Documentary telling the story of youth hostelling, founded in 1909 in Germany and established in Britain in 1930, through archive film found at the Youth Hostel Association's HQ.
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This is the story of how one of the most influential youth movements of
all time used film to open up the countryside to the masses.
For generations, the promotional films of the Youth Hostel Association
have encouraged millions of people to expand their horizons and see the world through fresh eyes.
Now, after years of lying unseen, the films are being broadcast together for the first time.
They follow a journey through decades of what it means to be
young, and as youth hostelling celebrates its first 100 years, show how our relationship with
the British countryside was changed forever.
Heading towards the Youth Hostel Association's headquarters in Derbyshire, film archivist
Binny Baker is about to pick up a collection of vintage films which she's hoping will help shed fresh
light on an organisation which has given millions of people their first experience of the great outdoors.
I know by experience that there will be all sorts of surprises hidden within those boxes.
It's just how many we'll find.
There'll be some interesting stuff, but it's just how the film's fared over the years.
Youth Hostelling started in Germany in 1909
and spread to Britain in the 1930s.
From the outset, the people behind its progress here quickly understood
the importance of film in promoting its message.
The films Binny's come to look at were recently unearthed during an overhaul of the YHA's records.
-What are we going to find in here?
-All sorts of things.
She's already viewed some, but today she's joining the association's voluntary archivist,
John Martin, to assess what other treasures may be hidden here.
When we've collected the archive here,
they've come from various different sources,
and some of the sources are clearly much more complete than others.
I want to have a look at some of these older ones. Quite often, you can tell just literally
by the box and the...
-Yeah, look at that one.
YHA disk reader 9.5.
Now, 9.5 is one of the earliest film formats that people could use.
Inside, a handwritten note, which promises to take John and Binny back to the very start.
Now, this is most interesting, because this is a list of some very
early Northumberland youth hostels, which presumably are on the film.
And mentioned is Wallington.
Now, the history of Wallington is enormously important.
This very much looks to me like an original because you can see, if you look up at the light there,
can you see the different colour in film stock?
There's dark and then there's light, and that's part of the way the film's been exposed.
Those little gaps there are where they've been spliced together.
This is going to be an exciting film, because it's not a print,
it's a camera original, or it's been edited, at least.
I love the fact that here, in your hand,
is the history of the YHA in the 20th century. It's just great.
Before taking the films back to the safety of her temperature controlled
vaults, Binny's keen to gets John's expert knowledge of this early find.
So, first time we're actually going to look at some film.
-It is, isn't it?
It's not in too bad nick, so I'm hoping we're going to get a pretty good picture as we go through.
What a wonderful piece of apparatus.
It's great, isn't it?
There's our first image.
Looks '30s to me.
With those uniforms.
Like a women's keep-fit class, isn't it?
-Yeah. It's "Freedom YHA".
Once we take this away and do some proper work on it, the quality will be, I can tell just by
looking at this, the quality is just going to be fantastic.
Now, this'll be interesting.
What was the significance of the Northumbrian...?
It was the very first of the YHA's regions.
The Trevelyans were
the chief instigators or amongst the chief instigators
at the very beginning of the association in 1931, '32.
Among the gems here are shots of early YHA activity at Wallington Hall,
the home of Sir Charles Trevelyan, an early benefactor
and the brother of the association's first president.
Later, emerging from the film, what are thought to be the first moving images of Sir Charles himself.
And they donated what, money, or their own buildings?
Yes, part of Wallington Hall became one of the very first youth hostels in the country.
With access to the countryside far more restricted than it is today,
it was crucial that the YHA attracted the landed gentry to its cause.
Amongst the landowners, there were some
very liberal or socialist leaning landowners like the Trevelyans,
who were very keen to encourage this kind of activity on their land.
-This would be an official film.
-I'm certain of that, and it would be duplicated.
-There we go.
-Yeah. Very good.
The concept of youth hostelling flourished as part of a broad liberal movement
led by rambling and cycling groups, who wanted to get
the working classes away from polluted urban areas into the great outdoors.
Once established, it quickly became a cause among both the rich and poor.
Behind the Youth Hostels Association at the very beginning, there was
very definitely a lot of serious thought, a lot of financial support.
Although the YHA in the 1930s was never that well off, it couldn't have got where it got to
having, within five years, over 200 hostels, without a great deal of
support by well-meaning people who could afford to do that.
As Binny takes the rolls of film back to her base in Yorkshire
for preservation, she's excited by the secrets they may contain.
We've got the history of the Youth Hostel Association
over at least seven decades, so that is really exciting.
I was optimistic at the beginning of this sort of archive hunt
that we would have a nationally significant collection.
I think the more we look, the more we'll find.
The early snapshot of hostelling in Northumberland is dwarfed by
the discovery of the YHA's first film aimed at boosting recruitment.
