What TV’s on at the BFI in June 2017? Including Penda’s Fen and Architecture on TV

The BFI has something of a rum concoction for its June 2017 programme. The main season is dedicated to architecture on TV, with a whole host of documentaries from the archives, as well as a Q&A with the rather marvellous Jonathan Meades.

But the other entry in the calendar is an entire Saturday dedicated to former TMINE Wednesday Play, Penda’s Fen. There’s a showing of the play in the evening, but the rest of the day is dedicated to a Penda’s Fen symposium, ‘Child Be Strange’, that will include a Q&A with the writer David Rudkin. Slightly odd order that, so you might want to watch the DVD a couple of times first.

Saturday 3 June
18:00 NFT1
Here Lies Jonathan Meades: Screening and Career Interview
Jonathan Meades is a writer, architectural critic, gourmand and Britain’s greatest television essayist. In over 50 films made for the BBC, he has forged a style of filmmaking that merges virtuosic cultural criticism with performance art. As part of a London-wide retrospective of his work, we’ll be screening his documentaries Belgium (BBC 1994. Dir David Turnbull. 30min) and Surreal Film (2001. Dir Francis Hanly. 45min).
Afterwards, Meades will be in conversation with The Observer’s Rachel Cooke, reflecting upon his career from his early writing and filmmaking to his current projects. 
Part of Whitechapel Gallery’s Here Lies Jonathan Meades season

Thursday 8 June
18:10 NFT3
The Architecture of the Future + intro from critic Barry Curtis
This programme explores the architecture of the future, a period of 1960s design imbued with optimism and unwavering faith in technology and convenience.
+ Towards Tomorrow: Super City
BBC 1964. Prod Ramsay Short. 51min
Super City features appearances from Reyner Banham and Buckminster Fuller, as Fuller presents his plans for a tetrahedron city.
+ Archigram
London Television Service 1974. Dir Denis Postle. 3min
+ Equinox: A Short History of the Future City
Channel 4 1986. Prod Sheila Hayman. 51min

A rare episode of Equinox expertly reflects on the technological fervour that possessed this period of planning.

Saturday 10 June
10:00-18:00 NFT3
Child Be Strange: A Symposium on Penda’s Fen + Q&A with screenwriter David Rudkin
When Penda’s Fen was first broadcast in 1974, The Times commented that  it was a ‘major work of television’, only for the film to vanish into unseen cult status – viewing Penda’s Fen became a clandestine activity  for esoteric enthusiasts. Its recent BFI DVD release marks a revival of interest in the film, and it is now recognised as an extraordinary countercultural investigation of landscape, myth, and the self at a crucial moment in post-war Britain.

This symposium brings together academics and writers to excavate this weird and wonderful artefact.
Supported by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Literature, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and Strange Attractor Press
Attendees will receive a copy of Strange Attractor’s forthcoming book on Penda’s Fen
Tickets £20, concs £16 (Members pay £2 less), joint ticket available with Penda’s Fen (see below) £24, concs £19.20 (Members pay £2 less)

18:30 NFT3
Play for Today: Penda’s Fen + reading

BBC 1974. Dir Alan Clarke. 90min. 12A
A public schoolboy in the Malvern Hills undergoes a series of visionary experiences which strip away many of his complacent assumptions about his place in the world. David Rudkin’s peerless teleplay uses Stephen’s journey of self-discovery as a microcosm through which to refract questions of sexuality and national identity, and has only become more resonant in the age of Brexit.
For joint ticket offer with the Penda’s Fen symposium see above

Monday 12 June
18:30 NFT1
Le Corbusier + intro from Gillian Darley, writer and President of the 20th Century Society

Monitor: Le Corbusier
BBC 1959. Prod Peter Newington. 6min 
Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) was the great prophet of the Modern movement and his holistic vision of urban life looms over his contemporaries and successors, as forbidding as it is inspiring. Here, we trace his appearances on television.
+ Omnibus: Le Corbusier
BBC 1972. Prod Ramsay Short. 50min 
Ramsay Short’s compelling Omnibus documentary (which hasn’t been screened since its original broadcast in 1972), captures Corbusier’s energy, vigour and genius.

Wednesday 14 June
18:20 NFT2
A Capital Place to Live: A History of The Housing Crisis  + intro by Bill Schwarz, Queen Mary University of London
Thames Television 1973. Dir Stuart Hall. 53min
London’s housing crisis has long roots. A Capital Place To Live investigates the city’s housing crunch of the early 1970s to startling effect. With a directing credit attributed  to theorist Stuart Hall, the film documents Londoners’ battle with prohibitive private rent and forced social cleansing.
+ A House Is Not A Home
BBC 1967. Dir Richard Thomas. 30min
A House is Not a Home, made six years prior to A Capital Place to Live, chronicles the compulsory rehousing of council tenants to the post-war new towns.

Monday 19 June
18:20 NFT2
Attack the Block: Our High-Rise Heritage + intro from historian  Patrick Wright
Visions of Britain: Brideshead and the Tower Blocks
BBC 1988. Prod Christopher Martin. 40min
Patrick Wright looks at the rise of the British heritage industry and the concurrent demonisation of the tower block, focusing on Hackney’s Sutton House and the area’s high-rise flats.
+ Hackney Marshes
Thames Television 1978. Dir John Smith. 32min
Intersecting documentary with artists’ moving image, Smith simultaneously produces an intimate profile of the estate’s residents and his own creative process.
+ The Kids from the Flats
Thames Television 1984. Dir Julian Ashton. 26min
This specially commissioned documentary follows a group of young residents on their summer holiday in Chelsea’s World’s End estate.

Monday 26 June
18:15 NFT1
Berger on Buildings + intro from ‘Ways of Seeing’ director Mike Dibb, John Berger’s biographer Tom Overton and season curator Matthew Harle
John Berger passed away in January this year, leaving behind an unparalleled  contribution to literature, criticism, film and television. We have the privilege of screening his rarely-seen work on architecture and the built environment in this special programme.  Enjoy his ethical consideration of the city in The Visual Scene (BBC 1969. Prod Nancy Thomas. 31min), his commentary on Le Corbusier’s designs in A City at Chandigarh (1966. Dir Alain Tanner. 44min), and Berger’s profile of the outsider artist Ferdinand Cheval in 10 Thousand Days, 93 Thousand Hours, 33 years of Effort (BBC 1965. Dir Michael Gill. 28min).

Patrons and champions’ priority booking: May 8 from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: May 9 from 11.30am
Public booking opens: May 16 from 11.30am

Members: £9
Member concs: £7.20
Non-members: £11
Non-member concs: £8.80
Under 16s £6

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.