Former Poet Laureate John Betjeman (1906 – 84) made a number of BBC documentaries surveying the urban landscapes of Britain, but one remained unseen – until now.
The half-hour programme, A Poet Goes North, was made in 1968 and followed the poet and architectural critic as he explored the Victorian heritage of Leeds.
However, the film never got an airing by the BBC – for reasons that still remain unclear.
Incredibly A Poet Goes North was then forgotten about until 20 years ago, when a copy of the film was found by Dr Kevin Grady on top of a cupboard in the offices of Leeds Civic Trust, of which he is director.
The Trust had been handed a copy because it contributed 200 guineas towards the cost of the film and co-operated with the BBC during its production.
A copy also survived in the BBC’s film archive, but would most likely have remained unknown gathering dust if Dr Grady, director of the Trust, hadn’t stumbled upon it.
He mentioned the programme to Richard Taylor, a Leeds-based BBC producer who has been instrumental in finally getting the production the attention it rightly deserves.
According to Martin Wainwright of the Guardian, it ‘shows Betjeman on classic form, denouncing newly built tower blocks and suggesting – with foresight since borne out – that Leeds’s back-to-back redbrick terraces would outlive them.’
Binny Baker, of the Yorkshire Film Archive, who restored the film told the Guardian: ‘It’s just so exciting to find a treasure like this. We’ve got a star – Sir John Betjeman – and nobody’s seen it. That is a real find.’
The story of the film’s re-discovery, along with clips, received a limited broadcast in the Yorkshire area on Wednesday, February 18th on BBC1’s Inside Out.
A national broadcast is expected to follow.