In 1933, two years after the first hostels were opened in Britain,
the association was already striving to assert itself on an ambitious scale.
It set out its manifesto in a drama called Youth Hails Adventure.
The film, which would have been shown in church and village halls, advertises the YHA's aims
of bringing the classes and sexes together in a new apolitical but democratic movement.
For John Walton, professor of Social History at Leeds Metropolitan University,
the film represents an early example of liberal propaganda.
The crucial point about this film is that it's made in the early 1930s, really at just about the lowest
point of the great industrial depression that really begins in 1929.
There's a fear of revolution. There's a fear of communism.
All this is designed to make people feel comforted and contented with their lot.
It's designed to defuse tensions, and prevent class conflict from developing.
I think it's very impressive that they use film,
although it's worth noticing that it's not a talkie.
Talkies were available by 1933 but they don't actually use them.
It is something exciting and new.
It's a new opportunity to show
spontaneity in all sorts of ways,
and what's particularly interesting is that they do have the resources to do it.
Each character in Youth Hails Adventure is carefully chosen
for what they represent of the social structure of the time.
And film was the perfect way of getting this message across,
as a medium which was spreading fast among all socio-economic groups.
It's really featuring the workers of a big London firm,
wanting to escape on holiday.
The youth hosteller is being quite evangelical about the YHA to the boss's son,
who is quite drawn towards the idea of the YHA, but at the same time needs to be won over.
But he's doomed, anyway, to go off on holiday
with his father.
Despite the film's ambitious scale, there are still some tell-tale signs
that they were working to a limited budget.
A lot of the sets are outside, and you can tell that because the wind blows through the set.
That's a great example of frugal film-making at that time.
They probably couldn't afford a big, indoor set that was lit, so the alternative,
to get the lighting right for the film, was to use an outdoor set.
So you wait for a good day, and then you shoot it outside.
The film questions the value of the typical seaside resorts of the era,
showing these as less fun than the YHA's dynamic new holiday movement.
Well, what we have here is the boss's son being bored at the Grand Hotel, sitting out quite comfortably
having breakfast, but really wishing he was somewhere else.
And you can see the idea dawning upon him that it would be really nice to go and join his friends
at the youth hostel, so here he is writing his letter of application.
You actually have to get your YHA card.
You have to be a defined member of the organisation.
So there is some kind of mystical rite of passage about joining the YHA.
Also central to the film was the promotion of female emancipation.
The bicycle was a great agent of women's liberation from the 1890s onwards.
We see them frequently riding in mixed parties, but again,
innocently, in this friendly, comradely sort of way.
Sexual contact is certainly not what the YHA thinks they should be interested in.
What they should be doing is forming healthy relationships that might
lead to marriage, while being very well-behaved in the meantime.
While the film was intended to have universal appeal, some of the imagery was surprisingly daring.
The scenes of nudity are completely unexpected.
I'm absolutely astounded that this might have been shown without being cut.
In the 1930s, there is an increasingly relaxed attitude to
the display of parts of the body that had hitherto been hidden,
but this means legs and arms, it means open-necked shirts, and it means not wearing hats.
It does not mean mooning!
With all the characters eventually joining together to build a new hostel, including the initially
sceptical factory owners, the film acts as a recruiting tool right across the class divide.
Of course, this is showing people how they can make a practical contribution
to the development of this virtuous new organisation.
Some of the most dramatic images from the early YHA films are of mountaineering.
Traditionally a rich man's pastime, by the 1930s and '40s, climbing was becoming a more democratic sport,
and the YHA was keen to show itself helping to make it accessible to all.
But first they had to overcome the difficulty of capturing film in such potentially dangerous locations.
Today, mountaineering cameraman Ian Burton, who worked with Griff Rhys Jones
on the BBC series, Mountain, is hoping to find out how they did it.
Used to scrambling up mountains with the lightest of modern equipment, today is going to be different.
Joining Ian at the Cow and Calf rocks in Yorkshire is film historian John Adderley, who's brought
the kind of 16 millimetre camera the YHA pioneers would have used.
This is a Cine-Kodak Special.
This is a very popular camera in the '30s and '40s, I believe.
There's no auto focus.
There's no auto iris.
It's wind-up, so you've got to make sure you've got plenty of wind for the shot you want to take.
You don't want to press the button and find you've got five seconds of wind left.
Before Ian begins his climb, the two men assess the original cameraman's handiwork.
Oh, wow. You can see the climbing gear is absolutely horrendous.
It's just a piece of rope tied around his waist. You wouldn't ever want to hang off that.
The footage may look dramatic, but Ian's not convinced
the cameraman is taking as much of a risk as the climbers.
By looking at this, there, for example, it doesn't give you any idea where it is.
It could be only ten feet off the ground, very easy to get to,
but still, in those days, it'd look amazing.
