It has been 50 years since Michael Goodger, 86, set out onto the streets of Salford to capture the transformation from the pre-industrial era, to the start of the Salford we know now for his documentary: ‘The Changing Face of Salford’.
By George Carden
The documentary, which was recently screened at the New Adelphi Theatre for its 50th anniversary, charts the development of the city into the Salford we know today.
The son of a miner, Goodger was born in India and attended a boarding school in the Himalayas.
He moved to England aged 12 with his family and ended up studying art at a technical college.
After that, he became a lecturer at the University of Salford as a young man. He filmed around Salford over the space of three years between 1967 and 1970.
Learning how to use the equipment:
It was from showing students photos of Salford in his lectures that his head of department offered him a cine-camera to film instead of taking pictures. Michael describes how this “new toy” captured his imagination.
He says: “I became immersed in this camera. You had to read the instructions, open it up and load the film. That’s how it started. I filmed shots around the house, in the garden, with no intention at that early stage of turning it into a movie.
“The intention was just how to learn how to use the equipment. I think people ought to know that in those days, cameras had to be focused manually, you had to take a light meter reading and set that.”
Michael learnt how to use the camera, so he could show movies to his students rather than just pictures.
He adds: “I very rapidly realised that it was no use just showing movies and talking over it, you really had to make a whole film so that is how it started.”
On to the streets:
The shots from the documentary provide a fascinating snapshot of life in certain portions of Salford, in a time period where there was drastic change on the horizon.
Michael wanted to make himself inconspicuous. However, he soon had to accept the idea that he would stand out regardless.
He said: “I thought putting a flat cap on and some overalls on, I’d look like everybody else.
“Then I got a glimpse of myself with those clothes on, but carrying a shiny camera and all the rest of it and that just looked absurd. I thought there is no point in pretending.
“That was the first thing, I had to get used to the idea that people would see me with a camera and a tripod looking the way I would normally look.
“Another problem was to fend of the kids! They were always coming over and saying, ‘take a picture of me!’ and jumping in front of the camera.
“That was a bit tiresome at times but apart from that people were incredibly supportive.
“I would just explain what I was doing if I was asked. I wasn’t working for ITV or Granada, therefore I didn’t have any money.
“I was working for the university and I was just taking film and people accepted that.”
Michael’s footage was even used by Salford MP’s in the House of Commons to show some of the conditions people lived in.
“Salford Council accepted the fact that it was a true record, but they didn’t like it.
“The Salford MP’s wanted to use the films in the House of Commons.
“So I had to go down to London carrying the equipment in my car, and find a place in the House of Commons to show the MP’s that were interested in this kind of thing”
Speaking about his emotional involvement, Michael made it clear that he had to remain professional at all times.
He said: “I knew I had to behave like a reporter.
“I had not to become emotionally involved to the extent where I would be weeping tears.
“I had to do my job which was to record what was happening.”
The creative process:
After years of filming on the streets, resources ran out.
He said: “We ran out of money. Although we had more material but there was no more money to carry on making it and by that time, I was running out of emotional steam.
“I don’t know how you go on when it’s a job of work, when you’re a TV Producer. Whether you’re emotionally involved or not you have a job to do.
“In my case, it was tiring. I was doing it all on my own and it was hard work. I wanted to do other things you see.
In regards to his advice to young filmmakers, Michael reiterated three things.
“I would say to young filmmakers, for goodness sake believe in yourself, get a good idea, and do it as well as you possibly can.
“Listen to criticism, but know when to not use it and discard it.
“If you are painting a picture, you have to do it to please yourself.”
The films are preserved in the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University, and can be watched online here https://vimeo.com/showcase/