Enid Blyton and the BBC | Revealing the writer's troubled relationship with the BBC

Memo from BBC Schools Department.

Jean Sutcliffe explains the policy regarding Enid Blyton.


From: Miss J.E. Sutcliffe, 210, 1 P.P.
PBX 1290
23rd November 1954


To: Miss Janet Quigley, Editor, Woman's Hour.
Copy to: H.S.B.

Please forgive me in advance, if I put down nothing but what you already know.
In a one sided conversation on such a subject it is almost inevitable.

I suspect our opinion of Enid Blyton's work is much the same, but it is debatable
whether it is fair to keep her out of the sort of programme you suggest if there
is a demand from the audience to get into closer touch with this well-known

In my view if the invitation is simply to meet her and she be asked to give her
views on Horror comics or Hats or anything under the sun except her own methods
and aims in writing for children - no harm could be done. But if she is allowed
to lay down the law on aims and methods of writing for children - unchallenged
by really good writers or parents and educationalists of wide and deep experience
in the field of children's literature, the BBC becomes just another victim of
the amazing advertising campaign which has raised this competent and tenacious
second-rater to such astronomical heights of success.

That her work is better than the mass of similar material on the market is no
argument. Neither is the cry 'But children love her books!'. All is grist that
comes to their mill.

No writer of real merit could possibly go on believing that this mediocre
material is of the highest quality and turn it out in such incredible
quantities. Her capacity to do so amounts to genius and it is here that she has
beaten everyone to a standstill. Anyone else would have died of boredom long ago.

Her books do no harm (and have in fact certain passive virtues) if children have
access to plenty of other material. The danger lies when adults (both parents and
teachers) accept her commercial success as the badge of literary quality and are
satisfied if nothing but Enid Blyton books are available for their children. I
firmly believe that children with capacity for growth in literary taste, given
freedom to read widely (though they may get E.B. and other crazes for a while)
invariably leave these and similar books behind and never return to them. Nothing
can be more valuable than the exposure to this kind of experience at as early an
age as possible. But if children are deliberately fed with only one type of
writing and get no experience of this wider kind in their early years, the
opportunity may be lost for ever.

It is because of all this that I think people in positions like ours have every
right to exercise our judgement in deciding who shall utter unchallenged on
certain subjects. But we have no right, as I see it, to keep a popular figure
from speaking personally on subjects outside our field of guardianship.

I am afraid this has become very long in spite of considerable effort to cut down
the number of words you must read. If I have not been helpful, perhaps you would
have time for a few minutes talk - let me know if you would like that.


(Jean Sutcliffe)
Schools Broadcasting Department

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Document Type | Memo

23 November 1954

Document version




Having been invited for her views on Enid Blyton in a memo from the editor of 'Woman's Hour', Jean Sutcliffe of the BBC Schools department suggests a review of the policy that has kept the author off the BBC's airwaves.

Did you know?

Enid Blyton first approached the BBC in 1938, in the hope of broadcasting to her fans across the country.

Read the letter she wrote to the Head of Programmes.


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