Category Archives: Granada TV

Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man

Michael Apted a storied feature film and documentary director passed away at 79 years of age last week. He is mourned by family, friends, industry peers, cinephiles and a select cohort of 60 somethings that he first encountered as a young man 56 years ago.

Still from Seven Up! documentary, The Link

Back in the early 60s, Apted worked with Granada Television. As a researcher, one of his assignments was to find 14 children whose life circumstances reflected England’s socio-economic spectrum. The children were being scouted to participate in the documentary Seven Up! at that time conceived of as a one off project exploring the possible influences of the British class system on their lives.

In the original 1964 ITV broadcast, directed by Canadian Paul Almond, the seven-year-olds (4 girls and 10 boys) were treated to a party, a visit to London Zoo and a playground outing. Closing out the program, the kids zigged, zagged and zipped in an animated and sometimes rambunctious romp through what some believe to have been London’s Notting Hill Adventure Playground.

The New York Times Magazine characterized it as “…a grim hazardous-looking pit of an “adventure” playground.” From my vantage point the description smacks of dramatic license and hyperbole all rolled into one. In any case, on that day there was an abundance of joy, exuberance, discovery and yes, adventure as the clip below captures.

Over the years, what was initially thought of as a stand alone became the lead in to the critically acclaimed and much talked about Up series. Apted was in the director’s chair for what became a lifelong passion and arguably the longest longitudinal documentary on record.

Participants were interviewed at seven year intervals over the course of six decades sharing their ups, downs, dreams, accomplishments and failures. A loyal viewing audience kept returning for more with each new installment. What is most likely the final episode, 63 Up, was released in 2019.

Apted regretted not including an equal number of girls and boys when he selected the children. He went on to direct women in powerful roles in several critically acclaimed films including Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Nell (1994).

Michael Apted thank you for your role in this extraordinary series and for letting the kids loose to play that day so many years ago. Their youthfulness, daring and wonderment are a bright beacon in somber times.


Seven Up! meets Adventure Playground

I came across a reference earlier this week to the adventure playground scene in the British documentary Seven Up!. The ongoing popularity of this television documentary made it relatively easy to find on the wonderbox as I sometimes call the internet. The acceleration of the opening sequence is zippingly exhilarting.

The first installment of the documentary, directed by Paul Almond for Granada TV and from which this excerpt is pulled, was broadcast in 1964 when the kids were all seven-years-old. The subsequent docs were shot at 7 year intervals and directed by Michael Apted. 56 Up is expected to be broadcast in May 2012.

Play with a child until the age of seven and you have planted a seed that will bloom over and over through the years.

I wonder how many of the now aging adults remember that day in London nearly 50 years ago? After a party and a trip to the zoo, the kids had an outing at this unidentified playground. Was it the first and last time they played together? I say let’s get the remaining participants into playground scenes with their children and grandchildren for 56 Up.

The Up Series is widely acclaimed and now available as a boxed DVD set. Excerpts of the film are also posted on YouTube. Michael Apted is interviewed about the series here.

When my kids Noah-David (6) and Nellie-Rose (4) watched this footage earlier today, they wanted to know when we could go and play at this playground and why there weren’t adventure playgrounds where we live. I said we’ll try for a trip across the pond, or to California where the spirit and the manifestation of adventure playgrounds are alive and well.

London continues to be noted for its adventure playgrounds. Check London Play for more details.

Seven Uppers – thanks for this playground scene all those years ago. It is full of adventure, play and the magical breath of the moment.