Film & TV

May 22, 2012

What’s up in Britain? Up‘s up, that’s what

Who knows, it may be the last broadcast event of all time -- 56 Up, the latest in the series of film documentaries documenting the lives of 14-or-so kids born in the mid-'50s.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


You turn on the news over here, and these days it is less a series of reports of happenings than announcements of events, attendance at which is semi-compulsory. The Diamond Jubilee, centred on the unashamed bribe of a four-day long weekend, seems to pop up here and there with the Queen and Phil opening art exhibitions, reviewing horse guards, etc. This combines with regular announcements from the Olympics about which essential urban functions are soon to be curtailed (“general anaesthetic will not be available to non-ticketed citizens in June”), all of which we are supposed to celebrate as part of the collective spirit of hosting the Games.


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18 thoughts on “What’s up in Britain? Up‘s up, that’s what

  1. Meski

    Hmmm, a baby boomer’s Carry On Up the … series.

  2. paddy

    Note to Ed: Rundle’s gone off the reservation again.
    Double his pay and include a case of fine wine as thanks!

  3. puddleduck

    Glory, I was just thinking about this series. Every six years or so I get that feeling it’s time to hear from the Up lot, and so it is 56 Up.

    Guy, I think I was in that State Theatre somewhere too, gripped by this amazing window into others’ lives. What a hard-hearted bastard you’d have to be not to be touched by Neil… there was a fragility about him at age 7 – those comments about not wanting children, wanting to be a bus driver. By age 14, it had already set in, whatever “it” was or is.

    I read your piece today, part holding my breath, feeling tears just about to come… I’m British, born as the 70s began, and I identify so much with this series.

    Thanks for filling us in on the latest instalment.


  4. LJG..............

    I first got this series out from the video shop in about 1998 – they had all of them up to then. I cried and was hooked. I worried about Neil and waited for the next series. It is very hard to tell a story about real human lives – often boring, loving, awkward humanity but this almost does it.

  5. ernmalleyscat

    Great perspective.
    I believe someone smart talked about ‘the unexamined life’.

  6. Fleur

    In this context, equally moving and valuable is Gillian Armstrong’s local series (Smokes and Lollies; Fourteen’s Good, Eighteen’s Better; Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces; Not Fourteen Again and Love, Lust and Lies) following three women from Adelaide. See review by Mel Campbell of the series at

  7. Jack Robertson

    Yeah, you kind of just feel existentially exhausted each time this thing comes around. One thing about the mass media revolution – a blink, there are still heaps of people alive who remember what the world was like without any television at all – has been its pure epistemological violence: so obliterating of so much. You can’t hear the opening music to this terrifying monster of a thing and not want to shout: DON’T. STOP. Don’t…stop…

    That coy BBC producer knows what’s what (as of course he would): the camera does take away your soul after all.

  8. Jack Robertson

    It’s always a joy to read your writing, GR. Thanks.

  9. archibald

    Perhaps he’s a subscriber to the old line about a documentary being something the upper class do to the working class. Clearly, he knows which end of the camera is the business end.

  10. Clytie

    Gah… fusion. In the late 70s and early 80s, Uni physics researchers were “this close” to getting fusion right. Maybe nobody was filming it. It’s still hugely worth the effort, though: a longer journey, but more to learn on the way.

    As always, thanks to Guy for the insight and breathless linguistic indulgence.

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