Tracking Changes – BFI Interview 2014

‘I’ve never got locked up in the idea of “art cinema”. That’s masturbation.’ Never mincing his words, producer Tony Garnett reflects back over his groundbreaking work in television and film, as a two-month celebration of his career – from Cathy Come Home to This Life – plays at BFI Southbank.

Chris Fennell
Updated: 27 January 2014

Born in a working-class suburb in Birmingham, Tony Garnett was one of the first of a generation of revolutionary TV creatives who sought to address serious social and political issues in their influential BBC dramas of the 1960s and 70s.

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Crisis – Ending Homelessness

I was brought up in Birmingham and now live in London, so I went to Edinburgh with some humility, remembering that from the great Enlightenment thinkers on, Scotland has so often led the way in thinking about social policy. But even there the problem of housing and the homeless persists. I feel privileged to support Crisis’s new policy. A novel ambition. It wants to abolish itself through solving the homeless crisis. I spoke in support at a conference this week,

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Barry Hines 1939 – 2016

I worked on four films with Barry. We began our friendship in the mid-sixties. It survived intact through his last long illness.

His character and his writing were all of a piece. Direct, simple and honest. HIs simplicity was hewn out of a close analysis of others and their place in a society riven by class interests.

To the end, he knew which side he was on. He had been born to the sound of clogs,

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‘A typical reaction was a snigger… I was making a film about the wrong kind of bird’

In the Swinging Sixties, nobody wanted to finance a gritty northern drama about a boy and his kestrel. But the makers of Kes persisted and the result was a British classic. Akin Ojumu discovers the inside story

First published in The Guardian, Sunday August 29, 1999

Tony Garnett: I had read Barry Hines’s first book, The Blinder, about a young footballer and liked it. I was producing the Wednesday play at the BBC and I asked him if he fancied doing one.

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Remembering Barry Hines

This is what I read at Barry Hines’ funeral. I suppose each of us has a different Barry in our heads, in our memories.

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On BBC Radio 3 ‘Free Thinking’ with Matthew Sweet

“We live our lives in a fugue state. Blissfully or painfully unaware of ourselves”

TV & Film Producer @TonyTGarnett

Broadcast 29 June 2016

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On BBC News ‘HARDtalk’ with Stephen Sackur

“When I was young and arrogant, I thought we could make a film and change the world. Well… films don’t do that.”

“My work is… I want to expose the secrets.”

TV & Film Producer @TonyTGarnett

Broadcast 03 July 2016 – WATCH THE PROGRAMME HERE

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Tony Garnett talks about THE COPS – November 1998


Dept. F&D, Uni of Reading, 24 November, 1998.

Introduction: Tony Garnett

I’ll begin with the usual disclaimer. The Cops is like any other show, collaborative and social, so if I use the first-person this afternoon, you should regard it as just ‘shorthand’.

Increasingly now, I get young people around me who are long on talent and long on enthusiasm but very short on experience.

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Podcast – BBC Radio 5 Live Afternoon Edition – July 11

“Look, I know the BBC’s really short of money but not to have the travel or the weather. I mean that’s….just… your budget must be really tight! Here is the traffic and here is the weather. The traffic is heavy. What a surprise! The weather is cloudy, threatening to drizzle. A typical summer’s day.”

“That explains why you moved to America for so many years, does it?” replies Sarah.

Talking politics,

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Recipe for a dust-up (Drama Forum)

Sight and Sound

Tony Garnett is one of British television’s most experienced and successful producers. After a short career as an actor, he made his name as a programme-maker with a series of seminal television plays for the BBC, with such directors as Ken Loach, Jack Gold, Roland Joffe and Les Blair, among them Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home’. With Loach he then made ‘Kes’ and with Blair the ‘Law and Order’ series,

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Off-Cut: Kes – the football scene

After my last post, ‘Football is about family‘, I was asked ‘Do you have any memorable moments from filming the football scene in Kes?’ Here’s my answer…

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Sydney Newman Memorial Service – 5th February 1998

I could bore for England about Sydney, such was his influence upon me; but time is short and there are many speakers. I will confine myself to a couple of snapshots.

I first met him in his office (which was bigger than most of the flats I’d lived in), having been marched in by Jim MacTaggart and Roger Smith. I expected a big formal interview.

Instead he looked at Jim and said “Hell,

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Drowning By Numbers – New Statesman

27th October 1989
The British film industry is a colony of Hollywood. If it is ever to have a life of its own, film-maker Tony Garnett argues, Britain has to subsidise it, as every comparable country does.

Batman and Indiana Jones are smash-hit boffo biz movies. In their first weekend, in North America alone, the box office gross was $70 million. Over the years, these movies will return hundreds of millions of dollars to their distributors,

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Jim Allen Obituary

The man who first came into my office was not friendly. He was guarded, suspicious and aggressive. For three hours we sparred and danced around each other: he trying to convince me that he wanted to write entertainment and blanking all talk of politics, and me telling him that all I wanted was drama about class conflict and socialist ideas.

He had been writing for Coronation Street, was looking for work and was wary of revealing his true self in a meeting at the heart of the establishment,

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A conference at Birkbeck, University of London.
May 14 2013

In the old Variety Theatres only the lowly performers opened the bill. The audience would be still noisily taking their seats, or arriving late, and needed warming up. Perhaps it is different in academia. You look well behaved. If this were the Glasgow Empire I would be fearing for my life. Anyway, this slot gives me the opportunity to ask the questions,

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With Banners Held High – the BBC and miners strikes

For those who missed it, here’s the speech I gave at Banners Held High today.

I want to rehearse some history, history familiar to everyone here, history showing a remarkable similarity between the miners’ battle with the Tory government in 1926 and in 1984. I want to do this as a way to analyse the true role of the BBC. And why that is politically important.

In 1925 there were 1.2 million miners;

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Off-Cut: The Ones That Got Away

This glancing look at some of the productions over the decades gives the impression that every idea was easily green lit. If only. I still mourn the ones that were shot down at the last moment. It would be too painful to rehearse more than a few examples.

Neville Smith wrote a sharp, warm comedy set in Liverpool about the take over of a local firm by the Japanese. The Scouse workers were obliged to do keep fit and sing the company song each morning.

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The following is from a lecture given at the Screenwriting Network Research Conference 2016 in Leeds.

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Off-Cut: The Producing MA

I had known Susanna Capon for decades and had been the main speaker at her wedding to Barry Hanson, called upon at the last minute because the appointed speaker, David Mercer, was dead drunk on the floor. After a lifetime in television she had become an academic in the Media Arts Department at Royal Holloway College, London University. All her life she had been a highly organised, competent doer, full of energy and optimism with an admirable capacity to cut to the core of a problem.

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TV Cathy’s sons plead for video

Vanessa Thorpe, Arts Correspondent: The Observer Sunday October 10, 1999

The sons of actress Carol White, who starred 30 years ago with their mother in Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home, have joined calls for the video of the BBC’s groundbreaking television film to be released.

Its release was cancelled at the eleventh hour last month after a dispute between the writer, Jeremy Sandford, and the BBC, which licensed the release without gaining his consent.

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