Wednesday, 6 July 2016

50 years No Change

The elite who dominate television today are much more careful of the effects programmes can have than they were in the past.  Or possibly it is that in the past TV producers were really trying to prove the power of TV and also wished to change society for the better, today TV people are the elite and wish to keep it that way.  Therefore the screen is dominated by pap!  Soap Operas dominate, drama is mere soap opera with guns and explosions and the day is filled with mind numbing emptiness.
Anything that shakes society is not allowed, any programme that investigates the powerful is hindered all the way, even the BBC news broadcasts are strictly limited by government influence these days, how bad is that?
During 1966, when I was a mere 15 years old and therefore open to radical thought, a programme appeared on screen during a series called 'The Wednesday Play.'  Today this would be middle class angst at best or soap opera pap at worst but in 1966 these plays tackled social issues in a manner never seen before.  Radical, outspoken and bringing the reality of life into the home for many thereby disturbing the nations settled existence.
One such programme was 'Cathy Come Home,' a play concerning the break up of the happy life of a young couple left to defend themselves against an uncaring state.
The story is simple enough, young and free they marry, get a house, get a job and begin a family.  All goes well until illness means he loses his job, bailiffs throw them out of their house, they end up squatting in ruined homes, he runs off and eventually the kids are taken away from her.
Watching this in my happy Edinburgh home I was seriously touched by the image in front of me in the way only a 15 year old can be.  The nation was touched also.  How could such things be in our state?  Questions were asked in parliament, debate raged in the media, and in the end nothing changed.
In the early 60's some were working to change the situation regarding housing in the UK one of them a Church of Scotland minister called Bruce Kenrick.  This man worked in Notting Hill now the paradise of £1 million pound one bed flats but then a hell on earth of bed sits and crooked landlords. On top of this there were racial tensions as the locals objected to black and Irish immigrants moving into the area, many flats for rent had signs, 'No Blacks & No Irish.'  Riots occurred in Notting Hill during 1958 in which local 'Teddy Boys' attacked those they disliked.  All lived in squalid poor accommodation and the lack of decent housing was one cause of the problems.
Bruce Kendrick began the Notting Hill Housing Trust with no money whatsoever and this has since grown to manage some 28,000 properties.  I spent a year working there moving people into new home back in the early 70's before you were born.
A few weeks after 'Cathy Come Home' was screened Bruce brought into being the housing charity 'Shelter' which has become established throughout the land campaigning for better housing for all.  It is noticeable that since Thatcher their work has been harder still!  
The quality of the production, using radical techniques unknown at the time to TV audiences heightened the power of 'Cathy Come Home.'  It hit hard and has often been seen as the best TV programme ever offered.  Maybe this is indeed the case, the effect has never left me and was one reason for my joining the charity work in Notting Hill in 1971.   However the programme made little difference, governments then, Conservative and Labour, were concerned with keeping their jobs rather than running after TV programmes and public outcries.  Fuss and bother has never moved an MP to radical action and it did nothing in 1966 and does nothing today under an ever more elite governing class than what existed in the 60's.
I just remembered how things were after the war, then there was an urgent need for housing and various governments wondered what to do.  The Conservatives led by Churchill (a Liberal by nature) instructed Harold MacMillan to build 3 million in three years.  This he did in less time!  These council homes were on the whole decent enough and if the people were good the area was good.  The people decide if it is decent  not politicians.  Until Thatcher all was well but the greedy money loving uncaring brute allowed these to be bought by the residents cheaply, these decent homes were soon sold for a fat profit (by Labour 'socialists' as well as Tories) and now we have a housing problem.  I wonder why?  New houses today will only be built by developers for fat profit not for the people. 
Only strong political leadership can change a nation, we appear to have had little in the past and certainly have none whatsoever today.   


the fly in the web said...

I remember that programme being shown. It was horrifying to think that such situations could exist and it did rouse people - not politicians - to try to change things.
But, as you point out, Thatcher's plan to destroy public housing came along and here we are again...people sleeping in sheds in the garden, or worse.

Forget national leadership...the only way things will change is by local - non governmental - action.

Jenny Woolf said...

I'm starting to hope that after the referendum there will be some change. Not quite sure how, but it means something, doesnt it. I'm keeping my fingers house prices in London drop and become more affordable, but the only answer has to be getting out of this daft idea that everyone ought to somehow be able to buy. If you've been to Eton, maybe.
That was an iconic great play. I saw an interview with the author the other day and he had a very difficult childhood, helped him put passion in his work. What strikes me thinking about it though is that the areas that were such awful slums then are now very affluent now, full of investment bankers. So that's changed in 50 years, as you suggest in the wrong direction.

Lee said...

We're all in need of strong politicians to lead and govern.

Adullamite said...

Fly, Thatcher and her children make things worse.

Jenny, Indeed Notting Hill when I lived there still had some bad area,gentrification has ruined it!

Lee, Where are they?

carol in cairns said...

A powerful blogpost Adullaman. Thank you for the insight.

Adullamite said...

Carol, The post, like the programme changes nothing however.