We were warned.

1968 was the year Bath, Keynsham and other parts of Somerset experienced terrible flooding when torrential rain fell across the county. A flash-flood disaster that resulted in seven deaths.

But it was also the year Bath was to feature in a short documentary film screened in cinemas across the country.

Look at Life was a regular series of short films produced between 1959 and 1969 by the Special Features Division of the Rank Organisation and screened in their Odeon and Gaumont cinemas – replacing the circuit’s newsreel, Universal News, which had become largely irrelevant with the advent of television news broadcasts.

Cinema audiences would have watched these before the main feature began.

With the Clean Air Zone coming into force at midnight on Monday next and a big debate about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, my attention has been drawn to a Look at Life special on transport which was screened that year.

It featured Bath and Norwich as two English cities under threat of being ‘choked’ by the rising level of traffic in their streets.

The documentary was called The City’s for Living In and was a response to the infamous Buchanan Report which had suggested a tunnel under part of Bath to help relieve its traffic problems.

The film is presented by the late Ann MacEwan – back in the day when there was only one accent that mattered.

Do have a look. It may be 53 years old but the issue it features is extremely relevant today as we deal with pollution and climate change.


  1. Thanks Richard  — absolutely fascinating to see how relevant so much of this film is today  — at least the Council is taking pollution from traffic and the living cities initiative seriously  — but huge challenge today as it was then, Best wishes Marian McNeir PS Love the accents !

  2. Very interesting. Many thanks for highlighting

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Very interesting to watch her narrative! I lived in Norwich before moving here 20 years ago and was amused at the naivety of the commentary – the inner ring road is now choked and the harm it caused to the setting of the city’s historic walls and other buildings and spaces was awful. Thank goodness the underpass scheme for Bath never went ahead as it would have probably stopped the hot springs from flowing. That idea, along with the “slum clearance” demolitions in 70’s, would have killed Bath off as an historic city. I note that she does warn us about the future! As a female architect of the next generation, I’m proud of the conservation movement which followed her generation, but she is a convincing narrator.
    Jacky Wilkinson

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