Voices of Britain : Director's Statement
75 years ago in the midst of WWII, Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister were commissioned to make ‘Listen To Britain’, a poetic and artistic but ultimately a propagandist film that would play in cinemas across the country, showing factory workers, farmers and everyday citizens playing their role in the war effort.
75 years on as the country prepares for its biggest change in a generation and at a time of sprawling divide and uncertainty I was given free reign by the BBC and British Film Institute to make this film, ‘Voices of Britain’.
Little did I know when we started making the film, initially intended as a marker of time, a coast to coast means of capturing our country now, that it would evolve into the most personal film I have ever made.
In the six weeks we travelled around Great Britain filming and interviewing, the country changed in front of us, experiencing three terrorist attacks, a snap general election and one of the worst urban disasters in recent history; the Grenfell Tower fire.
I decided early on not to delve into these ever-changing issues aware we would struggle to do them justice with our limited resources. Instead we continued with speaking to people from different communities, cultures and upbringings scattered across the length and breadth of our country. Discussing what being ‘British’ means to them today, their sense of place, of home, of identity, their hopes, fears and dreams.
Using mixed media; including found footage, home videos and our recorded interviews I wanted this film to take a journey, from coast to coast to see the parts of our country that have hardly changed over centuries, to the impact humans have recently had on our landscape and environment, to go inside lives and households to create this semi-abstract montage.
I’m aware the imagery will not make universal sense to every viewer, but different demographics, different regional audiences, different individuals will find their own connections to different parts of the film and what is being said.
For me this film was always an exploration of identity, of our similarities and differences and at a time of wide divide and disagreement in our country’s future, to stand as a time capsule of the hopes, fears and dreams of the people that call Britain home and to perhaps meditate on something bigger than all of us.
In a way, ‘Voices of Britain’ is an accumulation of the previous films I've made. In my other films I’ve always explored the struggles families and individuals go through to return to home, in some instances it’s a physical place, in others a state of mind. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of home, of belonging and what that means.
In making this film I feel I finally discovered what it means for me.