30 Nov 2022TBCPalmerston Room, St John's College, Cambridge



  • Robert Gordon (Centre for Film and Screen, Faculty of Modern and Mediaeval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge)

  • Gordon Harold (Professor of the Psychology of Education and Mental Health, Faculty of Education)

  • Mike Kelly (Senior Visiting Fellow / Co-convenor St John’s Reading Group on Health Inequalities, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge)
  • Ann Louise Kinmonth (Emeritus Professor of Medicine/ Convenor St John’s Reading Group on Health Inequalities, Department of Public Health and Primary Care)

  • Helen Watts (Academic co-ordinator St John’s Reading Group on Health Inequalities)


  • Ken Loach (Film Director)


This film screening and workshop considers the contribution of social realism films to studies of inequalities in health.  The chosen films – Sorry We Missed You (Director: Ken Loach, 2019) and Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette, Director: Vittorio de Sica, 1948) – explore the experience of families struggling to do better for their children in bleak economic times; and doing worse.

'Ladri di biciclette' film poster showing a man and a boy.

Film has long been used to raise awareness of how other lives are lived and the complex contingencies that shape them. Through the lens of these films and their makers, we propose to link researchers and citizens to inspire novel forms of collective investigation and action on inequalities in health.

The workshop is led by the St. John’s College Reading Group on Health Inequalities in association with St John’s Picturehouse and the University Departments of Education and Modern Languages.  It includes Film showings and commentary, from the Director of Sorry We Missed You, those with lived experience, academics and audience discussions. Together we will explore how the films can help in understanding the costs of insecure work on families, demonstrating how the daily grind can ‘get under the skin’ of parents and, consequently, their children, affecting their mental health and life chances.

We aim to develop creative relationships between people who may not often have the opportunity to discuss these topics together; they include those with experiences overlapping those portrayed in the films, those interested in the development of the social realism film genre over the last century and all those committed to studying and reducing inequalities in physical and mental health.

We have designed a round table following the film showing to question, affirm and enlarge on key themes. This will include those working in the zero-hours gig economy, community care, and education. Other presentations will span the historical context of Social Realism films; the making of Sorry We Missed You, and evidence of how difficulties between parents can affect their children.

Alongside Ken Loach, University contributors will represent Modern Languages; Psychology of Education and Mental Health, Public Health and Primary Care, and other disciplines represented in the St John’s College Reading Group on Health Inequalities. The Reading Group studies the wider mechanisms by which inequalities in human health arise and are sustained across time, generations, and through social and economic change.  Despite academic investigation and policy initiatives, inequalities and their adverse consequences persist and even increase. We do not have effective handles on the underlying mechanisms linking the social and economic world to the biology of the human mind and body.  In Social realism film, the ways that the lives of people who are most affected by recent social and economic changes have been clearly depicted, and in exploring current limitations in understanding how inequality is ’embodied’, we turn to this film workshop.

Supported by:

CRASSH grey logo  St Johns crest



If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.


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