East Anglian Holiday was released by British Transport Films in the UK during 1954. It is a short travelogue film that promoted the countryside and seaside of East Anglia, designed to be presented between the ‘big’ picture and the ‘B’ movie at cinemas across the nation.
The advertising ‘blurb’ for the film notes that: “From The Wash right round to Southwold in Suffolk runs a coastline ideal for the children's seaside pleasure and the skill of the offshore fisherman. The open country of Norfolk is a delight to the gardener and the naturalist, while south Suffolk has that intimate lushness which Constable made famous. In both counties, the churches and the old history-soaked houses are among the finest in the country; and then there are the Broads, the home of sails and windmills and quiet waterways.”
The film was directed by Michael Clarke under the executive watch of Edgar Anstey. The narration is by Frank Duncan, a British actor best recalled for his parts in Empire in the Sun (1987) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1967) and Richard George was an actor remembered for his characters in Great Expectations and 49th Parallel. The commentary is given in both ‘Norfolk accent’ and ‘received pronunciation.’ Doreen Carwithen provided the music which was conducted by the ubiquitous Muir Mathieson.
This 1954 film was one of the BTFs earliest travelogues, and used a well-established format that had been used in West Country Journey (music by Hubert Clifford) the previous year. Michael Brooke has pointed out that although the film’s main thrust was to attract holiday makers there are plenty of historical and topographical details. There are references to John Constable’s paintings of the area – ‘you can see it all around these parts, along with a lot more he never had time to paint’. The film-goer’ attention is drawn to Ely Cathedral, the churches and Guildhall of Norfolk and fishing industry at Lowestoft. From my point of view, the nostalgic images of holiday makers, classic cars and buses from two generations ago are fascinating. Although the film was made a couple of years before I was born, it is packed full of images that I can half-recall from my childhood: things did not seem to change too much until the nineteen-sixties.
Doreen Carwithen has contributed a wonderfully evocative score that is a perfect accompaniment to the nostalgic details of this film. Philip Lane has recreated this score as a miniature (actually not too miniature – it lasts for 15 minutes) tone poem for orchestra. It is not too fanciful to suggest that this is like discovering a ‘lost’ rhapsody by Delius, complete with powerful climax. Paul Snook has highlighted that this music ‘is full of incisively rustic, spirited themes in a quasi-folk style,’ which never really seem to quote a well-known tune. Listening to this music easily carries one back to a time when life was simpler, there were no wind farms, people went to Hunstanton and Great Yarmouth for their holidays and the Broads were just beginning to become a popular playground for ‘messing about in boats’.