Interview 11 May 2014
Interviewer/camera: Andrew Dawson
Date of birth: 27 December 1938
In this interview Janet talks about a wide range of topics from her early childhood, family, schooling, work in film laboratories and move to Selby, Yorkshire. After leaving school, aged fifteen, Janet took a variety of jobs in shops and catering, mostly in central London. Her interest in baking led to a college course.
One of Janet’s sisters who worked as a telephonist at Rank Laboratories, Denham, told her about new work opportunities at Rank’s Olympic Laboratory in North Acton. [In 1957 Rank had purchased the lab from Paramount.] Training was offered and no experience was necessary. Janet started work as a pos examiner which involved inspecting the film for scratches, repairing and cleaning before sending the film back out to cinemas. The department was small, six people working on turntables in a room smelling of cleaning fluid with no windows. Despite the fact that the place was busy, people still found time to chat to each other and Janet took great pride in working for the Rank Organisation. After a number of years, Janet was invited to work in the neg cutting department. Neg cutting was considered the pinnacle of a woman’s career and Janet never thought to go further. The work of making a cutting copy from the master is described. There was a good deal of pressure to get the work done to a deadline but Janet enjoyed the challenge. Janet did not socialise with her North Acton workmates as she lived in Harrow.
Janet, alongside all other production workers joined the union, ACT. She vividly describes large union meetings held at a Hammersmith cinema, in which Monica Toye, a well know left-wing shop steward at Denham, spoke. Janet was shocked to hear Toye being taunted at these largely male gatherings with ‘have you got your red draws on?’
In 1971 Janet married but continued to work until she was pregnant. The last project she worked on was transferring The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) from 35mm. The laboratory was not a place for married women with young children; most of those working at North Acton were either young without children or much older. With little prospect of buying a house in Harrow, she and her family moved to Selby to start a new life.
Janet appears in the documentary, Women in West London Film Laboratories (Dawson and Holmes, 2016), https://historyproject.org.uk/blogs/women-west-london-film-laboratories
(Andrew Dawson, 7 November 2019)