Miss World 1970: Beauty Queens And Bedlam, BBC Two, Monday

Using animated paper cut-outs à la the original series of Paddington and gleeful re-enactments featuring the original participants, this entertaining documentary told the story of the night feminists disrupted the 1970 Miss World contest, broadcast live to 100 million people from London’s Albert Hall. Also interviewed were some of the original contestants, including Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten, the first black woman to win the competition; compere Michael Aspel; and anti-apartheid campaigner (and now Labour peer) Peter Hain, whose protests against the presence of a white South African entrant were gazumped somewhat when the feminists inside the venue began throwing flour and squirting the bouncers with ink from their water pistols. Nobody had thought to search them on the way in, you see. The signal for the bedlam to start was the sounding of an old football rattle.

That sort of protest wouldn’t be so easy these days, of course. In that respect Beauty Queens And Bedlam harked back to a more innocent age, one in which there was no internet “chatter” for the authorities to listen in on – the commune-dwelling feminist plotters didn’t even have phones, it was all done by word of mouth – and when pulling a water pistol at a high-profile public event wouldn’t get you pumped full of bullets by an armed response unit. Instead, all it got Jo Robinson was a night in Bow Street nick and a £10 fine, which was paid for her by the Women’s Liberation Movement itself. Robinson, pink of hair and still pretty feisty, was the star of the show. She had a great line about a woman’s lot at the time being to fall into a man’s arms and then spend the rest of her time with her arms in his sink, and the brio with which she flourished her water pistol in a re-enactment in an otherwise empty Albert Hall was absolutely grin-inducing. Hurray for the Second Wave feminists.

On the other hand, there was nothing innocent about the jaw-dropping sexism surrounding the event, whether it was guest compere Bob Hope’s ill-judged shtick (“I never give women a second thought. My first thought covers everything”) or the slow camera pans over the swimsuit-clad bodies of the contestants. Unsurprisingly, there was a racist element to it all as well: the selection process for Miss South Africa barred black women so Pearl Jansen, a girl from the townships of Cape Town, had to represent something called Africa South. In the end, she came second to Hosten, banishing the white Miss South Africa to a humiliating fifth place.

All in all an eye-opening slice of social and political history delivered with wit and warmth 50 years on. And if you think it sounds like it should be made into a movie, it has: Misbehaviour, out now, and starring Jessie Buckley as Jo Robinson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jennifer Hosten.