With John's expert advice, Ian is given a quick lesson in how to use the vintage camera.
Oh, my word, it's heavy.
You look through that hole to line up the viewfinder here.
Do the shutter a few times.
How do you stop it?
-Push it up.
-Oh, I see.
Ian's subjects today are a couple of climbing guides well used to tackling crags like these.
He sets off in search of the kind of vantage point he thinks his predecessors would have used.
It looks really high, which is the key thing.
It's about 10 metres up, so it's as safe as houses but it looks really dramatic.
Such an awkward camera to use.
I've got two lenses but neither of them are really that helpful.
Oh! What's happened to my film?
One problem faced by both Ian and his predecessors is the limited amount of film.
It's really, really frustrating because it's a really terrible camera to use.
It's lovely using film again but I've got no idea whether its going to be any good.
With his film finished and the weather deteriorating, Ian has no option but to climb back down.
In the '30s, the climbing films would have had to be sent away for processing.
Today, Ian and John are in for an anxious wait.
Excellent. That looks wonderful.
It looks really juddery and really old-fashioned looking,
so they really didn't walk and act like that.
It was the camera.
The viewfinder isn't in a helpful position.
For usablility, it's terrible.
I would've said I'm amazed they got anything shot. But actually it's produced quite remarkable results.
They were the pioneers, and I feel quite envious of that.
To be a pioneer like they were, using a technology that hadn't been used before.
It must have been a great feeling.
At the Yorkshire Film Archive, where staff have begun the task of
cataloguing and restoring the YHA's collection, archivist Binny Baker has made an important discovery.
The box she's concentrating on contains four separate reels of one film entitled The Magic Shilling.
Produced in 1949, it was the first film to be made
after the Second World War, when film stock was scarce and access to the countryside restricted.
The YHA needed another big promotional push.
You just know that nobody has looked at this for a long time, and on this,
one of the first things we noticed is that it is negative film.
Prints might have been done from it, so this is the film that actually went through the camera.
We thought this was going to be called The Magic Shilling, but as soon as you put it on, it isn't.
It's called The Magic Triangle.
One of the concerns was this reticulation,
which you can see here, which is deterioration of the film stock.
We then transferred it via a telecine machine,
and during that process there is some enhancement that you can do to get
the real kind of essence of what that cameraman, that photographer, wanted.
Because over time it loses tension, the film warps, there are all sorts of things.
But with modern technology you can almost get it back to its pristine best.
One key difference in The Magic Triangle
is that all references to class have been swept away.
Instead, it concentrates on another of the YHA's core aims, the desire for international harmony
in a world torn apart by five years of world war.
This as a film was much more about the whole work of the YHA.
But it based it on a couple who had joined the association.
So there's a story. But it also widens out,
and has, on the four different reels it has a whole different set of areas that it looks at.
It looks at internationalism, it looks at the camaraderie of youth hostel members,
it looks at the hostels, at the British countryside, it looks at the industrial nature
of the towns they were coming from in order to go to the countryside.
So it covers a huge aspect of the work of the organisation.
Oscar-winning film producer Lord Puttnam
is a former chairman of the Council For The Protection Of Rural England, who began his career in advertising.
These films depict an attitude to the countryside which is essentially English,
I'd say English more than British, essentially pastoral,
it's romantic, it's broadly encouraging and highly traditionalist.
They've become really interesting social documents.
But as a means promoting the YHA's cause, he feels The Magic Triangle is a lost opportunity.
I just was frustrated by the fact it could have and should have been done better.
It didn't strike as having been made for a professional screening.
It would have been loved by the people in it, they'd have absolutely adored it.
If you look at that film, compared to the American, German or even French films of the period,
it depicts a very English attitude to a very English countryside.
It wasn't that the idea was bad. It was that the execution was bad.
There's a lack of belief, a lack of self belief in the film.
Although the film may have lacked panache, it was certainly was well timed.
The post war generation was the first to benefit from legislation introducing paid holidays.
Everybody's got an amount of money
but they've got nothing to spend it on.
You've got rationing on some things into the early 1950s.
You've got shortages of all sorts of basic commodities.
Getting to the countryside must have been a tremendous safety valve for people
after the end of the war, once it became possible to travel again.
But although its audience might have had more money to spend,
the YHA had to be careful with its own resources.
And that included a clever piece of recycling.
One thing that's really fascinating about this particular film is that
later on in the collection, later on in the years, they used it again,
and cut it up into pieces, and made two separate films using original footage from this film.
And it was a really exciting discovery to find that when looking through those films.
You were looking at the footage thinking, "I've seen that shot again.
"I've seen that shot before, where has it come from?"
One of the re-edited films, Yostling,
is made to promote the pleasures of Youth Hostelling in Britain.
Cut down to less than 20 minutes, it's intended to deliver the YHA's message much more quickly.
