Akenfield is a film made by Peter Hall in 1974, based loosely upon the book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe (1969). Blythe himself has a cameo role as the vicar and all other parts are played by real-life villagers who improvised their own dialogue. There are no professional actors in the piece. The director’s father Reg Hall, a station master born in Bury St Edmunds, appears briefly as the village policeman walking down a lane with a bicycle. Blythe’s book is the distillation of interviews with local people, and his technique is somewhat echoed in the pioneering verbatim theatre style developed in London Road at the National Theatre in 2011. Akenfield the film is a work of fiction, based on an 18-page story synopsis by Blythe. Most of the filming was done at weekends, when the cast was available, and shooting took almost a year following the changing seasons in the process.
The music was intended to be written by Benjamin Britten, himself a Suffolk man, but he suffered a heart attack and was unable to work. Instead, Hall chose Michael Tippett, also from East Anglia, and a friend and colleague they had worked together at London’s Royal Opera House. Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli plays a major role in the emotional timbre of the film.


Read or listen to Akenfield

by Ronald Blythe