Amber worked extensively within the Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians in the development of the Workshop Movement. In the interview with Bessie Bond, Murray Martin talks about the project being an education for Amber and the workshops as well as contributing to the history of the union. The interviews engage extensively with the British Documentary Movement. The ACTT’s Workshop Agreement enabled the independent filmmaking groups to unionise, pay an egalitarian wage and to work across the different craft skill ‘grades’. Without this, the workshops would not have been able to access the broadcast media and notably Channel 4. ACTT became BECTU, which in 2017 merges with Prospect.
0.00 Murray Martin. Education for all. Bessie Bond. Hammer Productions, Newcastle.
1.00 1933. Voluntary work with the union. Conferences. Salary basis, 1944/45. War broke out, left offices in Wardour Street to Stanmore. George Elvin’s parents home. Bessie, 43 – entered union. Personal life. First husband was a documentary filmmaker. Committed Trade Unionist. Glasgow to London.
4.00 Glasgow. ‘Sweat dens’. Factory working. 14 years old. Hair up to make look older.
5.05 Ideas to get involved in union. Poor home. Society issues aware. Shop Steward in London. Union organiser in London, Sam Elsbury.
8.00 Interest in films. Cinema. Film weeklies. Hoot. Paid a Penny, twice a week cinema. The Perils of Pauline 1914 serial. 36 episodes. Pearl White.
10.10 1945. Promoted to organiser in the union. Garment Union. Film Union. George Elvin. Look after subscriptions. Poorly organised. Shop Stewards subscriptions not collected. One other organiser., the national organiser. Lab section, editorial, shorts and documentary, still section, publicity section. Agreements not being observed. Confronting management. 20 years organisers. Victories. Proud of all.
16.00 Union changed. Television huge impact. New medium. Union there right at the beginning. Changes in film industry. Film resented TV, but took jobs created by TV.
19.25 Conference standard good. Conflicts on policy. Similar? Less of film, more on miners. Discussion at annual conferences before? Leadership always ahead of the membership. Political issues in 1940s. Service film units. Employment officer. 1947 crisis unemployment.
22.20 Current threats from Government legislation. Undermine union organisation. ACTT faith in policy. Wider involvement Black community. Separation of women and men. Equality officer. Union was based on equality.
24.20 Change in numbers of women in union. Nothing to do with equality officer. Appointment of Equality Officer in 1982, 1984 greater number of women on the executive. More women in industry. BBC. ITV. Women in less numbers in 1930/40s. Equal status in union. More women editors, then directors.
26.25 Women move into positions of director, camera, technical grades.
28.10 Documentary Movement involved from 1933. Personal life. Founder of documentary. Friday. Soho Square. Pub. New medium in film. Grassroots of the people. Husband documentary filmmaker. Political activist. Night Mail. Paul Rotha films. Songs of Ceylon, Basil Wright. Calvancanti. Ealing Studios. Great friend, Edgar Anstey. John Taylor. Housing Problems. Used to exhibit films, documentary. Battleship Potemkin at the Polytechnic. Scala, with Grierson’s films. Ex husband, stated film society.
32.30 ACTT. Future. Cable TV. Video. John Grierson. 1933. Stimulating man, fearsome. Impact on people. Son in law, John Taylor.