Even its inter titles are more succinct.
They were a very frugal organisation, they worked with volunteers.
They weren't going to spend their money unwisely.
For all their pastoral charm, both Youth Hails Adventure and The Magic Triangle
were filmed when there were continuing tensions about access to the countryside.
The '30s had seen mass trespasses as the burgeoning
ramblers movement sought to sweep away restrictions to open land.
And the campaign for greater rights to roam continued after the war.
But the YHA makes no reference to this bitter conflict with landowners in any of its films.
The YHA was specifically founded in this country
as a non-political organisation.
Almost from day one, we were not seen as a pressure group,
we were not seen as a group like the Ramblers Association,
who were campaigning for access to the countryside.
So although YHA members very much got involved in what they were doing, we as an organisation didn't.
And I think that has perhaps held us in very good sway over the whole of our existence.
The YHA also had to tread carefully when it came to sexual politics.
Although clearly promoting equality and communal living,
the films had to satisfy everyone that the YHA was respectable.
The depiction of this very chaste organisation was there to reassure
parents or to make girls feel more secure about going away to a YHA.
I could equally make the point that maybe a lot of the people they would have liked to have attracted
were turned off by it!
Great shots of people having to separate.
In virtually every single film of every decade,
when it's bed time, there's an absolute point at which each film says,
"Well it's night-night time now",
and the girls go off into one room and the boys go off into the other.
You see shots of dormitories where people are getting changed.
The YHA were obviously making a big thing of that, in order to convince parents
and I suppose to convince people generally, that it was an upstanding organisation
and it wasn't going to put up with any hanky panky.
Central to many of the films is the role of the YHA's wardens.
Many of whom cut their teeth here at Idwal Cottage in Wales,
which was often used as a location for filming.
It's the oldest youth hostel in Britain still in use and two days before officially reopening
after a major refit, a group of ex-wardens are returning
for the first time to see how life here has changed.
Hello, Ken, nice to see you.
The hostel has changed so much since we first knew it.
Six beds, two times three.
And everybody on a Friday or Saturday night would try and get one of these beds to be sleeping outside.
Joyce and John Pope were the wardens here in the 1950s.
We had to feed them and keep the place clean and turn them out
at 10 o'clock and let them in at 5 and generally keep order!
And hostellers didn't just come here for the climbing.
It was mainly for the lads, this hostel.
But the YHA slogan in those days for girls was "YHA - Your Husband Assured."
The job of warden was a powerful position, incorporating the roles
of regimental sergeant major, chaperone, and parent.
The name for youth hostel wardens in Germany of course is Hausvater and Hausmutter.
You were the parents to them.
We had no authority, of course, outside the hostel at all.
If they were doing things they shouldn't have outside the hostel,
the police would tend to blame us for it.
But actually, we had no authority over them, we could only advise.
A key part of every hostel was the shared common room,
where people of all walks of life were encouraged to meet.
Romance often blossomed here.
The common room was very closed in.
We had 40 to 45 people in and it was very tight, so we were all thrown together.
But in those days, it was usual to make your own amusement in the common room.
Part of the tradition was that there would be a sing song each evening.
Back inside the common room watching films of Idwal's past, echoes of those early days return.
And fragments of the songs have stayed in the memory too.
I'm sure we can give a rendition of some of the old songs! After you!
# One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.
# I'll sing you two, oh
# Green grow the rushes, oh!
# Two, two, the lily-white boys, clothed all in green, oh, oh!
# One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so! #
Lights out was usually enforced by the warden at 10pm, however good the singing.
And the ethos of equality and shared experience
meant everyone who stayed overnight had to do a chore before leaving.
It was a movement and people joined it partly because of the accommodation and partly because
of the spirit of the YHA, which was something quite different to commercial organisations.
And also, it kept the costs down because we didn't have to employ staff to do all the chores.
And it made it possible for anybody to come, because it was very cheap.
From the outset, the YHA was keen to encourage greater international understanding.
Among those inspired by this message was a Manchester schoolteacher, Dr Graham Pink.
As an amateur cameraman, he established film making as part of his pupils education and recorded
his class's first ever trip abroad - a fortnight's youth hostelling to Switzerland in 1963.
I'd had an interest in still photography since I was a lad.
I was given my first camera when I was still early secondary school.
Y'know, an old box camera.
And I gravitated then, I suppose, once I'd started work here I could
afford to buy a camera, I bought a Bolex camera, an 8 mil.
And I set up a film club in the school, and we used to make little films,
and tried to use the youngsters.
This is the sort of camera I would have been using in those days.
Eight millimetre film - tiny film.
And it gave a surprisingly good result with Kodachrome film.
All mechanical. Quite a heavy thing, I must say, to transport,
and when I had all my gear with me for the holiday.
I just managed to collect as much film as I could.
