Seven Up! (1964)
July 2, 2015 11:40 PM - Subscribe

“Why do we bring these children together? Because we want to catch a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The union leader and the business executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old. ‘Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.’” The 30-minute 1964 documentary Seven Up! profiles fourteen British seven-year-old boys and girls from across the class spectrum. It's the first documentary in the Up series, which continues to revisit the children (now adults) through the present day. Now, let's meet the kids!

We meet Jackie Bassett “taking her little sister to school on a housing estate.” Her friends Susan Davis and Lynn (Lindsay) Johnson make up one contingent of working class girls.

In the Yorkshire dales we meet William Nicholas (Nick) Hitchon; “he goes to a one-room village school house four miles from his home,” and he and his baby brother are the only children in the area.

Neil Hughes is “from a Liverpool suburb in northwest England,” and we first meet him as he skips to school. Peter Davies goes to the same school, though he isn't named until later. Both would be interested in becoming astronauts.

We meet Tony Walker (“his girlfriend [Michelle] calls him a monkey.”) when he face-plants while running out the door. “He goes to one of the older schools in one of London's East End slums.”

Paul Kligerman and Symon Basterfield are living in a dormitory, “in a children's orphanage, supported by charity.” They are the bottom rung of the financial ladder in the series.

Bruce Balden “goes to a private boarding school in Surrey,” and Suzy Lusk goes to “a fashionable school for girls.”

John Brisby, Charles Furneaux, and Andrew Brackfield go to “an exclusive kindergarten in Kensington,” where apparently the routine includes singing Waltzing Matilda in Latin.

The rest of the documentary is broken up into Q&A about various subjects, with fragmentary scenes of the kids' lives slipped in. Some quotes from the kids in response to the questions:

On the Beatles:
  • “If they composed softer music I wouldn't mind so much.” - Andrew
  • “I just loathe their hair cuts.” - John
On fighting:
  • “Is it important to fight? Yes." - Tony
  • “I feel like [fighting] when there's already a fight. I always feel like that.” - Symon
  • “We don't do much fighting in school because, because we think it's horrible, and it hurts.” - Neil
  • “Sometimes we like to play nice with the boys, and sometimes we like to argue" - Susan
  • “He was in the washroom one day and he threw soap at me, and I chased him into class and I clumped him” - Michelle.
  • “Well when I was down at the place in Kent there was a little boy… and he was a naughty boy because he slapped me on the tummy… and then he slapped he slapped Nanny… I don't like that kind of boy” - Suzy
On discipline: (“The vast majority of seven-year-olds know little of discipline.”)
  • “I think discipline is fair enough” - Bruce
  • “I think the system of having house captains is rather good because someone's acting naughty, the house captain asks him and has a talk to him." - Andrew
On bedtime:
  • “Well I have my bath at six o'clock, and then go to bed at seven and read until half-past seven.” - Andrew
  • "I usually go to bed [at] ten o'clock or eleven o'clock" - Tony
  • "When I go home, I go and see my mother, and have tea and watch TV… Seven” - Suzy
On girlfriends and boyfriends:
  • “Well, not many.” - Symon, asked about whether he's had a girlfriend.
  • “Well, my girlfriend is in Africa, and I don't think I'll ever have a chance to see her again.” - Bruce
  • “Well, once, Caroline Sefton said she loved me. And I'm going to marry her when I grow up.” - Peter
  • “I've got [a girlfriend] but I don't think much of her” - Andrew
  • “I don't want to answer that; I don't answer those kinds of questions” - Nicholas
  • “I would like to get married when I grow up. Well, I don't know what sort of boy but I think one that's not got a lot of money but has got some money” - Jackie
  • “When I get married I don't want to have children, because they are always doing naughty things” - Neil
  • “When I get married I'd like two have two children… I want a nanny to look after them.” - Suzy
  • “If I could, I would have two girls, and two boys.” - Lindsay
  • “When boys go 'round with girls they don't pay attention to what they're doing.” - John
On wealth and status:
  • “I think it's not a bad idea to pay for school, because if we didn't the schools would be so nasty and crowded,” "The poor people would come rushing in,” "the man in charge of the school would get very angry because then he wouldn't be able to pay all of the masters if he didn't get any money” - Andrew, John, and Charles
  • “[If I had two pounds] would give it to the poor, because if you don't help them, they would sort of die soon.” - Jackie
  • “I read the Financial Times,” “I read the Observer and the Times,” “I like my newspaper because I've got shares in it and I know every day what the shares are.” - Andrew, John, and Andrew again
  • “Well, not much… Well, they think they can do everything but without you doing it… They think just because they're rich they've got people to do all their work.” - Symon, asked what he thinks about rich people
  • “I don't think much of the accent.” “Neither do I.” “Neither do I.” “It doesn't prevent me from liking them.” - John, Andrew, and Charles “Poor children don't boast about themselves, but rich children boast about themselves and say, ‘How clever I am’ and things like that.” “Yes and rich children always make fun of them." “Yes; they say, ‘Oh, look at that lovely little sissy over there’” - Charles, Andrew, and Charles again “The posh are [simpering]‘Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes.’ They're nuts!” - Tony
  • “Well they're nice, they're just the same as us, really. Some people from Africa come here [the school], but when they go they put their clothes on.” - Jackie (I have no idea what this means.)
  • “I've only seen them on the television, things like that.” - Nicholas
  • “I don't know anybody who's colored, and I don't want to know anybody who's colored, thank you very much.” - Suzy
  • “Don't like them very much” … “You can't really think of what they look like” - Peter and Neil
  • “They're just the same as me, aren't they?” - Symon (Symon's father is African.)
On being asked about jobs and the future:
  • “When I leave this school I'm going to… Westminster boarding school if I pass the exam, and then we think I'm going to Cambridge in Trinity Hall.” - Charles
  • “Well, before I'm old enough to get a job, I'll just walk around, and see what I can find.” - Symon
  • “I'd like to be like Kathy Kirby.” - Jackie
  • “I want to be a jockey when I grow up! Yeah, I want to be a jockey when I grow up!” - Tony
  • “When I leave school, I'm going to Dragon school. I might. After, I might go to Charter House, Marlborough… I might go to Oxford.” - Charles
  • “What does ‘university’ mean?” - Paul
  • “When I grow up I want to be an astronaut, but if I can't be an astronaut I think I'd like to be a coach driver.” - Neil
  • “I don't think you have to go to university if you want to be an astronaut.” - Peter
  • “When I leave this school, I'm down for Heathfield... and then maybe I'll want to go to a university, but I don't know which one yet.” - Suzy
  • “I will buy myself a nice, new house, one that's all comfy.” - Susan (Jackie?)
  • “I'm going to work in Woolworth's.” - Lindsay
  • “Well, I'll go into Africa, and try and teach people who aren't civilized to be -more or less- good.” - Bruce
posted by Going To Maine (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It begins! I should point out that the Wikipedia page is riddled with spoilers for these peoples' real lives, so, uh, be careful. Anyhoo, man, the British upper classes. Man.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:41 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, this wasn't a particularly gripping set of interviews, it must be said, so I was glad it was only 35 minutes long, but it was interesting to see the kids parrot the adults in their lives on news media (adorable) and race (not so much). The authoritative 60s BBC style was in full effect, which made me look forward to seeing how the filming and presentation will change over the years, along with the kids themselves.
posted by mediareport at 6:12 AM on July 3, 2015

