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Labadi Beach Hotel

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Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra 1 LABY PASS, Accra 1000 Description Conveniently situated opposite the International Trade Fair Centre and adjacent

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A day in the life of Britain: A marriage proposal caught on camera and a dying father’s joy as he sees his daughter wed. The magical snapshots filmed by hundreds of ordinary people

A day in the life of Britain: A marriage proposal caught on camera and a dying father’s joy as he sees his daughter wed. The magical snapshots filmed by hundreds of ordinary people

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By Jenny Johnston

PUBLISHED: 16:52 EST, 10 June 2012 | UPDATED: 17:00 EST, 10 June 2012

Before her beloved grandmother died, Charlie Tanner made one of those home videos that become irreplaceable. The 22-year-old can’t help but laugh — even through the tears — when she watches it today.

Her ‘Nana’, as she calls her, was perfectly happy to be filmed on their daily outing to the park, and hooted uproariously as Charlie and her mum took the wheelchair, at a run, down slopes and up hills.

She remembers it as a lovely, typical, day out.

Day out with my invalid gran: Charlie Tanner filmed herself with her Nana, Pearl Kidgell, who has since died from cancer

Day out with my invalid gran: Charlie Tanner filmed herself with her Nana, Pearl Kidgell, who has since died from cancer

There’s a particularly poignant part where Charlie — who had moved in with her gran and assumed the role of carer — films  herself talking to her Nana about the cancer that is killing her.

Seventy-year-old Pearl Kidgell rails a little about her failing health, and documents her disappointment at all the things she cannot do. Then she says, eyeing the camera: ‘This doesn’t pick up sound, does it?’

‘She wasn’t of the gadget generation, and she didn’t really know how it worked. She was appalled when she thought I’d captured her moaning because she was the sort who never normally complained. Whatever happened, Nana just got on with it. But she was dying, and she knew it. We all knew that we were running out of time.’

Most home videos like this are  private possessions, to be viewed only by family. This isn’t the case with Charlie’s precious clips, however.

Charlie Tanner, 22, who filmed herself with her grandmother

Charlie Tanner, 22, who filmed herself with her grandmother

Her day out with her gran has become part of a much bigger, and more ambitious, film which aims to chart a day in the life of Britain.

For the Britain In A Day project members of the public were asked to send their own home video footage — anything from a few seconds to their entire day — to the BBC, with a view to creating a national time capsule of memories.

A team, led by award-winning director Morgan Matthews, and backed by Hollywood heavyweight Ridley Scott, would create a single film from the footage — one that somehow summed up a typical day in Britain, and what it means to be British.

The idea had come from the Life In A Day film, which captured life around the world. This version would be more focused, gritty — and more British.

‘Life In A Day came about because of advances in technology, basically,’ Morgan says. ‘For the first time, even film captured on mobile phones could be of broadcastable quality. Some home video equipment can be of almost professional standard. And with Life In A Day, the results were amazing.’

And so the date was set. Members of the public were asked to get their cameras out on November 12 last year. It was a Saturday, a rather grey day as it turned out, but with very welcome periods of sunshine.

‘The dread,’ admits Morgan, ‘was always that it would pour it down from morning until night and we would have ended up with just a film about rain. That would have maybe been too British.’
The response was phenomenal. Some 11,500 clips were submitted and every one was watched by Morgan and his team. The final footage included contributions from 312 different  people from all corners of the UK.

One critic who has viewed it concludes that the patchwork of clips have been stitched together into a ‘collective British quilt’ which will say more about what it means to be alive in Britain today than any official record.

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It is certainly an unforgettable film, offering glimpses into other people’s lives that are, in turn, funny, troubling and poignant. Some are downright weird.

There is the Welsh farmer who introduces his cows, each by name; the meditating man whose early morning ritual is interrupted by his pyjama-clad daughter; and the ‘oldest Teddy boy in Britain’ who films himself getting ready for the day ahead, seemingly oblivious to the fact that World War III is breaking out in the rest of the house (as he chats away, a woman’s voice can be heard in the background, screaming: ‘I will not have this behaviour. You will not talk to your elders like this. It is not acceptable. Stay in your room!’).

