chapter  22
‘The most varied, colourful, confusing hubub in the world’
The East End, television and the documentary imagination, July 1939 1
ByJames Jordan
Pages 11

On the evening of Wednesday 12 July 1939, only seven weeks before the closure necessitated by the Second World War, the BBC television presented East End, a 45-minute documentary in which social anthropologist and co-founder of Mass Observation Tom Harrisson 'explore[d] London's East End, introducing Cockney and Jew, Lascar and Chinaman, and others of its inhabitants'. This programme combined pre-recorded telecine (film) sequences, 'live' studio-based interviews, artisan demonstrations and design effects, all bound together by Harrisson's presentation and commentary. Unfortunately, as with so much early television, there is no surviving copy of the programme, but with the help of press reviews, personal papers and production files held in the archives of the BBC and Mass Observation it is possible to reconstruct it and a sense of how 'the most varied, colourful, confusing hubub in the world' was depicted in the black and white world of television.