In 1964, the film director, Michael Apted, made the first episodes in an ongoing, groundbreaking documentary series that followed a selection of British children, from a range of backgrounds, catching up with them every seven years. The children were then seven, they are now 63. Apted himself is 78.
The purpose of the documentary was to examine the extent to which class, family background and early childhood influenced a person’s future – though, on the strength of the three episodes I’ve seen (4, 5 and 6 June), which feature the stories of Tony, Sue, Andrew and Nick, it seems to have thrown up rather more questions than it answered.
In 1964, the footage was in black and white, and the children, wearing long plaits and schoolboy caps, were filmed playing in a London still scarred by bombsites. By 1971, they were modern teenagers in colour. There have been huge social changes in the half century of the “Up” films but somehow it felt that the hugest changes of all were in those first seven years.