Cost of Living - A timely archive film with an uncanny sense of déjà vu

20th February 2023

York St John University partners with Yorkshire and North East Film Archives to highlight social issues of the past that feel uncomfortably contemporary.

“How does it feel to be homeless? Terrible. You know, I never thought it would happen to me.”

“We have cut down. We have!”

“I'll make do without during the week, in order to be able to get three square meals at the weekends when the bairns are home.”

“When you look at the conditions…they're not fit for animals, never mind human beings.”

“I’m fed up with the lot of them. None of the parties seem to do anything for people like me.”

The words of those on the front line of a cost-of-living crisis, but this isn’t 2023. These voices echo through decades of archive footage curated into Cost of Living, a new and timely short film.      

With material gathered across Yorkshire and the North East, we see empty petrol pumps, food banks and government tips for saving money. With an uncanny sense of déjà vu, it evokes a past that feels uncomfortably contemporary.     

Archivists looked at over 200 source films, mainly from the Archive’s regional television news and documentary programming from the 60s, 70’s and 80’s.  The pressing social issues of the day are documented across a wide area of Northern England.      

From Leeds, York, Hull, Sheffield and Wakefield in Yorkshire to Teesside, Newcastle, Gateshead, Jarrow and Blyth in the North East. This footage has been edited and woven together by film maker Andy Burns into a cohesive and compelling film.      

Cost of Living is being offered free to all audiences with an online release to coincide with the World Day of Social Justice on Monday 20 February 2023.      

The film was commissioned by York St John University’s Cinema and Social Justice Project funded by the Screen Industries Growth Network and made by the Yorkshire and North East Film Archives.

Initially intended as a resource for students, the film’s popularity has snowballed and it’s now reaching the wider public. This includes festival audiences across the country. It’s also to be shown to school pupils via BFI Into Film, the UK’s leading charity for film in education.      

Dr Lauren Stephenson, Senior Lecturer: Film and Media & Communications said:      

“With the Cinema and Social Justice Project we aim to explore film's vital role in shaping our understanding of the world around us.      

“From our initial brief to explore pressing issues of housing, homelessness, poverty and activism, the resulting 16 minute film reveals our collective memories of past crises. It starkly highlights the need to listen to and learn from our past if we are to hope for a more socially and economically just future.”     

Dr Martin Hall, Senior Lecturer: Film and Media and co-founder of the Cinema and Social Justice Project said:      

“What we really wanted with this film is that it would cause people to ask questions. The film is a call to arms, and we hope it can highlight to people that we need to do a better job of learning lessons from the past.”     

Graham Relton, Archive Manager at the Yorkshire and North East Film Archives and Producer of Cost of Living said:      

“Our moving image heritage can be like looking into a mirror from the past, what we see reflected can shine a light on the cracks that we see in our world.    

“These frames of film and found voices in our collections have parallels with what many experience today, it could be our parents, grandparents, old friends; our past generations fleetingly caught on celluloid but speaking the same sentiments … what can we learn from them?”

Dr Steve Rawle, Associate Professor of Media Production and Executive Producer of Cost of Living said:

“This is a film that’s both dark and light, sad, but hopeful. It depicts the reality of life during previous cost of living crises, but alongside this we see both the warmth of humanity and we see people taking action.     

Despite their difficulties people come together as communities to help those in need and raise a fist of defiance at the same time. The film looks at cycles of boom and bust where these cries of defiance of have only ever temporarily made a difference."  

The film is released online on Monday 20 February 2023 via Yorkshire and North East Film Archives' YouTube channel: