Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

19 December 2022

Exploring the Chinese & British Film Reel

An artist uses finger painting techniques to create stunning floral imagery; M P Lee and C P Lee sit down to a home cooked meal; people dance at a Limehouse VE Day celebration. These are some of the documentary film scenes currently being projected in our free Chinese and British exhibition space.

In this post we would like to provide some information about the film clips used in our exhibition film montage, with links to watch the material freely online via the British Pathé historical collection.


London's Nightworld


1947 documentary showing various restaurants around the capital, including scenes in Leyon's Chinese Restaurant.


Finger Painting


Artist Lau Ta Po demonstrating traditional Chinese finger painting techniques.


VE Day Celebrations at Limehouse


People sing and dance at a VE Day celebration in Limehouse, 1945.


East Meets West


Footage of author M P Lee and his wife C P Lee preparing and enjoying a meal.


Chinese Girls to be BOAC stewardesses


Interview segment with women training to be airline cabin crew, 1956.


Poon Lim Honoured


Footage of seaman Poon Lim arriving at a port before travelling to Buckingham Palace to receive the British Empire Medal, 1943.

Poon Lim's experience of being torpedoed in the Atlantic and surviving on a raft for 133 days was a media sensation, and is one of several stories which appear in Kenneth Lo's Forgotten Wave. Stories and Sketches from the Chinese Seamen During the Second World War (Padiham Advertiser, 1947).


Hong Kong, England


Visitors wander around a reconstruction of Hong Kong streets, hosted outside St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, in 1959.


Food Fair, 1954


Footage of the preparation of Chinese dishes, from the 1954 Olympia Food Fair.


There are plenty more films featuring Chinese individuals and communities in Britain to be found on the British Pathé and British Film Institute sites, and you can also find relevant materials in Denis Gifford, The British Film Catalogue. Volume 2, Non-fiction film, 1888-1994 (London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019).

Chinese and British, a free exhibition exploring British Chinese communities and cultures, is open at the British Library until 23 April 2023. It is generously supported by Blick Rothenberg.


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