We are the Lambeth Boys is a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of working class young people in the Britain of the 1950s. This pioneering documentary – part of the Free Cinema movement - was one of the first films to give this section of the community a voice, and remains an important and ground-breaking work.
Made for the Ford Motor Company’s ‘Look at Britain’ series, We are the Lambeth Boys was directed by Karel Reisz, who would go on to direct critically-acclaimed feature films such as Saturday Night Sunday Morning and the award-winning The French Lieutenant’s Woman. His ‘fly-on-the-wall’ style allowed his subjects to speak for themselves, revealing their hopes and fears, their loves and hates as a revolution in youth culture offered new opportunities, and new challenges.
We are the Lambeth Boys was among the innovative films which paved the way for the modern observational style of documentary. Reisz’s subjects are the boys and girls who attend the Alford House Youth Club in London’s Kennington. We see them at work, at school and, most importantly, at the youth club. It was here the young people could meet up to chat, to debate, to play cricket, to gossip and to dance. Five decades on, this archive film offers a snapshot of the period when Britain’s social values were on the verge of being transformed forever, and lets those who would lead the transformation speak for themselves.
The soundtrack comes from jazz great Johnny Dankworth, while respected British television actor Jon Rollason narrates.
The brilliance of We are the Lambeth Boys was recognised in its own time – it represented Britain at the Venice Film Festival and won the Grand Prix at the short film festival in Tours, France – and it remains an important piece of social history as well as a ground-breaking piece of film making.