Sunday, July 29, 2012

Danny Boyle and Humphrey Jennings

Yesterday I suggested that the spirit of Humphrey Jennings that had inspired Friday's Olympic opening ceremony. I was alerted to the parallels with his work by the excellent tweeter Lang Rabbie, who pointed out that one of the sections of the ceremony was entitled 'Pandemonium'.

Pandemonium was the title of an anthology by Jennings. I long ago lost or gave away my copy of it - looking at the prices on Amazon I rather wish I hadn't.

And an article in today's Observer suggests we were on to something. Frank Cottrell Boyce writes:
We shared the things we loved about Britain – the Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution, the NHS, pop music, children's literature, genius engineers. I bought Danny a copy of Humphrey Jennings's astonishing book Pandemonium for Christmas and soon everyone seemed to have it. The show's opening section ended up named "Pandemonium".
Note the phrase "the things we loved about Britain": that is a spirit we hear too little of from Liberal and the left. One of the defining characteristics of the Tory right these days is that they do not much like Britain at all -which is an odd position for a Conservative to hold.

I was introduced to the work of Jennings by Rob Colls (now Professor Robert Colls, I note), who taught on my Victorian Studies masters course. I am not quite sure why he referred us to a documentary film director from the 1940s on a course about the 19th century, but I am very glad he did.

All of which gives me a chance to recommend Rob Colls' book Identity of England.

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