Teaching cricket with flicker books
A hand-held way to learn sporting techniques
6 May 2014
In the days before TV or DVDs, when the only documentary moving images widely available were Movietone newsreels, how did young aspiring cricketers perfect their style? Just looking at a photograph or drawing in a book might provide the basics, and those step-by-step instructions of course gave the theory. But how did the backyard bowler or batsman see the real technique and flow of a perfect pitch or cover drive? How could they see it repeated over and over again in fast or slow motion until they felt the rhythm in their arms?
Well in the 1930s a series of “flicker books” were produced by a London publisher called Flicker Productions on a variety of sporting themes, including golf, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, swimming, hockey, and greyhound racing. The Library holds three of these books featuring Don Bradman demonstrating his batting action:
- Don Bradman "Flicker" no. 1 : on drive and off drive, RB MIN 796.35826 D677
- Don Bradman "Flicker" no. 2 : square cut and late cut, RB MIN 796.35826 D677
- Don Bradman "Flicker" no. 3 : leg glance and pull, RB MIN 796.35826 D677
The company also produced a corresponding series of flicker books featuring C.V. (“Clarrie”) Grimmett showing the art of the spin bowler. The Library holds two of these:
- C.V Grimmett "Flicker" no. 3 : over spin delivery and finger spin, RB MIN 796.358220222 C111
- C.V Grimmett "Flicker" no. 5 : Googley delivery and off break finger spin, RB MIN 796.35822 C111
Both Bradman and Grimmett were named cricketers of the year by the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack in 1931, which was about the time these flicker books were produced – so Flicker Productions was using the best models available! The books are quite tiny, only 7.5 x 5.5 cm. Made to fit easily in your hand or pocket, so you could take them out into the field with you. The Library’s copies look as though they have been well-used.
After dipping his toes into the delights of the moving image, the owner of Flicker Productions Norman Loudon, who was also a successful camera manufacturer, wasn’t content to rest there. In 1932 he opened Sound City Film Producing & Recording Studios at Littleton Park, Shepperton and had produced two feature films and several shorts by the end of that year. Still in operation, now as Shepperton Studios and having changed hands several times, the studio has produced many well-known titles ranging from Lawrence of Arabia to Thomas the Tank Engine!
The flicker book genre is still used today in some children’s books and zines.
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