After watching this a few times, and spending time with 7 year olds, I've decided that they're telling all sorts of lies or semi truths to impress the grownup, and the bright lines are drawn in what they think will impress the grownup. Reading the Financial Times, or being a famous singer, or being the toughest fighter. Only Nick and Neil seem to be fully honest, which may be why they're my favorites. "I don't answer those sorts of questions?" Bless you, child.

I've found this series to be really useful in the process of being socioeconomically mobile, and in raising a kid in a very different class structure than I was raised in. At 7, they know so much about such a thin slice of the world.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:21 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love this series! I discovered it maybe ten or so years ago and watched all that were available-- and now wait anxiously for the latest updates every 7 years. If I remember correctly, the most interesting updates were 14, 21, and 28 . Tony was my favorite and Neil was the one I worried about. Suzy was the most surprising to me. Thanks for the reminder about this fascinating documentary!
posted by bookmammal at 6:48 AM on July 3, 2015

According to Wikipedia, in a later doc one of the upper class fellows says that, yes, he only mentioned the Times because it was what his dad had said when asked. So yeah, these kids are certainly doing some parroting.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:56 AM on July 3, 2015

“Well they're nice, they're just the same as us, really. Some people from Africa come here [the school], but when they go they put their clothes on.”

Also, if anyone knows why all the girls found this comment absolutely hilarious, please do say. I have no idea what Jackie meant by it.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:02 AM on July 3, 2015

I inferred from Jackie's POC comment that the only ones she had seen portrayed in entertainment media were in Tarzan and similar.

When I was about the same age in the early 70s I asked my family's house keeper if black people talked like what pre-civil rights act white writers(which included sympathetic ones like Louisa May Alcott)thought was AAVE when she was a kid. I didn't show her an example and she didn't know what I meant.
posted by brujita at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2015

I'm trying to decide if I mind spoilers for this series. I think I don't, but maybe we should clarify if talking about future films is ok?
posted by mediareport at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2015

The authoritative 60s BBC style was in full effect

And this is Granada / ITV, which at the time was considered much more vulgar and lower-class than the BBC. I mean, they showed commercials for heaven's sake.
posted by sobarel at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am such a huge fan of these films. Thank you so much for starting this up, GtM.

I was first exposed to these in college, in the early 1980s, so 28 Up was the latest at the time, and no one knew if Apted would keep going or not. I've been a fan right along, watching each movie as it would arrive in the US, generally year or two after they air on TV in Britain. The kids are 7 years older than I am, so I often gauge my own place in life based on where they are, 7 years along.

You know, the quote "the past is a foreign country" really struck me the last time I watched Seven Up in a way it hadn't before. Everything about the film, including the film itself, now really feel like part of a world that stopped existing a long time ago. The assumptions about class, gender, race, and the path the world of the future would take are all so far from the way things turned out. The cuteness and the innate charm of most of the children keep the film from being almost dismissable now as a relic, along with the knowledge that there are all the other films to come and that all of the kids are very much a part of this world.
posted by briank at 7:17 PM on July 3, 2015

•“Well they're nice, they're just the same as us, really. Some people from Africa come here [the school], but when they go they put their clothes on.” - Jackie (I have no idea what this means.)

It means that people in villages in Africa such as a 1960's 7 year old might have seen on TV or in books don't wear many clothes because it's hot. When they come to England they put on clothes because it's cold.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah, the casual, ignorant racism of childhood.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2015

It's kid logic, noting a departure from a perceived stereotype. Like saying "Dutch people come here but they don't wear clogs they just wear ordinary shoes and they don't have any tulips".
posted by Sebmojo at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2015

« Older Hannibal: Contorno...   |  Wayward Pines: Betrayal... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments