Four classic Betjeman DVDs
Sir John Betjeman CBE, Poet Laureate from 1972 until his death in 1984, lives on in the nation's memory as poet of places. There were very special associations with Cornwall where he spent most of his holidays and is now buried; with Norfolk where happy boyhood weeks were spent; with Oxford where he was educated and nourished many friendships; with the Vale of the White Horse where he had his country homes, and with Ireland and the Isle of Man. But it should not be forgotten, in the face of his widespread largesse, that he was a Londoner, born within the sound of Bow Bells - if it was a quiet day and the wind was in the right direction - brought up in London, working all his life in London, and living in the City and latterly Chelsea for most of his career.
He was born on the fringes of Kentish Town; soon moving with his family more securely into adjacent Highgate where he was primarily educated. By the time he was at school in Marlborough and Oxford, the family had moved to Chelsea. In his early married life he lived in White Horse country but commuted daily to London to labour on the Architectural Review in Westminster. Thereafter he kept a pad in the city so that he could write as a film critic, book reviewer, hack Fleet Street journalist throughout his career; and later in his extensive work for radio and television which made him well-known to a large public. And in his last years he returned to a home in Chelsea where he held court to his peers and admirers.
His deepest love was for architecture, and he found much to treasure in London, most notably in the City, packed full of wonderful churches and the work of geniuses like Christopher Wren; and, espacially in London's railway stations whose individuality and life held a special fascination. He enjoyed its theatres and eating places and pubs, he feared its crowds and felt its loneliness.
Betjeman's London follows his life, career and interests in London, bringing to life the many words that he expended on it. Anyone who has read his thougths on this great city will find them greatly enhanced by seeing the places he wrote about and may be led to discover more off-the-beaten tracks than they knew existed. The programme is written and presented by Peter Gammond, a well-known writer on music and entertainment, who has always been a Betjeman addict and collector and is currently chairman of the The Betjeman Society.
In the course of a busy life as a poet, journalist and broadcaster, he seemed to go almost everywhere. Through his poetry and, less obviously, the reams of equally sparkling prose that he contributed to magazines and newspapers (much of which is now hidden in the archives), he wrote with humour, affection and insight about the places, the people and the buildings that he saw with a true poet's vision. Betjeman's Britain traces his steps and words round many of the places he enjoyed and celebrated. Anyone who loves his poems will find them greatly enhanced by seeing the actual places featured in his work; the scenes being backed by readings of his poetry and prose, with occasional glimpses of the great man himself. This programme is written and presented by Peter Gammond, an authority on the life and works of Sir John Betjeman, who has written more than 50 books on music and the arts including 'The Oxford Companion to Popular Music'.
Between 1962 and 1964, Betjeman made 12 short films about the West Country he loved so much. By early 1960s he was at the peak of his powers, having just published his acclaimed autobiographical poem 'Summoned by Bells', yet within a few years all of these films appeared to have been lost without trace. In October 1993, HTV producer Gerry Dawson came across an old, poorly-labelled film can. Curious, he opened it and found Betjeman's classic film Weston-Super-Mare. Over the next few months he managed to unearth every Betjeman film, featuring Weston-Super-Mare, Bath, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Bristol and Clevedon. These films are now presented in the collection Lost Betjeman's.
Betjeman had a lifelong love of English towns and their everyday buildings. Once when asked what he most wanted he replied, "to make people look at things that are beautiful, particularly buildings". In 1962, after two best selling books 'Summoned by Bells' and 'Collected Poems', he turned his attention to the medium of TV, his aim, to fulfill his ambition to open our eyes to how beautiful our towns and villages are. Betjeman Revisited features six short films, discovered 30 years later, examining Swindon & North Lew, Chippenham & Crewkerne, Devizes, Sherborne, Sidmouth and Bath Three retain their original soundtrack and the other three have been restored with Betjeman's original script being read by Nigel Hawthorne.