Cat no. 226491

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: George Elvin (ACTT General Secretary)

early 1960s

George Elvin

This is not a BECTU interview, but appears to be a recording of a talk Elvin gave in the early 1960s to ACTT members working in television. It is duplicated from a 7-inch master, and fades in and out abruptly.

Elvin recalls his very earliest days as an ACT official in the mid 1930s, collecting subscriptions and trying to build up the membership. He gives a vivid account of the difficulties of building up the Union membership enough to gain recognition from the employers, and discusses early successes such as the ruling forbidding members to work for a producer who already owed them money. He discusses the early agreement drawn up with the Ostrers, the formation of the ACT employment bureau and activities around getting employment rights written into the 1938 Cinematograph Act. He discusses the growth in strength of the Union during the War, the dispute with Movietone over Alf Tunwell's insurance (he discusses the usefulness of 'Cameramen at War' in following up the gains made in this case). Elvin also talks about various union methods - particularly that of owning shares in order to get a voice in shareholder's meetings, of demarcation arrangements with NATKE, and of the formation of ACT Films in 1951 (he specifically discusses 'The Final Test' in this regard). Finally he discusses issues spcifically related to union members working in television. He recalls gaining recognition for ACT from Captain Brownrigg of Associated Rediffusion, and discusses the particular problems that television (and particularly the increase in international TV and the possibility of the third network) present. Finally he takes questions from his audience on matters such as local union offices, bonus pay and the structure of ACT Films.

This is a rich and detailed account of ACTT's beginnings and work up to the early 1960s, presented by an extremely charismatic speaker who was central to the organisation's activities.

NB. Another rich source for this material is the ACT[T] journal, the 'Cine Technician'. A short run of this journal from 1948-1962 is available to consult in the EAFA Library.

(Lawrence Napper, BCHRP)