This film is held by the BFI (ID: 4623).


'London: This magazine is devoted to the activities of the Gold Coast Band during their visit to the U.K. The music track is an actual recording of their playing' (Colonial Cinema, December 1947, 95).

The commentator explains that 'in the summer of 1947 the Gold Coast Police Band, renowned for thirty years in their own country, spent four crowded months on their first visit to Britain'. Recounting that these '35 lucky Africans' played in 20 towns throughout the country, the film shows their bus arriving at the Police Training College in Hendon. Headed by the European bandleader, who is greeted by two police instructors from Hendon, the group get off the bus and begins a tour of the college to see how the London policeman, 'renowned throughout the world, is trained in the job he does so well'. First, the band watches a staged motoring accident. The instructor, watched also by a group of British trainees, treats the victim and then questions those in the car. Next, they view a class in unarmed combat. One of the African men joins in with the demonstration, to the amusement of his fellow band members. The commentator outlines the activities already undertaken on the tour - civic receptions, a visit to the Royal College of Music and the 'great moment when they played at a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace'. Finally, the band performs a concert on the Horse Guards Parade ground on the 'edge of one of England's green parks'. Footage of the European bandleader and of the African musicians is intercut with shots of the crowd. During this lengthy sequence - which includes close-ups of the musicians - the music performed by the band is heard. As the performance ends, the crowd applauds, and this applause continues over the closing title.



After arriving in London, by air from Accra, on 7 May 1947, the Gold Coast Police Band embarked on a four-month tour of the UK (The Times, 5 May 1947, 7). The band, which had originally formed in 1918 before transferring to the Police depot under its first European bandleader in 1923, was led by its current British bandleader, Thomas Stenning (Ghana Police website,, accessed 21 January 2009).

The Times noted the activities of the band during their tour. As part of the Empire Day celebrations on 24 May, the band led a procession from the church at St-Martin-in-the-Fields to the Cenotaph, and on 10 June played at Buckingham Palace as part of a Presentation Party held by the King and Queen for 5000 guests (The Times, 26 May 1947, 7 and 11 June 1947, 6). The band’s visit to Hendon, which is depicted in the film, seemingly occurred on the previous day. They were welcomed and shown around by Chief Inspector Allen, who was a resident instructor there, and a dinner was held in their honour during the evening (Ghana Police website).

During the trip the band also performed regularly at parks throughout London. These included Horse Guards Parade, as shown, at lunchtime on 18 June, Greenwich Park three days later, Victoria Park, and Hyde Park and Regent’s Park during August (The Times, 18 June 1947, 5, 21 June 1947, 6, 23 August 1947, 7). Other performances included a concert ‘in aid of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association’ at Central Hall on 28 August, while the Colonial Office’s Annual Report for the Gold Coast in 1947 noted that ‘they had played to large and enthusiastic audiences in London and many leading provincial towns and sea-side resorts’ (Annual Report on the Gold Coast 1947, 12). Recordings of their performances were broadcast on BBC radio during the summer and were also released on record during the year.

Reports noted that British audiences were particularly fascinated to know whether the musicians were playing the music from a score. One report even claimed that during a performance, the lighting crew switched off the lights ‘out of curiosity and doubtfulness’. ‘To the surprise of the audience’, the report added, ‘the band stopped playing abruptly’ (Ghana Police website). Racist assumptions and stereotypes were certainly evident in the press coverage of the tour, with African Affairs commenting on the ‘foolish British press descriptions of the Gold Coast Police Band as “Jungle Musicians”’ (African Affairs, October 1947, 188).

Colonial Cinemagazine, which replaced the Colonial Film Unit newsreel, British Empire at War, was primarily produced for African audiences. This issue, representing Africans in London, is an example of what Rosaleen Smyth refers to as ‘a very small number of films [that] were made to project Britain and colonials in Britain to the colonies with the aim of promoting the idea of the interdependence of the Empire’ (Smyth, 1992, 175). While there were earlier examples during the war – such as An African in London (1941) and Springtime in an English Village (1944) – this trope is perhaps more common after Colonial Cinemagazine 9, with titles such as African Visitors at the Tower of London (1948), African Conference, London (1948), Colonial Month in London (1949) and Nigerian Footballers in England (1949). This was also evident in other issues of Colonial Cinemagazine. For example, issue 11 showed an African child starting nursery school in Guildford, while issue 15 showed colonial subjects studying co-operative methods in Britain. 



This issue of Colonial Cinemagazine serves a dual purpose for its African audience. First, it displays British life and, in doing this, promotes British primacy. This is evident from the outset as the commentator notes how ‘lucky’ the Africans are to visit Britain. The film then highlights the modern training methods and facilities available for the British Police – ‘renowned throughout the world’ – while the commentator notes here that the West Africans will share the ideas that they have learnt with ‘their friends when they return home’. ‘They will have a great deal to tell’, the commentator adds, as the film still represents the British as educators, teaching and introducing the Africans to new experiences. The band itself, led by its British bandleader throughout, serves as an indication of the ‘positive’ British influences within African society. Reports preceding the tour suggested that this was one of the functions of the trip.

Second, the representation of West African men within England serves to promote imperial interdependency, as Rosaleen Smyth has argued, and to re-generate in African audiences a sense of loyalty and pride towards Britain and the Empire. This is particularly significant at a moment when India was achieving independence and when anti-colonial sentiment was growing within much of Africa. The film thus emphasises the popular support for the Africans within Britain. The commentator explains that the Africans were ‘given a tremendous reception wherever they went’, and adds that ‘the interest in everything they saw was as great as the welcome they received’. This neatly illustrates the film’s dual function, in affirming the pre-eminence of Britain (‘the interest in everything they saw’) and then showing the Africans embraced at the heart of the Empire (‘the tremendous reception’).

A further function of this tour was to alter popular perceptions within Britain of Africa. Its success in this goal may be debatable – ultimately the Africans still engage with the British primarily as performers, entertaining the crowds who watch them from a distance – but the film constantly attempts to demonstrate to its African viewers that the Africans have been recognised and accepted within the British establishment. The commentator notes the civic receptions held in the band’s honour, their visit to the Royal College of Music, and most notably, their performance at Buckingham Palace. Finally, the film concludes with shots of the British crowd applauding the African musicians. This applause continues over the closing title, reiterating the British support and gratitude not only to these musicians, but more broadly to the many watching Africans that they are seen to represent.

Tom Rice (January 2009) 


Works Cited

Colonial Cinema, December 1947, 95.

Colonial Office, Annual Report on the Gold Coast 1947 (London: H.M.S.O., 1947)

‘Police Band’, Ghana Police Website,, accessed 21 January 2009.

Smyth, Rosaleen, ‘The Post-War Career of the Colonial Film Unit in Africa: 1946-1955’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 12, No.2, 1992, 163- 177.

Swanzy, Henry, ‘Quarterly Notes’, African Affairs, October 1947, 188.

‘Visit of Gold Coast Police Band’, The Times, 5 May 1947, 7.

‘Empire Day’, The Times, 26 May 1947, 7.

‘5,000 Guests at the Palace’, The Times, 11 June 1947, 6.

The Times, 18 June 1947, 5.

‘Music in the Parks’, The Times, 21 June 1947, 6.

‘Music in London Parks’, The Times, 23 August 1947, 7.



Series Title:

Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Production Company
Colonial Film Unit







Production Organisations