[goto next page or index] [go to Jeremy Sandford  FanClub homepage]
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives ~ www.JeremySandford.org.uk
Play for Today, The Evolution

of Television Drama: Some Errors

by Jeremy Sandford

  1. Inaccuracies to do with ‘Cathy Come Home’

  1. Inaccuracies to do with ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’

  1. Inaccuracies to do with other matters

Sooner or later, once Irene Shubik had published her book ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’, I had imagined she would present me with a copy. I had given her copies of various books of mine (‘Down and Out in Britain’ and the published novelisations of ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’ and ‘Cathy Come Home’) during the making of the BBC TV film ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’, of which she was the producer.

No presentation copy arrived. I am not an assiduous rereader of my own works, or of what others have penned about them, so when no book arrived I didn’t bother to go out of my way to acquire it. For many years, I never got round to reading the book.

Relatively recently I chanced upon a copy of ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’ and discovered what I believe can be shown to be inaccuracies. I have sent a copy of this list to Irene and will of course be most happy to retract if in any case she can show that it is me who is wrong.

Inaccuracies to do with ‘Cathy Come Home’

This is untrue. I wrote to Irene asking where she got the information from, saying that I’d like to track the rumour back to its source, and contact those who started it. After sending a number of letters, I received a reply saying that Irene had copied the information from a ‘quality daily’ whose name she had now forgotten. A simple phone call or visit down the passage to Tony Garnett’s office would have demonstrated to Irene that it was false.

The statement also questions the integrity of the BBC TV establishment of the time. They, from the first, stood by the accuracy of ‘Cathy Come Home’. To have connived in alterations to the programme between first and second transmissions would have amounted to dirty tricks.

Worse than either of these, it appears to be an attempt to undermine the basic thesis of the play by claiming that the research on which it was based is inaccurate.

There was not at this time in existence the legislation which now protects an author’s moral rights in a work, but there was the written agreement between the Writers Guild, of which I am and was a member, and the BBC, which specifically forbade any tampering with the original, such as Irene describes, on the part of the BBC, without consultation with the author. Had such tampering taken place, I would have resisted it, and my position would have been backed, I am sure, by the Writers Guild. There was absolutely no need to tamper because the accuracy of the work had so clearly been established at the first transmission.

A serious historian would surely not claim our homeless mothers are typically ‘foul mouthed scrubbers’ without mentioning the research on which she is drawing.

Inaccuracies to do with ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’

I think, in retrospect, that I showed Irene the script too early. I had felt I’d like to involve her in the creative process but I realise now that she found this difficult. I think it would be right to say she had never produced or been part of a drama of this complexity, and the type of play to which she was most accustomed was the studio drama.

Although surprising in a producer of her experience, it seems to me that Irene failed to understand the typical process of director and writer working closely together, which Ted and I had already become accustomed to in ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’, my stage play he directed. Irene had a hazy idea of the ongoing process at my and Ted’s script conferences. She did offer to be present, but because we were accustomed to working together, Ted and I declined this.

Irene does not mention my proposal to have statistics flashed up on the screen, as in ‘Cathy’, thus contextualising the particular story of Edna, and showing how it represented a trend in our society. These also got dropped and in retrospect I think it a pity. I have been told of stage performances of ‘Edna’ in which they were used effectively.

This script was typed out in the BBC TV format in the first week in October. If Irene was not in agreement with it, it is difficult to see why she authorised it to be typed out at this point, when there were still four weeks to go before the beginning of shooting. As producer, it was Irene’s job to see that an agreed script was ready in enough time, and be aware of what was going on around her.

The film was shot in and around London between 2 November and 4 December 1970. Meanwhile the novelisation had already, in Autumn 1970, been delivered to Pan Books, containing the same material in the same approximate order, although of course at greater length, to be in good time for printing in order to coincide with the BBC’s proposed transmission in the Spring of 1971.

At the time of ‘Edna’ I was working as a regular researcher and interviewer for the ITV ‘Last Programmes’, doing about twenty programmes a year. Irene may remember that, reviewing ‘Edna’ for the Church Times, Colin Hodgetts said, ‘Some people have suggested that the play was exaggerated. Those who work in the field know that it is depressingly accurate.’ Bearing in mind the consistent level of inaccuracy in Irene’s own work, it could be questioned whether she is in fact qualified to judge what is accurate and what is not, and whether it is perhaps her ‘details’ which, ‘on inspection, are blurs and blobs.’

