Days of Hope

I remember sometime in the 1977/8 there was a showing of Ken Loach’s Days of Hope … it was at Kelvin Grove teachers college (now QUT). I sat there engrossed by the content of the series that mapped struggles against conscription in Britain during World War I, following the characters lives right up until the the 1926 General Strike.

During the showing they had a Q & A. Naturally, as an activist, I was expecting people to express views on the struggle depicted before our eyes, the objections of the pacifists against war, the tactics employed, the brutal response by the Tories, the Church and the Military.

Instead, the audience wanted to talk about the cinematography, the acting, the artistic merit of the film, anything but the content … the organiser seemed unperturbed.

Days of Hope is a TV series and so quite long so, in the end, my friend and I just had to leave … we wanted to see more of the film but commentary from the audience (encouraged by the organiser) just went on and on …

It was very disappointing to see a great film series subjected to such banal critique … but especially so because there were direct parallels between the political and industrial struggles of the 1910s and ’20s and the 1970s (and now), … particularly in the treatment of the anti-war movement, the 1926 General Strike and the industrial struggle.

One positive thing was … some years later LeftPress put on Days of Hope  one weekend and the people who showed up talked about the content of the film … and here is “Episode One: 1916” of Ken Loach’s great series:

Days of Hope (BBC, 1975) was Ken Loach’s first historical piece and, although tracing events fifty or more years previous, it was strongly informed by the contemporary situation of the 1970s. Parallels can be drawn between the political and industrial struggles of the 1910s and ’20s and the 1970s, particularly in the treatment of the 1926 General Strike and the industrial unrest.
“Episode One: 1916” introduces viewers to the four main family protagonists. Pacifist Christian socialist Philip Hargreaves (Nikolas Simmonds) has married into a Yorkshire farming family. While his wife Sarah (Pam Brighton) supports him, other members of the Matthews family are either hostile or apathetic. Despite being warned about the realities of war by a soldier on leave, Ben Matthews (Paul Copley) enlists while Philip is arrested as a conscientious objector and condemned to death on the front-line after other coercive measures (mentioned above) fail. Only a last minute reprieve saves him from execution. The episode concludes with Ben in Ireland witnessing national resilience against the British invaders. – from Versailles1919’s channel

Ian Curr
Setember 2015

4 thoughts on “Days of Hope

  1. Margaret Gleeson says:

    I saw it when it was first shown on ABC. It was over the Xmas/New Year period and was never repeated. I understand the same went for BBC. The State Library showed the series over a series of Sundays last year (or perhaps the year before). How did you access it Ian, and is it possible to get all episodes?

  2. Hello Margaret,

    You can probably get Days of Hope through the State Library or through the Brisbane City Council Library (on inter-library loan).

    LeftPress borrowed ‘Days of Hope‘ on 16mm film in the mid 1990s.

    At that time, the State Library required that we do a course in film projection and let us show it in their old cinema over a weekend. The cost of hiring a projectionist for the weekend was prohibitive.

    Some episodes were well attended, others not. The film prompted good discussion unlike that day at Teachers College in the late 1970s.

    The series is advertised (in DVD format) on Amazon in a box set with other Ken Loach films.

    I include the full series of 4 films that make up ‘Days of Hope‘ below which you can show by streaming from YouTube.

    in solidarity,

    PS I have access to a copy of Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall which tells the story of the deportation to the United States in 1933 of Jimmy Gralton, who led the Revolutionary Workers’ Group, a precursor of the Irish Communist Party, in Leitrim.

  3. Episode Two: ‘1921’ begins with Ben’s desertion from the Army. He joins the Durham Miners in their resistance against oppressive measures introduced by a Government fearing another Bolshevik Revolution. He befriends striking miner Joel Barrett (Gary Roberts) and experiences the lying promises of a mine owner. One scene where the gentlemanly owner offers some miners refreshments is ironically modelled on 1960s Labour Prime-Minister Harold Wilsons “beer and sandwiches” invitations to trade unionists at Number 10, Downing Street. The episode concludes with the betrayal of an agreement and the arrest of Ben and other miners at dawn.

  4. ‘1924’

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