Saturday, 12 November 2011

Britain in a Day

Today, Saturday 12 November, the directors Ridley Scott and Morgan Matthews have invited Britons to capture their day on video camera and to upload their clips to a dedicated YouTube Channel:

The resulting archive will be edited into a film that will be shown in cinemas and on BBC2 next year.

It follows Life in a Day, a similarly crowdsourced film about a single day – Saturday 24 July 2010 - lived all over the world. They received 85,326 clips from 198 countries, from Burkina Faso to French Polynesia. The film, which was shown on TV a few weeks ago, opens with the sound of a thousand concurrent breaths. Highlights include the Mexicans who produce a time-lapse film of the life of a pizza, from the dough being kneaded to the empty plate being washed up, and the man who takes viewers on a tour of Roanoke, Virginia, stopping to appraise his favourite lifts.

There is of course an Ur-text for these films and other similar projects: their inspiration is the Mass Observation Day Surveys, the first of which was on Friday 12 March 1937. Volunteers were asked simply to describe what happened to them on the 12th day of each month, however mundane. On 12 March, in Liverpool, a young office worker accidentally knocked down an elderly woman on his bike, and a labourer told him off for not ringing his bell. He went out at lunchtime to buy a hat for his wedding, and then ate at a Lyons Corner House with a friend. In a Birmingham suburb, a housewife was awakened from a strange dream about the author Aldous Huxley by her five-year-old son singing nursery rhymes. She waited for a man to call to read the gas meter, before going out to return some library books. In Northumberland, an accountant rose at 7.50am and decided to postpone shaving because he was going to a dance in the evening. At lunchtime he withdrew some money from the bank. On the evening train home, he noticed his fellow passengers had made little circles in the steamed-up windows with their coat sleeves so they could look out, which reminded him off ‘wiping the bloom off a plum’.

As the Belgian situationist philosopher Raoul Vaneigem once wrote: ‘There are more truths in twenty-four hours of a man’s life than in all the philosophies.’ One problem: I don’t have a video camera. Enjoy filming, the rest of you.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘The early editions of the evening papers had startled London with enormous headlines: “Remarkable story from Woking.”’ – H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

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