We had a very pleasant couple of weeks travelling between, I think, three hostels in all we visited.
And we made this film.
Filmed by one of the pupils as he prepared to capture some of the stunning scenery,
Dr Pink was determined the boys should get the most out of the YHA's opportunity for cultural exchange.
Of course, we wanted our pupils to meet people from Switzerland itself, but of course, if you go to a hostel,
then you'll find there are visitors there from all over the world.
Which, of course, if we'd gone to a hotel, or a bed and breakfast, we wouldn't have experienced that.
They were there, they were abroad, they met other young people.
Having studied the history, the geography,
the geology of the country, they could see it at first hand.
This, of course, would be great fun for them.
Quite an event, in the middle of August, to be playing snowballing!
Later on, when I formed a film-making club in school,
I could show it to the pupils, and tell them, "Now, how would you improve this film?
"How would you edit it?" That sort of thing.
How did it change them? I think it gave them a wider view of the world.
It gave them a view of how other people lived.
It was their first trip to Europe, and I'd like to think it broadened their outlook on life.
I'm sure it opened their eyes.
As Binny builds up a clearer picture of what the collection contains,
one film-maker's name is beginning to stand out from the 1950s archive.
There's a really grotty old label here, and I can just about make out, "Western Lakeland."
It says it's 16 mill, and it's...what's that?
"In conjunction with...
Oh, and also with - that's really interesting - with Cowen of Keswick.
Now, Cowen is a film-maker who made two really significant films for the organisation.
So if additional material is being put into this film, again,
it's another example of using and re-using film.
So that's really good.
It doesn't smell too bad. It doesn't seem to be suffering too badly of anything.
Already there, I can see there's a break in that film, in the perforations,
so it may not even go through this particular machine.
If you look quite carefully, it's not straight,
so we'll have to go quite carefully, because we've got no idea, as yet, of the age of this film.
Fairly scratchy. It looks like it's been through the mill a few times.
See the clouds moving right over the mountains there, with a massive panoramic view.
But there we have a bit of a problem. Oh, golly, that's split.
I'm going to just have to make some running repairs.
On the original film are cement joints.
They dry out, depending on what the conditions are.
So this'll just be a temporary fix, just so we can go through, and look at it now.
Yeah, I can feel the original cuts in it, so it may be, you know, that this is the only copy of it -
because it feels like an original.
Early colour, Kodachrome, absolutely lovely, despite the scratches on it.
And this is one of the first ones that we've seen.
The only other colour ones that we know of this early period are by Cowen.
And as it said on the box, if we're to believe that tin, that's the same film-maker.
Cleaned and digitally remastered, the beautiful clarity of these images can finally be enjoyed
in the way the cameraman would have intended.
We're not getting so much YHA, "Join us, come and look at us."
That doesn't seem to be here, although they've got YHA signage.
Interesting shot, I haven't seen this in any of them - men taking the bins out,
with all the rubbish from the kitchens. SHE CHUCKLES
If our research is right on these films,
these colour ones are the first colour films we have from Cowen.
He was obviously the film-maker of choice. We don't know an awful lot about him. He came from Keswick.
We've done some research into the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers,
because that's where a lot of film-makers joined that Association, in cine-clubs right over Britain.
But he doesn't seem to have been a member.
At first, Binny's research into this film-maker throws up few leads.
But a few weeks later, there's a break through.
At a house in Southport, more rolls of film shot by W Cowen
take pride of place at the home of a close relative - Alan Bale.
Called Bill Cowen to his family, and most people who knew him - he was my grandfather.
He was born in 1897, so he was a Victorian, one of the last Victorians. He ran a chemist shop,
so he would have had access to the materials, and to cameras, and so on,
cos that would have been what they sold.
He always liked still photography,
so he was quite a happy amateur photographer, to say the least, before the war.
In the '50s, and so on, he became a professional cameraman.
Bill Cowen's natural gift behind the camera is shown to great effect on the YHA film Breaking New Ground.
Here, the camera lingers on the delights of a rural Britain that was rapidly disappearing.
Cowen was clearly filming with the future in mind.
But it was his next film which was to cement his reputation.
COMMENTATOR: 'The end of the day will bring a common need -
'the need for rest, food and shelter.
'Let us therefore go down to join these many and different tributaries flowing now into a common stream,
'to where, irrespective of race, creed or politics,
'occupation or social distinction,
'there is a youth hostel offering food, warmth, shelter,
'and simple accommodation of a pattern these wanderers have created for themselves.'
Where All Ways Meet is the youth hostel's first film with sound.
They began in style - using the voice of one of the great broadcasters of his generation -
the Welsh poet, and BBC wartime correspondent, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas.
As far as how he knew him, I don't know.
He perhaps knew him through photography, or broadcasting,
and maybe he'd been working in the Lake District, and Grandfather had met him.
