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Women in Green on the Silver Screen

This week we bring you our third Heritage Bulletin Blog Podcast please click play on the soundcloud player above or you will really miss out this time I promise

Inspired by recent discussions on audio-visual archives I thought it would be appropriate for our third podcast, (the audio part), to be about something visual. Many of you will have heard of the Rank Organisation and the image of the man hammering the gong has probably popped into your head, or you can visualise Sid James and Barbara Winsor in a Carry On film with their distinctive laughs [if you’re reading and not listening to this you have just missed out on my very bad impression, well it's really a case of the giggles]. Obviously there was not a Carry On film about or featuring the WVS, however, the Rank Organisation made many other films including the Look at Life series.

Look at Life was a regular British series of short documentary films between 1959 and 1969 which were screened in their cinemas. The films always preceded the main feature film that was being shown in the cinema that week. In 1959 the Rank Organisation made and showed the film Women in Green all about the work of WVS, or as they called them the million women in green, between 1938 and 1959. The film features shots of WVS members carrying out services such as emergency feeding, hospital work, care of children, clothing and helping house holders during Devon’s floods in the 1950s. Services Welfare was also highlighted with cameramen flown out to Cyprus filming members preforming their daily tasks. The WVS was supported by ambassadors in the 1950s/1960s as  it is today; Dinah Sheridan who starred in Genevieve and The Railway Children can be spotted collecting magazines for the forces. Most importantly the film features founder and Chairman Lady Reading giving another inspirational speech to rally her members. The film is a good reminder of the importance of voluntary service.

Its overriding theme was how remarkable and integral WVS had become to British society in just over 21 years, as it is nearly 80 years later after it was founded. Copies were sent to British Council Cinema and NATO while we still hold a copy in the Archive. The film was well received by WVS and its supporters; on 31st October 1960 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh viewed Women in Green [reported in the WVS Bulletin December 1960] before the premiere of The Man in the Moon. It was still being shown and the rights requested by other organisations in 1963, 1968, 1969 and 1975 according to archival records. As one letter from a WVS member about the film stated ‘the film is part of our history’. Today it is as important in telling the story of WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Services as none audio-visual archives.

We hope you will join us again soon to listen and read more blogs about the history of Royal Voluntary Service contained in its archives.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 18 December 2017.

Labels: Film, WVS, the Rank Organisation, Women in Green, Look at Life, Carry on Films