Hospital wedding: Dying Anthony Sandy sees his daughter Emilie getting married

Hospital wedding: Dying Anthony Sandy sees his daughter Emilie getting married

An ordinary day in Britain? Yes and no

All life is here — from fox-hunt enthusiasts to drag queens, nurses to ramblers. There are those whose clearly spend every Saturday doing extreme sports, and those who seem to have to summon up the courage just to breathe. One troubled girl shows the scars running up her arm — apparently a compulsive self-harmer — and explains that some ‘are about coping and some about not coping’.
Some people’s stories are told in detail and unfold throughout the film, giving a powerful narrative arc.

The dying man weeping in what looks like a hospital bed turns out to be a father-of-the-bride, Anthony Sandy, who is preparing to see his daughter Emilie get married in the hospital chapel.

The film returns to him again and again. No one who views this will be able to forget his face.
Other contributors get only a few seconds on screen — but the impact is not diminished for that. There is the father whose young son lives in Australia and whose only contact with him is an hour a week on Skype. He films himself setting things up for his weekly chat. When the connection goes, the life drains from him, too.

But why would you want perhaps your most intimate thoughts out there, for future generations to see? All those who took part have now been informed if their footage has been included in the film. Some have attended private screenings, ahead of the film’s broadcast on BBC2 tonight.

Dominic Weaver, 40, a PR manager from Cambridgeshire, had been intrigued by the idea of capturing his ‘very ordinary’ family life. He convinced his partner Zoe, 38, to let him bring along a video camera as they enjoyed a day out cycling with their children Annie, seven, and Lenny, five, at local beauty spot, Houghton Mill.

What he didn’t tell Zoe was that he was going to propose to her halfway through the day, but his footage captures him beforehand, explaining that he is going to do something that terrifies him.

‘We had been together for 11 years, and we had always planned to get married, but somehow kids came along first and it just never happened. But I had the ring and I knew I wanted to propose, but I wanted a special moment in which to do it. This just seemed perfect.

A son's return: Callum McLeod is reunited with his estranged mother after five years

A son’s return: Callum McLeod is reunited with his estranged mother after five years

‘We’d stopped at some picnic tables and were about to get the sandwiches out. I actually handed the camera to my daughter, Annie, for that moment, so that I could hold on to Zoe and make sure she stayed in shot. But Annie was laughing so much that the picture was all over the place. We got a lot of footage of grass. Somehow that made it all the more charming.’

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The couple have since married, and view their now very public proposal as ‘a nice version of reality TV’.

‘If you watch things like Big Brother, or any reality TV really, things seem to have been edited to make them look … well, not very nice. What Britain In A Day has done is turn them into something lovely, beautiful even. There is so much cynical stuff out there and  it’s wonderful to be part of something that just celebrates life.’

However, it’s not a safe, sentimental film. The image of Britain that emerges is not one any tourist board would endorse. There is footage of town centre drunkenness, poverty, despair. On the day, the protest tents were camped at St Paul’s, and the fact that Britain was in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s is writ large.

Some will not approve of the images that emerge. Someone walking through a park turns out to be a gay man cruising for sex. He films himself explaining why he finds this a perfectly acceptable activity, as opposed to cottaging in a public toilet which he finds repulsive.

‘Obviously every piece of footage is very carefully picked, but I didn’t want to sanitise anything,’ explains Morgan. ‘That man stood out for me because he was so articulate.

‘We discovered later that he was a performance poet, so he knew how to deliver a line, but I was just immediately intrigued by him because he opened the door on a way of life that so many people won’t understand.’

Some of the most painful footage to watch comes from a young Scottish student called Callum McLeod.