But, you know, it would have been quite a good person to have...
to have a well-known broadcaster actually doing the commentary on the film, I should imagine.
Where All Ways Meet is basically centred around the Lake District, which was his home.
And, you know, it shows a lot of the great landscape
of the Lake District, and so on - it's explored in that film.
I would imagine they were some of the first films he'd made professionally.
And it is quite fascinating, it seems very well shot to me.
You know, it was interesting to see that part of my grandfather's life come to life.
Bill Cowen's early work for the YHA was to provide a springboard to a successful career in film,
eventually leading to a job on the award-winning TV wildlife series, Survival.
A passion sparked to life by shooting images like these.
COMMENTATOR: 'Theirs for a day, the freedom of mountain, moor, or open road.
'The warmth of the sun, the clean, fresh bluster of the wind, the sweep of the sky.
'And above all, a feeling of deep content that will abide with them
'through the week of work ahead, and long after.'
# Good morning! Good morning!
# Good morning! Good morning!
# Good morning... #
Another recurring theme in the films is food.
And in particular, the legendary cooked breakfast,
a meal seen as the height of luxury when many of these films were made.
When I first started youth hostelling,
immediately after the war, food such as this was tightly rationed.
# Good morning! Good morning! Good! #
Those of us who lived in the towns, we were pretty lucky when we came out.
We'd...you know, pass a local farm
who knew us, and he would be prepared to sell us one or two eggs.
# Nothing has changed, it's still the same... #
We were all not very well off,
so to minimise our own costs - our own personal costs,
we scrounged food from home.
I mean, here you see, literally, a banquet.
We sometimes spent as much as two hours in the men's kitchen, in the self-catering kitchen,
because we'd all be laughing and joking, and talking together,
and there'd be a cup of tea on, and so you'd have your cup of tea.
And then afterwards, those who hadn't cooked...
would do the washing up.
It was fun, it was enjoyment, and...
in spite of my efforts today, we all learnt a lot,
and I think you would find that most of the lads and the girls that we used to go around with,
we all learnt our elementary cooking here.
-'Hostelling is an experience that many of us have enjoyed at some time or another.
'For some, it is an occasional pleasure...'
Of the promotional output from the 1960s, one film stood out - The Hostellers.
A quietly subversive film, it began to ask some serious questions of the YHA's aging hierarchy.
It focused on the building of the first ever floating hostel in England,
and featured a young hosteller from Yorkshire called Ken Moody.
"I'm 19 now.
"I've been hostelling for six years.
"I help other people organise their holidays on the waterways.
"I see other people having their holidays and think,
""What a stuffy kind of holiday.""
Ken had been one of the founding members of the floating hostel,
Sabrina, and was instrumental in helping to kit it out.
For a month in the summer of 1964,
he would find his views on the YHA's establishment under careful scrutiny.
"I meet everybody I know through the YHA.
"I meet them hostelling at weekends. I go hostelling every weekend."
-'Sabrina, the first floating hostel in Britain,
'was converted by a local group of hostellers in their spare time.'
I'd been to Sweden, and I'd stayed at the floating youth hostel in Stockholm harbour,
so I knew it could be done.
So we thought we could get a Yorkshire boat, and put it... moor it at Selby on the canal,
and convert it into a youth hostel.
A contact who was a barge operator in the Selby area
towed it up for us -
pushed it in through the locks onto the canal at Selby.
We pulled up by rope.
Nearly 50 years later, Ken is preparing to go back to Selby
to meet the film-maker who chose him as a focal point for one of the YHA's most defining films.
Gloria Sachs was an assistant editor with the British Transport film unit,
and was looking to advance her career when she was offered the chance to direct a film,
part-funded by the YHA, to publicise its activities.
You didn't have any grey hairs when I saw you last!
-Hello, Gloria! I've got as many grey hairs as you now!
-Lovely to see you. Lovely to see you.
-It's a while since we were down here.
They used to put the boat alongside that cabin.
-So we were working over that side, weren't we?
What happened to the boat?
After the YHA finished with it, it was left moored up there for a while.
And the local children played on it, and vandalised it,
and after that, it was sold to somebody who towed it away,
and it's now been converted back into a houseboat.
Why did the YHA give it up?
Erm...it wasn't making any money for them.
It wasn't up to the standard of modern hostelling.
It was a simple hostel.
After filming the sequence on Sabrina,
Gloria's film widened out to become something which challenged the YHA to its very core -
an uncensored vehicle for the views of the '60s generation, with Ken and a friend, Brian Cotton,
travelling around the hostels in Britain, free to say what ever they felt.
"You find a small percentage of wardens are real sticklers,
"who think they can run these hostels on the army principle.
"It doesn't work out at all."
I was very actually very bored with films that had commentaries,
certainly, talking about the things you could see on the screen anyway.
