal. Investment did mean that safety was improved. Electricity, gas and water then all passed into public ownership. The Festival of Britain was considered to be a pinnacle in peoples' optimism. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher became prime minister with a mandate to change the labour market. Thatcher then began privatising the nationalised industries against a backdrop of labour unrest and communities being decimated by unemployment. Back into the near present - the film collects evidence that the National Health Service has been eroded by the marketisation of the services such as subcontracting of some of the services like cleaning and administration. This 'chapter' features many still photographs. Returning to Attlee's speech, there is colour footage of people celebrating on VE day (some of this is repeated from the beginning and which gives us the title image or the DVD).


UK : Dogwoof, 2013.

Physical description

2 DVDs (135 min.) : sound, color

Creator/production credits

Directed by Ken Loach, produced by Rebecca O'Brien, Kate Ogborn and Lisa Marie Russo .


DVD 1 comprises of a trailer (2 mins) the main feature (135 mins), DVD extras including a 52 minute documentary entitled 'Which Side Are You On? Songs, Poems and Experiences of the Miners' Strike', made in 1984 for LWT, a recent interview with Ken Loach shot in black and white (5 minutes). He talks about what his hopes are for the film in influencing people to work together to improve things collectively.
DVD 2 comprises of longer contributor interviews used in the production under the headings Reflections on the 1930s, Political Reform, Industry & Infrastructure, Welfare & Housing.

Copyright note

Sixteen Fly Limited/The British Film Institute/Channel Four Television Corporation 2012.



  • English

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