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Media centre home > News > Film-maker Esther marks 50 years since Beeching cuts


The 50th anniversary of massive cuts to railway lines across the UK has provided a platform for a Sheffield Hallam artist's latest film, now screening at the National Railway Museum in York.

Film-maker Esther Johnson has produced It's Quicker By Hearse: The Tale of the Petitioning Housewife, the Protesting Schoolboy and the Campaign Trail Student as part of a new exhibition that marks half a century since the Beeching report that changed Britain's railways forever.

It's Quicker By Hearse provides a close-up of one of the key regional stories, the closure of the Waverley line which ran between Carlisle and Edinburgh. This line, which connected the Borders communities and was one of the first lines to be axed, closed after 120 years as the report deemed it as being uneconomical. No other line closure left a population so far from a rail network.

Esther's film tells the story of Madge Elliot who, together with her 11-year-old son Kim, Harry Brown the piper and Edinburgh University Railway Society president Bruce McCartney, marched to Downing Street to deliver a petition of 11,768 signatures on 18 December 1968.

 Elliot’s campaign raised questions of the need for social progress that does not reject the traditions of the past.

The film will be screened as part of the exhibition from today (March 22) until mid-June.

Madge Elliot was a key part of the anti-Beeching voices

Click to view the images

Esther said: "It’s been great to work with the National Railway Museum to mark this milestone in British history. Telling the story of Madge Ellliot and how the cuts to her local line have affected her community has been inspiring and given me an insight into a unique approach to grassroots campaigning. I’m looking forward to visitors seeing the work."

Ellen Tait, Interpretation Developer at the National Railway Museum, said: “We are delighted to be able to showcase Esther’s talent in our very own exhibition space. This film forms part of the museums wider commemoration of the Beeching report and explores the impact that these cuts had on society.”