56 Up: 'It's like having another family'

It began as a one-off look at how the class system defined the hopes and aspirations of British children. Now, almost half a century later, the Up series has evolved into one of the world's great documentary projects. But how have these films affected the lives they follow?

Seven Up! first hit the screens in May 1964, and was intended as a one-off programme, a snapshot of the British class system and the way it conditioned so much of life. Tim Hewat, the Australian founding editor of World in Action, had the idea for the programme, and took as its starting point the Jesuit saying: "Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man." The programme makers went looking for posh kids and poor kids, expecting them to play their allotted roles in life.

The Canadian Paul Almond directed that original 40-minute film, and a
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