Monday, April 14, 2008

All My Yesterdays

One of my favourite television programmes of all time has got to be "All Our Yesterdays". If you weren't watching television between 1960 and 1973 (or during the programme's brief resurrection in the late 1980s), the format of the programme was simplicity itself. Each week it would present edited excerpts from the cinema newsreels of exactly 25 years previously, linked together by a simple commentary. What the programme managed to do for the first time was to introduce the idea of film as an historical document and in so doing to launch a new, innovative, accessible and exciting approach to the study of modern history. Why the series came to an end I do not know - it must have been relatively cheap to make. There have been some modest experiments with a similar format (BBC's Rock and Roll Years was one of the better examples) but they have not had either the depth or the breadth of the original series. It was the fact that All Our Yesterdays looked back on every week - whether anything momentous happened or not - which made it compulsive : true history can always be found in the cracks between the big events.

The BBC is currently trying out another interpretation of the format. As part of their "1968 - Myth or Reality" season, every day for six months Radio 4 is recreating 1968 in sound - drawing on the BBC and other news archive and the music of the time. The individual segments are broadcast each day and a weekly omnibus edition is broadcast each Sunday. The programmes can also be accessed via the BBC website. And the best news of all is that the weekly omnibus edition is available as a downloadable podcast (unfortunately it is only available to people in the UK, although quite how it knows where you are accessing from is beyond my limited technological understanding).

It is, of course, not film. Nor is it open ended - it only has a six month run. But in its sweep and in its choice of material it is close to the original "All Our Yesterdays" concept. Listening to the weekly compilations as I walk Amy through the woods, I am transported back to a year when everything seemed to happen. And for that reason "1968 - Day by Day Omnibus" is my Podcast of the Month for April 2008.

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