Music for Films: The War Game

1 hour version, first broadcast 2018 Resonance FM in London

1 hour 43 minute podcast version. NSFW, some swearing and adult themes

Interesting people talk about the music, films and music for films which have shaped their lives.

Roz Kaveney, Tim Concannon and their guest Andrew Smith wander down busy Caledonia Road in North London, to Housmans’s peace bookshop near to Kings Cross station. They discuss two linked technologies produced by the atomic age, computers and nuclear arms, and the ways that the peace movement and radicalism have responded to both being part of modern armed conflict.

The starting point for the conversation is Pete Watkins’s 1965 film for the BBC, banned from broadcast at the time, ‘The War Game‘. Made two decades before ‘Threads‘ and Raymond Briggs’s ‘Where the Wind Blows‘, Pete Watkins’s film is a documentary-style depiction of Britain under nuclear attack. It was withdrawn before transmission by the BBC under government pressure, but went on to win an Oscar for Best Documentary.

Like Watkin’s film for the BBC ‘Culloden‘ made the previous year. ‘The War Game’ was cast with non-professional actors, in the tradition of Humphrey Jenning’s films like ‘The Silent Village‘ and Kevin Brownlow’s and Andrew Mollo’s 1964 feature ‘It Happened Here‘.

Watkins was so angered by the way the BBC treated him that he left the UK, and has continued to make documentaries – mostly in Scandanavia – in a similar style, including his 2000 film ‘La Commune‘ about the 1871 Paris Commune. His 1967 feature film ‘Privilege‘ – made on location in Birmingham – starring Paul Jones as a rock idol manipulated by a totalitarian government has been restored by BFI and released as part of its ‘Flipside’ series.

This programme is edited but still raw field recordings of North London. There’s traffic noise, sound fragments from electronic devices and jarring atonal music.

Caledonian Road is notable for two things: its longstanding Irish community and Housmans Bookshop, opened in 1959 and named after Laurence Housman the gay, pacifist playwright who suggested the Peace Pledge Union establish a permanent base in 1948. As well as publishing Peace News, it became a focus of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament .

The two worlds converged in 1974 when an IRA bomb blew up the pillar box outside the shop. The explosion incinerated all the copies of Campaign Against Arms Trade’s first newsletter.

Join CAAT or make a donation here.

Music in this ‘Music for Films’…

Noel Coward ‘Something To Do With Spring

Josephine Baker ‘Brasil

Jean-Pierre Mirouze ‘Sexopolis‘ (from ‘Le Mariage Collectif ‘)

Goblin ‘Jennifer

Tom Lehrer ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go

Tom Lehrer ‘Wernher von Braun

And in ‘More Music for Films’…

Bob Dylan ‘Masters of War’

Krystof Penderecki ‘Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

Death Grips ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas

Time Zone ‘World Destruction

Jean-Pierre Mirouze ‘Tivoli By Night

Jean-Pierre Mirouze ‘Tandoori Dance‘.