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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.
Today Royal voluntary Service has released online its first major digitised collection of material, all 419 issues of the WVS Bulletin. To celebrate, we thought we would take a closer look at the history of the Bulletin.
The WVS/WRVS Bulletin/Magazine is a fantastic and accessible window onto the world of work undertaken by WRVS members over a 36 year period, following the fashion and trends of the periods it describes. Most importantly it is one of the best starting points for discovering more about the amazing work of the Women in Green.
The first issue of the WVS Bulletin was produced in November 1939, just two months after the outbreak of WWII when the WVS had a membership of over 300,000 and a way to communicate with them all directly was sorely needed. The Bulletin was produced every month for 35 years, from 1938-1974 over 419 issues.
The first thirteen issues of the Bulletin were a simple typescript, with the first covering just five sides of foolscap paper, and included news on subjects such as Evacuation, ARP, Transport and Hospital Supplies. It also showed the amazing ability of WVS to attract new members, with 110,000 welcomed in the month of September alone.
From December 1940, the Bulletin became a printed newsletter of eight pages, covering important information for members as well as a way of sharing tips and good ideas pioneered by one WVS centre for replication across the whole country. This reporting of goings on from centres all over Great Britain became a staple of the bulletin, with the ‘From the Centres’ latterly the ‘Reports from Everywhere’ column surviving until the very end of publication.
The first picture (a black and white cartoon from Punch magazine) appeared in February 1942, though pictures were a rare occurrence during the war, the first photograph was not printed until April 1947. While the war had been going on, there had been no need to include adverts, but as funding was reduced post war, it became a necessity.
The first advert appeared in April 1947 (perhaps to pay for the inclusion of the picture!) and was for the Listener Magazine. This was the start of a very long term relationship with the BBC which posted large adverts for its magazines and books in almost every edition of the Bulletin/Magazine after this point. Though initially the adverts were all for the BBC or Information from Government Ministries, the first commercial advert was run for ‘Milton’ (disinfectant) in November 1948. After that the number of commercial adverts increased significantly over the years as the number of pages in the Bulletin grew. By the end of its run in 1974 the WRVS Magazine was regularly 36 pages.
In April 1970 the Bulletin changed its name to the WRVS Magazine, but sadly publication ceased in December 1974. Members had always had to pay for the bulletin themselves with it initially costing one penny per issue. Sadly over time its popularity declined and by the late 1960’s were only printing about 5,000 copies. The price had risen to 50p annually by 1974 and they did not have enough subscribers to make it financially viable.