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.
Sandford asked for better terms and is still refusing to sign up. He also wants to see a more generous offer made to Sean and Steve King, White’s sons and the only-surviving beneficiaries of her estate, following her death in Florida in 1991.

The film recently topped polls as the most important piece of British TV history.
The two boys appeared as toddlers in some of the 1966 film’s most emotive scenes and at the close of the drama they are forcibly taken away from their mother. The impact of the film, and its focus on the plight of homeless mothers, did much to promote the charity Shelter, founded in the same year.

Steve, 35, who lives in Los Angeles and works in a coffee shop, said: ‘Our mother was taken advantage of in her life because she was such a generous person.’
White died, nursed by Steve, in an illness brought on by drink and drug abuse.
‘I feel this delay is definitely unfair,’ said Sean, 36, who can remember making the film. ‘I understand that we are not likely to gain much anyway, but I hope it can be sorted out for the sake of my mother and Cathy Come Home itself.’

The delayed release has also interrupted Ken Loach’s plans to make a video archive of his early work available to the general public. The BBC licensed Cathy Come Home, which he made with producer Tony Garnett, to Red Pictures.

Loach said: ‘The only people to receive any money from the release of this video would be Carol’s children and Jeremy Sandford. That is the way it should be. Any money that Red Pictures made if the video went into profit would be used to fund the archive of my work that is being put together with the British Council.’

Loach has just finished shooting Bread and Roses, a new low-budget film about the exploitation of immigrant office cleaners.