Halifax family back on the big screen as 1946 film returns

Stars: Ken and sisters Eva (left) and Ivy outside Woodside Place
Stars: Ken and sisters Eva (left) and Ivy outside Woodside Place
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A WARTIME film starring a Halifax family will be resurrected on the big screen this week - with a special appearance from the filmmaker’s widow.

We of the West Riding, a documentary-style film featuring the Coldwells, of Woodside Place, Boothtown, will be shown at National Media Museum on Wednesday.

Pauline Annakin, the widow of Yorkshire-born filmmaker Ken Annakin, is flying in from her home in the USA to donate a print of the film to the Bradford museum.

Tony Earnshaw, senior film programmer there, said: “We are delighted to accept and screen this donated print of We of the West Riding which captures the stoicism and significance of the region’s working classes in the immediate post war period.”

The 22-minute short, written by Halifax novelist Phyllis Bentley, was one of Mr Annakin’s earliest films and was shot in and around Halifax.

The Coldwells were selected to portray a typical Yorkshire household working in the textile industry as World War Two came to an end.

The result was a portrait of Yorkshire folk in the immediate post-war period that exists and a fascinating historical document of work and play during a lost era.

The family - Albert, Ethel and three of their children, Ivy, Eva and Kenneth - became the ‘Sykes family’ in the film.

The couple, who were both mill workers, had eight children altogether but five were away at war, so members of local amateur dramatics groups stood in for the rest of the brood.

Mr Coldwell, who had always wanted to keep pigeons, got his wish as Mr Sykes and is shown in one scene releasing his beloved birds from Halifax railway station.

Also included in the movie is footage of the Black Dyke Mills Band and the finale features the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Holme Valley Male Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

It is now 65 years since the film premiered at Bradford’s New Victoria Theatre in 1946.

In an interview in in 1992, Ken Coldwell, then 71, said: “People used to gather round while filming was going on and watch what was happening. It caused quite a stir.”

Eva, then 64, added at the time: “I felt just like a film star. Our mother had no hesitation in agreeing to the film and my father was pleased because he got to keep his pigeons.

“We all enjoyed it and still watch the film when we get the chance - it seems like something from another world now.”