Interlude Ikons

Interlude / 2013 / Terry Long

I saw my first television in the mid 1950s when I and the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) were both comparatively young. It was the only British TV channel available at the time, and there would be breaks in the programing so that you could make a pot of tea. Very civilized, or so we thought. In realty, the breaks occurred due to broadcasting gaps and technical problems that they were having at the BBC studios. Due to the frequency of recurring breaks, the BBC produced a series of “Interludes,” which were short black and white films made to fill the gaps. There were three “Interlude” films from the 50s that really stand out in my mind, and I see them now as being very iconic. There was the “Ploughing the Field” scene, where a horse drawn plough is seen working in a field, a very rare sight now in Britain. The second short film, which was my favorite, showed a working “Windmill” with a field of  wheat sheafs standing in the foreground. I love the play of light in this film. The third “Interlude” film, the “Potters Wheel” is the most famous of all of the “Interlude” series ever made, and depicts a close up of a clay bowl being made, but never finished. 


The static BBC testcard was the early answer to filling in the blank TV screen.

The BBC clock would help you tell how long you had been waiting during the break, but gave no indication when transmission would return!

Ploughing the Field

The Windmill (my most favourite)

The Potters Wheel (the most famous)

I have come to realize that these three subjects, the plough, windmill, and potters wheel are intrinsically linked, and highly symbolic, and just like a mandala, very meditative.  The circling of the seasons, with the plough preparing the soil for the crops. The circling of the windmill sails to grind the crops, and the circling of the potters wheel to make the food bowl.These short  perpetual films were more than just a gap filler, they were and still are eternal ikons of a time sadly forgotten by most, the arcadian and  idyllic Britain of William Morris, Samuel Palmer, and Ruskin.

If you would like to see all the three “Interludes” and some of the others in the series, plus learn lots more information about them, please watch this wonderful BBC “Time Shift” video…

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