The Kennet and Avon Canal

Reviewed by Tim Belsten - August 2006

The Kennet and Avon Canal

Reviewed by W.B.J.Higgins 1972

"It has been a matter of considerable satisfaction to me to complete such an ambitious film at a cost that would have been out of the question for a film maker working alone".

So wrote Mike George when the film The Kennet and Avon Canal (1971) which he directed for the Society, was finished.

It was Bob Spacie’s original idea that a film could be made about the attempted restoration of this canal, and it was Mike who reported to the Society that he was directing a documentary on this subject with Bob Spacie, Les Hughes and Alan Atkins in the team. Production, it seemed, had already started. Mike presented a rough budget for the committee asking for fifty percent financial help from the Society. Eric Ball, the Chairman, spoke for the rest of the committee when he said that such an arrangement would confuse the matter of ownership. It was therefore agreed that the film become an official BCS production and £50 was voted to the producer.

The film showed the impressive amount of volunteer labour being used for digging out this derelict Canal, "Any weekend you can see people cleaning the lock chambers of evil-smelling sludge and the rubbish of years of public dumping", The making and the hanging of new lock gates was included in the film as well as an impressive sequence at the Crofton Pumping Station.

Camerawork was shared between Alan Atkins, John Rowcliffe, Bob Spacie and the director. The gauge was Fuji Single 8 mm and the cameras used were Fujica P1 and a Konica 3TL - the latter for the dissolves. Alan Atkins helped Mike script the story and Les Hughes is said to have "introduced sanity, remembered details and coped with problems". It was a real team effort.

The K and A film, with a sound stripe track, was awarded 4 stars in the 1972 Ten Best and was shown to the public in a Films From Bristol programme in 1972.


Documentary about the canal's restoration.
Starts with some history of its origin and downfall. Scenes then show the locks being cleared of rubbish and pollution. The lock gates being made from scratch, the pumping station at Crofton (near Marlborough) being restored and tourists visiting the sites, then follow. Various legs of the canal are shown at different stages. Comments from the volunteers restoring this waterway are included. They explain how the jobs were planned, and bring their engineering skills to the forefront.

The public also have some say, with their views on the work. Now in the 21st century, we know the canal is busy. This proves all the years of hard, voluntary work is to be complimented. It would be sad if this very interesting production had not also followed.

About 33 minutes; Fuji Single 8mm film; produced in 1971.