Nightcleaners part 1



Nightcleaners Part 1 was filmed in 1972–5 by the Berwick Street Collective. Mary Kelly was a prominent member of this collective.

Berwick Street Film Collective

The collective was active from 1970–78. It was co-founded by Marc Karlin and James Scott; others associated with the group include Mary Kelly, Richard Mordaunt, Jon Saunders and Humphrey Trevelyan. The collective directed three films released between 1974 and 1978, the most well known of which is Nightcleaners Part I. This film was originally conceived as a campaign film to raise awareness of the situation of women cleaning offices overnight for very low pay. However, it became more of an avant-garde representation of women and work, and is a landmark of collective and feminist film-making. The film documents the daily routine of several women who cleaned offices in London at night, their low pay and the bad conditions within which they had to work. It also discusses and shows their fight to gain union recognition and therefore protection. In these clips you can see two women talking about their daily lives, as well as a protest rally to gain support for the cleaners' cause.

What do you think of the women's experiences as described in this film?

Do you think film can be an effective campaign medium?

Film details
These extracts are taken from Nightcleaners Part I, released by the Berwick Street Film Collective in 1975 © Lux artists' moving image



Well, prepare the children for school, take them to school. School is a bit far from home. School and back, get my tidying up done, washing up, and shopping and preparing for what’s to be made for dinner and about three o’clock I’m getting ready to go back to school to collect the children again. And after coming home getting dinner, feeding them, get them ready for bed and then I’m just about ready to get ready myself to come back to work.

When do you get some sleep?

Well, not very much sleep. No. If I do get round to it, either between 1 and 3. Between that time.

So on average?

If the baby goes to sleep, then I go to bed with them. You know, between 1 and 3.
Do you get any sleep?

Well, mostly I get about from half-past ten till twelve and that’s my sleep for the night. Don’t get no more. The reason you come out at night is because you’ve got children, school children, that’s the reason, and we don’t come out for the fun of it. We don’t come out for fun or the good of our health to work. To get a little extra to put on the table. To clothe our children. It’s not for the good of my health I come out to work for. I mean you’ve got a couple of children to feed and clothe and pay rent, high rent, as some of us have – we have to come out to work. But if the children was grown up and off of our hands we could get a day job for about twelve pound couldn’t you, and have your night’s sleep. It’s fair enough, that’s my message, and that’s it. 

They say the Women’s Liberation is made up of middle class and professional women. This is not true! A good proportion is made up now of the working class women. And I say, and I say to all of you, get out and fight now. Show the men we’re not the little things we once were and they think we still are.

Nightcleaners part 1
Berwick Street Film Collective
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© Lux artists' moving image
Held by
Berwick Street Film Collective

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