Last Sunday, courtesy of the Flatpack Film Festival, I had the opportunity of hosting John Krish’s marvellous 1961 documentary, They Took Us to the Sea.
There was a goodly audience at mac to see it, transported – for one evening only – back to Weston-super-Mare in its heyday. I only wished we could have supplied them with ice-lollies covered in sand and candy-floss full of wasps.
Krish was a documentary film-maker, primarily, though his work also includes episodes of The Avengers and The Saint.
Born in 1923, he still very much with us, and there’s talk of bringing him up to Birmingham to host a show of his work himself, instead of having to rely on yours truly.
They Took Us to the Sea records a day-trip to Weston by a group of underprivileged Birmingham children. Both the outing and the film were sponsored by the NSPCC. Much of John Krish’s best work was commissioned in this way.
So, from the bleak and bombed-out heart of Birmingham the youngsters were whisked by train down to the seaside.
For many, if not all, of them, it was their first sight of the sea. Mercifully for all concerned, the ocean was not only visible, but available for paddling too, which it often wasn’t at Weston.
Through the efforts of Post and Mail feature writer Graham Young, two of the girls in the film were tracked down and came to MAC that evening.
They were just five and six years old at the time the film was made. After that day excursion in 1961, they said, neither of them saw the sea again until they were married.
What many of take as our birthright – the annual seaside holiday – has never been rolled out across society as widely as we sometimes imagine.
I spoke to a chap earlier that day, who had taken a group on a similar expedition to Towyn. These children had never been to the coast either, and this was only in 1996.
It made me feel suddenly pampered. And I would like – posthumously – to apologise to my parents for asking for too many ice-creams, and for always being sick on the coach.
* Dr Chris Upton is taking his bucket and spade to Newman University Birmingham