The Arts Enquiry
The Factual Film
A Survey sponsored by the Dartington Hall Trustees

1947, Oxford University Press, (No ISBN)
Published on behalf of The Arts Enquiry by P E P (Political and Economic Planning)


“This is the second of four reports to be presented by the Dartington Hall Trustees on the Visual Arts, the Factual Film, Music and the Theatre. The series is designed to give some account of the place of these arts in our national life, their economic and administrative background, their social importance and their value in general education. Many aspects of English life came under review during the war, and the Trustees felt it to be important that these arts should be considered as having a recognised place in national life.
The reports are the work of the Arts Enquiry. Established in the autumn of 1941, the Enquiry has been staffed by the Arts Department at Dartington Hall and financed by the Trustees, and the work carried out mainly in London at offices kindly provided by the P E P (Political and Economic Planning), who have also undertaken publication on its behalf. The Enquiry has been associated with the Nuffield College Social Reconstruction Survey, except in the case of this report for which the Trustees are alone responsible.

The initiation of the Enquiry was commended by the Ministry of Education and by the Reconstruction Secretariat which agreed to receive the reports. The interest taken by these two departments has facilitated the work of the Enquiry and the help of individual members of the departments has been indispensable both during the period of research and in the compilation of the reports in general. While in no way responsible for the Enquiry, the Ministry of Information, the Services Departments, the British Council, the Imperial Institute, the Imperial War Museum and the Government Cinematograph Adviser have been of considerable assistance in readily providing information.

At the outset a committee was formed to initiate and co-ordinate the separate sections of the Enquiry. Its members were: H. L. Beales, G. D. H. Cole, Mrs. L. K. Elmhirst, Prof. B. Ifor Evans, Miss M. C. Glasgow, F. A. S. Gwatkin, Mrs. M. A. Hamilton, Dr. Julian Huxley, C. C. Martin, A. D. K. Owen, E. W. White, J. Wilkie and A. P. Cox (Secretary). WHile many members of this committee are associated with official and semi-official organisations, they served in a private and not in an official capacity. By the summer of 1944 a stage had been reached where the work of the Enquiry was almost entirely in the hands of specialist committees. Then, feeling that it could no longer serve a useful function, the parent committee decided to dissolve itself and to leave the final presentation and the publication of the report to the Trustees. The Trustees therefore wish to make it clear that neither the committee, nor its individual members, are responsible for the content of the reports. They wish however to express their gratitude to the committee for its invaluable help and advice in the early stages of the Enquiry’s work.

The authors of this report are a group of experts who have worked together since June, 1943, under an independent chairman. As some held official or semi-official positions it was agreed that members of the group should remain anonymous.

The information contained in the report was collected mainly by personal interview and by the study of published material; this was the drafted into memorandum form by members of the Enquiry’s staff and submitted to the group for discussion. In November 1943 a questionnaire was sent out to all local education authorities, many of whom generously provided useful information. By October 1944 a preliminary draft of the whole report was completed and was circulated privately to over two hundred people. A summary of the report was published by P E P in an issue of Planning[1] .

The comments and criticisms received were the incorporated, additional information was collected and the report redrafted for publication. As the group was not satisfied with its chapter on The Film in Education, a small conference of film producers and teachers was arranged in June 1945 at Dartington Hall, mainly to discuss the general problems of the educational film with a view to giving greater weight and authority to this chapter which was also published in part by PEP[2] .

The Trustees are thus indebted to a far large[sic] number of people than it is possible to mention individually here. They are none the less grateful for all the help which has been so generously given. In particular, they wish to express their deep gratitude to the members of the group, and its chairman, Mr. H. L. Beales, who, individually and collectively, have devoted much time and energy to the Enquiry and have given every assistance to its staff. The Trustees hope that this report will help to promote the aims of the documentary movement and to develop the use of factual film.

This report, like the others in the series, is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Martin. The Enquiry was his idea. He was responsible for its direction and for including the Factual Film within its terms of reference. His advice, criticism and encouragement, even during long periods of illness, were invaluable, while his enthusiasm carried others with him. His sudden death, on 6 August 1944, robbed the group of one of its most valuable members and the Enquiry of its founder and directing mind.

Dartington Hall,
Totnes, Devon.”


“In the fifteen months between October 1945, when this survey of The Factual Film went to press, and January 1947, its date of publication, important events have occurred which are not recorded in the text.

The newly established Central Office of Information has taken over the main technical departments of the Ministry of Information, and the work of the Ministry’s Films Division is to be continued under its auspices. The Office is also to be responsible for the production of films for the British Council. The film activities of the three Services Departments have been, or are in process of being, reorganised on a permanent basis.

Other major developments have taken place in the educational and international fields. The Ministry of Education has adopted a policy of visual education which includes the appointment of a Film Committee representative of local education authorities and teachers, and the commissioning of an annual programme of films through the Central Office of Information. The Preparatory Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has established a Section for Media of Mass Communication (i.e. Films, Radio and Press). This Section is now drawing up a programme of work to be undertaken by UNESCO and intended to promote the use of films for international purposes and to encourage the exchange of films between countries.

At the proof-correcting stage in March 1946, it was possible to make some minor additions to the text in order to bring the survey up-to-date, and to incorporate certain statistics which had become available; but more extensive alterations could not be made without further delay in publication. Thus, expect where specifically stated, conditions are surveyed as they existed in the late summer of 1945. This must be emphasised, particularly in the case of Chapter II which, describing work of the Ministry of Informations’ Films Division, has been allowed to stand, as drafted, in the present tense.

Three of the four main recommendations made, those proposing the continuance of officially sponsored film production and distribution through the Films Division or an equivalent agency, the planning and implementing of of a visual education policy by the Ministry of Education, and the establishment of a Films Department of UNESCO, have already been carried out, in principle at least. Nevertheless, the authors of this survey feel justified in publishing the recommendations on their original form. WIthout wishing to claim more credit than is due, they suggest that this work has helped, directly and indirectly, to make these developments possible. The preliminary draft of the survey has been before the responsible officials of the Government departments concerned for nearly two years, and the revised and published version of the Summary and Conclusions for more than one. The publication of the P E P broadsheet, The Film in Schools, which reproduced the major part of Chapter III also helped to focus the opinion of educationists and teachers on this subject at a critical time.

The survey, as its title implies, is concerned with the use of the film medium for purposes other than entertainment; for spreading information and news, for teaching and for record and research. But it did not seem advisable to isolate the study of factual film from some of the considerations affecting the use of films in general and some discussion of the film industry as a whole. The survey therefore includes chapters of Films and the Public, dealing in general terms with ways of enlarging the scope and application of the film as a means of communication, and on the pertinent subject of The International Use of Factual Films. Appendices deal with The Development, Structure and Economics of the Feature Film Industry, with Film Censorship in Britain and with The Educational Film Movement in Scotland since, although Scotland is excluded from the terms of reference of the Arts Enquiry, it is impossible to discuss the use of the film in education without reference to the Scottish achievement.

The factual chapters are preceded by a Summary and Conclusions which epitomise the facts and gives findings of the survey.”

Summary and Conclusions

[In progress - SC 05/12/11]
  1. ^ Planning, No. 228, December 1944, British Documentary Films
  2. ^ Planning, No. 245, February 1945, The Film in Schools//