Unpublished Writing

BBC Attachments

Off-Cut: Attachments

As the internet gained momentum I made plans to work on it, thinking everyone would be as excited as I was. The only way to learn to do it, is to do it.

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Off-Cut: Five Women

Tony Parker was a small, unthreatening man who listened. He once told me that he’d never met anyone who bored him. I was always trying to avoid bores. He fascinated me, not least because of his methods. He would listen to his subjects for countless hours over long periods, patiently, sympathetically and without judgement, rather like a therapist would. He then distilled this material into a readable length, preserving the words and meaning of the speakers.

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The Golden Vision Film

Off-Cut: The Golden Vision

Neville Smith was a Scouse actor we had worked with often. He was a fanatical Evertonian. He wrote a screenplay, The Golden Vision, imagining a fan who, one Saturday morning took a call from the manager.

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Off-Cut: The Parachute

When I called David Mercer to ask him if he had something he was burning to write, he just said he had an image of a man on the end of a parachute. That’s all he knew. I called his agent, Peggy Ramsay, and put through a commissioning form. That was allowed in those days. As a producer I could commission a screenplay about anything from anyone. Producers were allowed some discretionary judgement.

Some months later a screenplay arrived.

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Prostitute 1980

Off-Cut: Prostitute

For some months I’d been researching the life of prostitutes, both street girls (they called themselves “girls”) and the more expensive call girls. I’d been struck by a remark Trotsky made on the nature of work, to the effect that a worker on the factory line can go home and forget it till the next day, even think about something else when doing repetitive work on the line, but a lawyer, say, or a management executive,

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Off-Cut: Arturo Ui

A love hate relationship with Bertold Brecht had frustrated me for years. In the end I decided that his ideas might work in the theatre, but were of little use to me.

I had read Stanislavsky’s An Actor Prepares in my teens and had almost lived at Sadler’s Wells Theatre when the Russians played there in 1958. This was the most credible acting I’d ever seen in a theatre. In contrast I’d never seen a Brecht which enthused me,

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The Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture, 2060

New technology wonder – just arrived, from the future. How do they do that? Here it is:


The founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, died one hundred years ago.

Under him, after a long struggle, at last Britain had a health service free for all at the point of delivery. It was 1948, just after WW2, and it was a miracle.

The second struggle was seriously engaged around 2020.

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Off-Cut: The Price of Coal

In 1976 Ken and I were reunited with Barry Hines. I’d been asking him for some time what he wanted to write about, and he said “the miners”. He had been underground briefly as a teenager. His relatives and friends in and around Hoyland Common were miners and he felt a deep solidarity with that community. It became a two parter, called The Price of Coal. The first film was set around the preparations at a South Yorkshire pit for the visit of Prince Charles.

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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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Off-Cut: Save the Children Fund

We were also commissioned by the Save the Children’s Fund to make a film about their work. I paid little attention to it at the time. I was buried in too many productions at various stages of completion, working a couple of years ahead of anything actually shooting.  It was just a small documentary, so I left Ken to get on with it and didn’t think about it until he showed it to me. Chris Menges shot it and JIm Allen spoke the commentary.

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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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Off-Cut: Cardiac Arrest

Margaret Matheson and I talked about a medical show. We had just done a cop show and the next television banker was a doc show. There was a long history of medical doctors who were writers, Chekov being the most well known, so we advertised in the medical press. Over a hundred sent us samples. Some of them were good. We picked Jed Mercurio.

With the possible exception of Casualty’s early episodes, all medical series had been the drama of reassurance.

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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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Beautiful Thing

Off-Cut: Beautiful Thing

One evening I went to The Bush to check up on a new play by Jonathan Harvey, Beautiful Thing. I’d not been to the theatre for a while and wasn’t looking forward to a couple of hours on their hard seats being shouted at. I knew I’d be hungry for dinner. But I was entranced. This story of two teenage boys coming out as gay, first to each other and then to others, was delicate,

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Off-Cut: Between The Lines

John Wilshire and Tim Vaughan came to see me and asked if I was interested in a cop show. I wasn’t. I’d been personally interested in the police since I’d been a little boy, but television was all formulaic celebration, whatever the surface pretensions of tough realism. I had said what I wanted to say in the mini series Law and Order, written by GF (Gordon) Newman, in the Seventies. But out of courtesy I asked them to tell me about it.

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