Collection 2: Racial Inequality

This five-part scheme of work examines the issue of racial inequality as depicted in the short film Ten Bob in Winter (1963) and the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.

Ten Bob in Winter (1963)

In 1963, when Ten Bob in Winter was released, London was a cold and unwelcome place for black immigrants. Those looking for accommodation were frequently met with signs reading “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”.

The tension in the film is not between black and white - the black central character is seen to have a good friendship with a white man, who loans him the ten shilling note of the title - but between black men of different classes.

Ten Bob in Winter is an energetic short film, shot on 16mm in black and white, which is fresh and experimental yet still light and accessible. In place of dialogue, the director narrates in a jazz rap style reminiscent of Langston Hughes, while a sparky jazz soundtrack is provided by the Joe Harriott Quintet.

The student reluctantly loans the ten bob to another black man, a musician. He is wary of the musician, who is dressed in tatty clothes and is much darker in complexion than the student. Caribbean middle-class people in the 1960s were very ‘colour conscious’, an enduring legacy of the plantation system during slavery. Reckord’s film demonstrates in a simple way how uncomfortable the black middle-class is with its poor cousins, and how ridiculous and superficial these divisions are.

Inge Blackman, BFI Screenonline

Lesson resources