It is true that two characters appearing before Edna in one of the Lawcourt scenes were omitted. These were cut for reasons of space, not quality. Irene fails to point out that a similar device still remains in the film in the common lodging house doctor scene, in which there are two ‘superfluous’ characters before Edna comes in.

Other Inaccuracies

Jeremy Sandford: Screenplays, Radio Plays, Films, Stage


It is For Ever (1956), BBC, with Alan Wheatley.

Dreaming Bandsmen (1956), BBC, with Kenneth Haigue, Alan Bates; music by the author, conducted by Charles Mackeras.

The Quinquaphone (1957), BBC.

Not Wishing to Return (1958, remade in 1968), BBC, with Patricia Gallimore.

Whelks and Chromium (1959), BBC, with Harry Fowler.

Oluwale (1973), Radio Brighton and BBC, with Paul Schofield.

The Motor Heist (1975), Radio Brighton, Imperial Tobacco Award Nomination.

Virgin of the Clearways (1982), BBC.

Verdict Suicide (1985), BBC.


Hotel de Luxe (1962), ACTT award.

Cathy Come Home (1966), BBC, with Carol White; Italia Prize, ACTT, Writers Guild awards.

Edna, the Inebriate Woman (1971), BBC, with Patricia Hayes; ACTT Writers Guild awards.

Don’t Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday (1980), Granada, with Rita Tushingham.


Dreaming Bandsmen (1960), Belgrade Coventry, with Colin Blakeley.

The Fatted Calf (1980), ICA London, with Crystal Theatre of the Saint.

Dream Topping (1979-1981), Kings Head Theatre Club, Young Vic, and other venues; with Philippa Finnis.

Raggle Taggle (1993), Cheltenham Festival and Gloucester. Beaufort School Community Play.

Songs from the Roadside (1994 - ongoing), Folly Lane Theatre, Hereford, and other locations, with Ted Atkinson and Mark O’Gallaidh.

Provenance of Edna

(The dates are those on the scripts and letters)

An early version of the script. 09.12.69

Contract for ‘The Lodging House’ (working title of ‘Edna’) signed,

to be delivered by 31.03.70. 28.01.70

Letter from me to Irene apologising for straying over deadline. 01.04.70

Letter from Shubik: ‘the script on woman vagrants has not been written

at all’ (presumably crossed mine in post). This letter also states her

doubt about Kotcheff as director. 02.04.70

Fairly complete version of novel. 08.04.70

Letter from me to Irene: ‘Edna’ is at the typist right now. 14.04.70

Complete (?) version of novel. 30.04.70

Letter from me to Irene says; ‘Edna you already have’. 11.05.70

Letter from Irene asking me to work with Ted on reducing cost of

‘Edna’: she is to be away for six weeks. 20.07.70

Letter to Anne Kersch saying I’ve cut ‘Edna’ down re cost. 29.07.70

Letter from Irene: ‘I have finally managed to persuade Gerald Savory

to let us do ‘Edna’ ... 02.08.70

Letter from me to Gerald Savory says that Pan are ‘already setting up

Edna’. 13.08.70

Letter from Irene, plus notes, which she says she’s discussed with Ted

(most of these notes were ignored by Ted and me). 23.09.70

BBC copy of my script. 02.10.70

Letter from Clarence Paget at Pan enclosing page proofs of the novel

of ‘Edna’. 05.10.70

BBC typed script gives shooting times as beginning: 02.11.70

and finishing: 04.12.70

The book published. Spring 71

The film originally to be transmitted: Spring 71

The film actually transmitted: 21.09.71

The book ‘Down and Out in Britain’ (hard cover) published. 21.09.71

‘Down and Out in Britain’ (soft cover) published. 1972


[goto top of this page] [go to Jeremy Sandford  FanClub homepage] Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
Almost all of the content of these webpages is copyright of the estate of
Jeremy Sandford, RIP.
They are provided here for your private research, and as a tribute to Jeremy.
However the index and sorting and coding are copyright of me,
George @ dicegeorge.com(c)2006

www.JeremySandford.org.uk (c) 2006
[Jeremy Sandford FanClub]