Popping the question: Dominic Weaver's proposal to partner Zoe Leighton led to a family wedding

Popping the question: Dominic Weaver’s proposal to partner Zoe Leighton led to a family wedding

The couple at their wedding with children, Annie, 7 and Lenny, 5

The couple at their wedding with children, Annie, 7 and Lenny, 5

Callum, 20, is studying English in Glasgow but returns — with his camera — to the estate in Edinburgh where his mum still lives. He hasn’t been home for nearly five years, having run away aged 16. On the train en route, he wonders if she will still be alive when he gets there. He hopes ‘she will still have her teeth’.
Why did he take part?

‘I’ll be honest and say that I would like to be a film-maker one day, and I was just having a go at seeing what I could come up with,’ he says. ‘The brief was to tell a story about your own life. I just took a deep breath and did it.’

He jokes about it being an advantage for a film-maker to have a ‘vaguely cinematic life’ — because he does. Heartbreakingly so. Callum’s mother is an alcoholic. He was taken into care before he even started school and has more knowledge of the foster care system than most.

He tried to go back and live with his mother in his teens, but ‘couldn’t bear the constant disappointment’, so he ran away at 16 and ‘closed the door on that part of my life’.

In many ways, he thinks leaving was the making of him. He loved school and never missed lessons even when he was living in hostels and rented accommodation. ‘I was good at institutions because I was used to them, I guess,’ he explains.

He got the grades to go to university, becoming the first member of his family to do so. But his new life served only to emphasis the differences with the old one.

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‘I don’t really have a relationship with my family any more,’ he admits. ‘They think I am pretentious, that I have plums in my mouth because I went to university. Their life is benefits-based, they are stuck in a rut, in a cycle of existence. I want more.’

Making his contribution to the film gave him the opportunity to create for himself what most children have automatically — a permanent record of his loved ones.

‘It occurred to me while I was doing it that I don’t have photographs of my mum. We didn’t have happy gatherings where people took pictures. We don’t have videos. This was my way, I guess, of creating one.’

It was quite a gamble, though. In the Hollywood version of his life, Callum would have been embraced by his mother on the doorstep, and handed his happy ending.

It wasn’t quite like that. Although their two-hour reunion was amicable, and Callum’s mother was clearly pleased to see him, it didn’t herald a ‘new beginning’ for mother and son.

Every contributor had to get the written permission of the people included in their film before it could be considered for broadcast. To his surprise, Callum’s mother agreed. But that doesn’t mean she was pleased with the outcome.

‘You had to upload the whole thing to YouTube, and when she saw it there was a horrible phone call where she was effing and blinding and calling me everything. We haven’t spoken since.

‘But the irony is that the clips they show in the film are actually my mum at her best, which is what I wanted. When she is cogent and sober, my mum is one of the most witty and funny people you could met.’

What surprised the editors of Britain In A Day was how little blatant exhibitionism there was in the footage they were sent. Morgan admits he had geared himself up for clips from media wannabes. There was a dread, too, that some footage would be crass or downright rude.

‘Surprisingly, maybe, it didn’t happen. Everyone approached it in a very serious way,’ he says. ‘I think they knew it was a meaningful project, and it was a genuine privilege to be allowed into people’s lives.’

What conclusions did he come to about the people of Britain? A very basic one, considering how many issues there are facing this country.

‘What mattered to people was other people. That came through over and over again. Life for them was about family, about friendship. When asked what was important to them — as everyone was when they started this — people weren’t talking about work or careers or money. It was their relationships with their family, whether happy or unhappy, that underpinned everything.’

A day hurtles past in just 90 minutes in this film, which underlines how quickly life goes. Perhaps the most poignant thing about the film is discovering that at least four of the people featured have lost their lives since they were captured on video, including Anthony Sandy and Charlie Tanner’s Nana, Pearl.

Charlie couldn’t be prouder of the fact that her Nana will live on because of it, though.
‘I think she’d be baffled about why she was included,’ she says. ‘People like my Nana never think they are anyone special. But she was, and this is proof.’

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