I wanted something that was a little more free, and real, actually.
We did interviews with them, and from those interviews,
we edited the verbiage, as it were, and built the film around it.
"I think as it's run now, the YHA is pretty sound.
"It's just young people aren't getting experience to take over when the time comes.
"They're not given the chance.
"You've got to get the youngsters to take responsibility, and do the jobs."
That's what we really did feel - we were the new young rebels of YHA!
We made mistakes. We said the wrong things. We didn't expect them all to be included.
"Sometimes we try to get young ladies to cook our meals for us.
"But, from bitter experience, you often find that you get a meal...
"that usually half of it is burnt!"
Filming the Hostellers took a month.
Improvisation was the key, even down to inventing a suitable girlfriend for Ken.
Rather than take a girl with us up to Scotland for the scene,
the assistant director had his young wife with him, who fitted the bill.
I leant her a bicycle. It was my father's bike.
And we put it together.
"When you meet a girl youth hostelling,
"you can jolly guarantee she has the same interests as you. For a start, you've got hostelling in common."
To somebody who had never been hostelling,
it gave them, I hope, a reasonable picture of what hostelling was about.
Ken's influence on the YHA's promotional output didn't end there.
He later joined the national executive,
and successfully argued that members should be allowed to use cars to travel to hostels.
The diehards at the YHA believed that youth hostels were there for people of very limited means,
who cycled, walked, and didn't have cars.
But cars were becoming cheaper, and people were using them
to get to the areas where they were going walking and climbing.
There were people still fighting against it into the '70s and '80s.
But we won the battle.
A significant development, which would be incorporated
into a film at the end of the flower power era called Passport To Roam.
"It was Roger's idea in the first place, because, honestly, I didn't think it would appeal to me.
"However, he insisted, and in we went.
"And I don't remember much about it, except there was a room with a piano, where they had singsongs."
Passport To Roam was a brave attempt to bring the YHA up to the 1970s.
"So I thought I might as well join, as weekends have been rather dull lately."
They start with what really is a very posh girl,
who is anti-going-to-the-countryside, and her boyfriend drags her along.
And she's very negative - the whole film starts in a very negative way.
In a sense, it uses class as a tool, then proceeds to immediately misuse it.
I thought they were reflecting the YHA
as it probably wanted to be thought of,
as opposed to offering me a glimpse of what life might have been like.
Come and get your drinks, then!
The way in which they communicated using film was to try and fit in with that feeling of the time,
so people who'd slightly moved away, and were trying new things.
They were wanting to draw those...
draw those hostellers back into the organisation,
and to encourage people who'd never started, who'd never enjoyed the countryside, to bring them back in.
I found Passport To Roam excruciatingly embarrassing.
It seemed to bring together
all the sorts of people you would least want to meet,
doing all the sorts of things you would least want to be involved in.
THEY ALL SING
It had this caricature of the worst kind of folk club.
THEY ALL SING
Can you hang on to that?
What about Don't Think Twice?
Then, they're highlighting that there are lights out,
and people have to go to bed at a certain time, and the warden enforces this,
so they're highlighting discipline.
One more song, then, please, and then off to bed.
# We love you, Warden
# Oh, yes, we do... #
Then they bring in a pathetic, subversive response,
that's embarrassing in every dimension.
It's deeply, deeply uncool.
-Can I have a bottle of orange, please?
-Shall I open it for you?
'It's depicting a world'
which I absolutely accept might have existed in the very early 1950s.
That world was dead and gone by 1965.
'It was an anachronism on the day it was made.'
-Do you do much hostelling?
-Quite a bit.
I did something you'd enjoy.
The promotional films had always been a mixture of the amateur and professional,
but throughout the '70s and early '80s, they appeared to stagnate.
More films like Passport to Rome,
featuring the hostellers themselves in predictable trips around the countryside,
failed to chime with the increasingly sophisticated visual demands
of the TV-watching generation.
COMMENTATOR: 'Some hostellers travel by bike, bus, train, or car.
'How they travel, and how they spend their time, is entirely up to them.'
The YHA began to reposition itself as a place for families, instead of just the young.
Later, the chores would be sacrificed to health and safety, and the ban on alcohol lifted.
The films of the '70s are about the increasing pressure
to conform and consume,
in terms of how you present yourself, in terms of what you're interested in,
and it's difficult for the YHA, actually, to slot into that.
So the problem is,
do you try to cling on to your existing constituency which is perhaps getting smaller?
Do you try to reach out more broadly?
If you want to reach out more broadly, what do you do?
A radical rethink was needed,
and it came with a ground-breaking film in 1984,
which featured actors from the hit children's programme Grange Hill.
Enter The Adventure was commissioned by former YHA chairman Hedley Alcock.
I'm asking you.
'I'll give you a clue.'
