Industrial strife and the political changes in Britain in the early 1970s are reflected in the work of several artists, who used film to explore individual rights and contemporary working conditions. 

Films showing in this section: 

16:24 - Darcy Lange Osborn Steels Ltd Bradford 1974 (section)
16:35 - Conrad Atkinson Industrial Relations Bill 1971
16:39 - Berwick Street Film Collective Nightcleaners 1975 (extract)

Darcy Lange Osborn Steels Ltd Bradford 1974 (section)

10 minute section: Furnaces - Charlie Helps, Alan Wright and Harry Barraclough. Collection: Industrial Museum Bradford, courtesy Ian Ward. 

As a New Zealander, Darcy Lange’s studies of working life reflected his fascination with British class and power structures. In 30-minute sequences, he observed the eating habits of middle and working class families, their behaviour at home and at school. His studies of work in Bradford’s factories ‘became performance analysis; they searched the monotony of the work, they questioned the workload and the suffering due to the work’. 


Darcy Lange was born in New Zealand in 1945. He studied at the University of Auckland and the Royal College of Art, London. Clay portraits of Irish Road Workers (1971) were followed by film, video and photographic studies (shot simultaneously) of people from contrasting social classes. From 1973 he made studies of workers in Nottingham, Bradford, London, Scotland and Spain, and of teachers in Birmingham and Oxford, exhibiting at the Jack Wendler Gallery (London). He returned to New Zealand in 1977, starting a new series Artists at Work in 1998. 

Conrad Atkinson Industrial Relations Bill 1971

3 minutes. Collection: Artist 

Conrad Atkinson’s film was made in response to the Heath Government’s Bill of 1970, which became an Act in 1971. The Act restricted Trade Union rights, and led to strikes by dock workers and miners. Here Atkinson’s film is symbolic, and its meaning enigmatic; on other occasions he used film to document specific industrial disputes, such as that at Brannans, a factory in his home town of Cleator Moor. The film is silent. 


Conrad Atkinson was born in 1940. He studied at Carlisle College of Art, Liverpool College of Art and Royal Academy Schools, London. Atkinson’s work has been characterised by its strong political convictions: Garbage Strike Sigi Krauss Gallery 1970, Strike at Brannans (ICA) 1972, Work, Wages and Prices (ICA) 1974, and his celebrated print A Children’s Story for HM 1978 drawing attention to the continuing Royal Warrant offered to the Distillers Company, makers of the drug Thalidomide. He currently lives and works in the USA

Berwick Street Film Collective Nightcleaners 1975 (extract)

90 minutes (5 minutes extract). Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive 

‘Initially intended as a campaign film on behalf of the struggle of the women office cleaners to organise and unionise, Nightcleaners began as a cinema-verite documentary, which was then transformed by the filmmakers at the editing stage into a film which radically questioned the conventional forms of agit-prop cinema’. Pam Cook The Cinema Book 1985 


The Berwick Street Film Collective was formed in 1970, with members Richard Mordaunt, Marc Karlin, James Scott (son of painter William Scott) and Humphrey Trevelyan. They were joined for Nightcleaners by Mary Kelly. The Collective’s aims were ‘to produce films that take politics as their subject both in terms of film-making and film content… This entails an examination of the processes of perception which in turn requires a re-examination of film-language.’