At Derby’s Quad’s screening of ‘The Spirit of 45′, 17th August, I met 79 year old Ken Loach, the World famous film maker. You may recall Ken is the winner of this year’s Palme D’ Or awards with his film ‘I Daniel Blake’. His previous classics were ‘Kes’ and ‘Cathy come home’. However both of us share a common interest in the struggles of ordinary people and ‘living history’ documentary recordings of people’s stories before they die. That is why I was drawn to join the audience last Wednesday, for the showing of ”The spirit of 45 ”. This is a documented ‘living history film’ featuring footage and recordings from desperately poor adults and children who had lived through the war. The ‘Spirit of 45’ captures the recordings of ordinary people afraid of doctors bills and living in squalor to the benefits of the National Health Service in 1947, the slum clearances and council house building. My parents moved to a council home in 1963 and for the first time I experienced running hot water, an inside toilet, and a garden. I recall telling my teacher that we were ”flitting” and was really sad that she told me off for using common words! I didn’t care as the new house was a dream after the slum I lived in for my first 9 years.
My grandfather and father both worked all their lives in coal mines and steel works and helped re-build Britain after the war. I was born in 1954 when rationing and austerity had ceased to play a big part in the lives of ordinary people, but tales of ‘the war and Sheffield in flames’ were never far from the memories of those adults around me. The women Ken featured in his film ‘The Spirit of 45’ with their turbaned heads, scrubbing their steps were all glad to be ”flitting” to a new home! You could say that Ken’s film really spoke to those of us born to parents who were lifted out of poverty by the ‘Spirit of 45’.
My parents died years ago, and long before I had my letter from the D.W.P. The Dept of Worry and No Pension, stating that I would not be eligible for my £115 per week state pension until I was on the cusp of my 66th birthday despite beginning employment just after my July birthday. My friend started work when she was 14 years old as she wasn’t 15 until the August.
I spoke to Ken Loach and a packed studio audience that the 1950’s born women were left without an expected state pension which had been replaced by means tested benefits running the risk of sanctions. That I had read of single impoverished women in their 60’s forced to live on the nest egg they had had to release early years before their state pension age. The poorest were left in an ‘heat or eat’ situation adopting survival mechanisms reminiscent of the 1930’s that both my parents were born in to and times they thought were behind us for good.
One woman in her 60’s unable to find employment asked on a support website if she was ”too old to be a sex worker ” ? At this point I thought of returning to writing more strange but true stories for publication, swapping my past themes of grandfather’s hip replacement on the day Princess Diana came to open the new geriatric wing and the Security forces dancing around on the flat roof of his ward disturbing him, for senior women with no pension going through bins looking for a sandwich in what is for us the ‘Spectre of 2016’ .
I put it to Ken that he may consider making a film that focused on the daughters of parents like my own that were born in poverty in the 1930’s, but were fortunate to benefit from ‘The spirit of 45’s better housing, health service, programmes, the sort that saved my life, and spared me the Old Wives remedy of ‘sweaty socks round the neck to cure my tonsillitis’ because mum and dad couldn’t afford the doctor. Times however were to take a nose dive in the future for their female off-spring. Their 1950’s born daughters, the generation to be spared rationing thanks to their parents efforts to make this county strong again are now shockingly cast in to a financial wilderness by the loss of their expected state pension by a society busy dishing out big bonuses for bankers.
Despite their worn out limbs, the daughters of those ordinary men and women who helped make this country strong again after the war, through their toil, have been financially squeezed like a tube of ‘Arthritic joint and back rub’ . Some will not live long enough to draw a few bob’ pension.
For this reason I asked Ken Loach if he would support the daughters and granddaughters of those who fought in the war, and helped make Britain strong again as part of the’Spirit of 45′, and consider documenting the stories of the 1950’s born women now impoverished by the loss of their expected state pension and their means of survival ?
This could be another Ken Loach award winning documentary film as we are getting older and the time to record our stories is now.
If you would like to find out more about the Waspi women in your area, or just share your story then you can contact WASPI.
By Karen (WASPI)