’36 to ’77
+ Q&A with ’36 to ’77 directors Jon Sanders, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan, plus the filmmaker Margaret Dickinson, chaired by Dan Kidner
A deeply reflective film-portrait of Myrtle Wardally, who joined the struggle to unionise the night cleaners of London.
Dirs Marc Karlin, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Humphry Trevelyan
Initially conceived as a sequel to Nightcleaners (1975) by the Berwick Street Film Collective, ’36 to ’77 is a deeply reflective film-portrait of former cleaner Myrtle Wardally. The title combines the year that Wardally was born and the year of the film’s completion. The film was released in 1978, just as the incumbent Labour government were failing to settle demands made by striking public sector trade unions for better pay and working conditions, which ultimately led to the ‘winter of discontent’. After Margaret Thatcher swept to power in 1979 on the promise that she would curtail the power of the unions, the country entered a period of Conservative rule that would last for almost two decades.
In ’36 to ’77 Wardally, who was born in Grenada, recalls her experiences of the campaign to unionise London’s night cleaners alongside childhood memories of Grenada. The filmmakers combine re-filmed images and sounds of the strike, recorded between 1972 and 1975, with still and moving images shot inside Wardally’s flat. Working with re-photography, superimposition and extreme slow motion, ’36 to ’77 institutes a new kind of film portraiture, which at once captures its subject while meditating on the processes of reflection and introspection that would occupy independent filmmakers and left political subcultures for the rest of the decade and into the 1980s.
“To view ’36 to ’77 today... is to be confronted by its continued capacity to confound the expectations brought by critically minded spectators to the promise and purpose of political documentary produced during the 1970s” - Kodwo Eshun
This event, co-hosted by Raven Row, anticipates the autumn arrival of a new publication, Nightcleaners and ‘36 to ‘77 (Koenig Books/LUX/Raven Row), which will include new scans of the films on DVD and Blu-ray, making them publicly available for the first time, as well as four new commissioned texts by Sheila Rowbotham, Dan Kidner (the book’s co-editor), Kodwo Eshun and Sukhdev Sandhu, as well as contributions from four of the filmmakers and contemporaneous political, critical and other contextual material.