It went modern, it went directly to using a computer.
We were using professional people, and we were aiming straight at modern, young people.
It talked to them in their own language.
Not only did Enter The Adventure try to answer the specific needs of a new generation of teenagers,
but to reflect the wider changes in society too.
Totally different, and the new friend was a coloured guy.
That's another shift,
and again, it's emphasising that the youth hostel movement is universal, it's open to all.
As well as trying to prise youngsters away from their TVs and fledgling computer games,
the association was also struggling with the competition of cheap family holidays abroad.
This was the era when it became possible for ordinary, working people
to go out and have a fortnight's holiday in Spain.
We needed people to use and stay in our hostels.
It was no longer the...
the singsong in the common room in the evening.
It was no longer the make-it... do-it-yourself entertainment.
You tell me.
For actor Lee MacDonald, it was a chance to get away from his Grange Hill character Zammo.
Whoa! Steady! HORSE NEIGHS
I'm like a London lad, and everything was London and inner-London,
and I didn't see much of the countryside, except mum's caravan. It was just different,
and it just showed you that you could go off, and it wasn't expensive,
and you could enjoy yourself in the country.
I think that was my first awareness of youth hostels,
and that I could do it, and friends of mine could do it, and get involved.
Would Big Brother like to get me out of this?
When I got the part, it was so different than normal - you'd normally go and say your lines.
This was to go off, and do activities, which was really good.
There was canoeing and cycling and horse riding. I wanted horse-riding.
I've loved horse-riding since then. I got horse-riding, which was brilliant.
I think there's always a need to get kids out, you know,
into doing activities and stuff, and I think more so now than back then.
I think there are so many computer games and stuff now, more than there was then,
youth hostels should get out there, and blitz the kids, and get them out and doing stuff.
Today, as the youth hostelling movement celebrates its 100th birthday,
it's still using film to spread its message, but gone are the old-fashioned dramas,
and lingering images of the countryside.
If you can't get the message over in five minutes,
almost the message is dead in the water.
It's the delivery of that film, and how we present it.
We probably are gonna need to deliver messages via young people's mobile phones,
but that will be taking
that tradition on into the future, and actually delivering it
direct to the end user.
But while the fabric of the Youth Hostel Association remains essentially the same,
the social conditions in which it exists have been totally transformed.
And for lifelong member Dr Graham Pink, the future is something he's willing to invest in.
He's spent a quarter of a million pounds of his own money
on helping to refurbish Keswick youth hostel in the Lake District,
hoping it'll be part of a vibrant hostelling network
available for young people
with limited means for many years to come.
This is an example of what can be done with a very old building,
and turning it into a very nice, modern youth hostel for the 21st century.
When I offered to make a contribution to the YHA, I thought,
"I don't want to leave it until I die,
"I'd rather give it while I'm still alive, and I can see the results of it."
And this is exactly what I've got here.
It's very rewarding to come back, and see the excellent work they've done,
see the enjoyment that young people have,
and particularly youngsters that come here -
they most likely don't appreciate what it was like in the olden days.
They've made an excellent job of it, and it's nice to know that they are perhaps learning to use hostels,
and get the pleasure out of them that I had 60, 70 years ago.
The promotional films of the YHA, intended as a positive vision of the future,
have succeeded in capturing key elements of our past,
a past in which our ideas of youth and freedom,
adventure and independence have changed beyond recognition.
I think the YHA has become inevitably more middle-class,
and perhaps more conformist in all sorts of ways, including being conformist to consumerism.
I think it's had to. It would have gone to the wall if it hadn't.
I think its future is very different from its origins.
This was very early environmentalism.
The environmental movement, not based on science,
but based on an instinct that there was a lot to be gained from nature,
and that men and women within nature was a place
where your better instincts were likely to be stimulated.
Here we have a youth organisation that started internationally,
moved to Britain,
and they followed its development through the 20th century on film.
There's hardly any other collection that reflects that sort of enthusiasm for film,
and that very one-dimensional look at an organisation in the same way.
It spans an organisation's history through film.
MUSIC PLAYS OVER SINGING
Good night, all.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Nation on Film documentary telling the story of youth hostelling, which was founded in 1909 in Germany and was established in Britain in 1930, through fascinating archive films discovered in a storeroom at the Youth Hostel Association's headquarters in Derbyshire.
The films chart the progress of the movement, as well as the nation's changing attitudes towards 'youth' and the countryside. The images show young people enjoying a new sense of freedom - hiking, rock climbing, folk singing and even the odd bit of skinny-dipping.
The collection includes everything from silent movies through to video, and all promote the YHA's central mission of encouraging young people to enjoy the benefits of the countryside. Most of the films have not been broadcast before, as they were originally shown in cinemas, hostels and community halls.
Contributors include Lord Puttnam, hostel workers, film-makers, actors and historians.