Born on 5th December 1904, Ralph Edwin Bond was a pioneer documentary film maker and life long Communist, whose passion for film began when he was just 12 years old, when he was shown the apparatus by a projectionist in a tiny theatre in Broadstairs, Kent, only so that he could sit in the balcony with his girl friend, leaving the young Ralph to mind the show.
It was Emile Burns who invited the 24 year old Bond to set up a workers’ film club. In 1929, with support from Ivor Montague, he established the London Workers Film Society. The British Board of Film Censors did not then ban films on the basis of their content as such, all Soviet sourced movies were automatically banned from showing. The Film Society existed to break the ban by being a private club and, soon, a federation of such societies was screening the work of all the great and innovative Soviet directors. Bond joined the Communist Party, of which he was a life-long member at this time.
In the early 1930s, he spent some time engaged in activity with the National Unemployed Workers Movement. He was appointed to be a local appeals tribunal representative in CamdenTown.
He was recruited in the world of documentary films in 1935 for the GPO Film Unit by the famous John Grierson. The move established Ralph Bond as an outstanding director; `Night Train’, which meshed poetry and drama in a simple documentary about delivering the mail to Scotland, and `North Sea’, which focused on ship to shore radio. His `Today We Live’ was about the miners in South Wales. He also made `Advanced Democracy’ for the London Co-op.
In 1935, he joined the Association of Cine Technicians, later the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians and served as vice-president from the mid-1950s. ACTT, partly under his influence, maintained a steady slant to the far left for decades, despite cold war pressures and media industry hostility
After the GPO Unit, briefly renamed Crown Films, was closed by a Tory Government in 1954, he became one of the directors for the ACTT’s Film Company, which provided work to unemployed British film-makers; he was to make 21 full length quality films for this project until 1962.
Bond was the mover, for ACTT at the 1962 TUC of Resolution 42, from which the arts project Centre 42 got its name, that committed the trade union movement to advancing the arts. From 1962 to 1987, he was a course director and lecturer at the London International Film and TelevisionSchool. He was also responsible for a film about the Peoples march for Jobs, another on the peace movement and a third about Greenham Common. Bond died aged 84 years of age.
Sources: Independent (nd) c June 1989; Morning Star November 12th 1987, (nd) c June 1989