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British New Wave: Celebrating the iconic fiction and films of the Sixties

Wednesday 28 August 2013, 14:41

Lucy Collingwood Lucy Collingwood Assistant Producer

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Editor's note: Lucy Collingwood produced Up the Junction (being broadcast on Tuesday 3rd September at 1415) - part of Radio 4's British New Wave season

Find preview clips, photo galleries and archive content for the British New Wave season here

British New Wave season British New Wave season

I first read Up the Junction sitting in an appropriately Sixties red brick library and was blown away by the energy and sheer movement of the stories.  The settings were so vivid: I could smell the constant cigarette smoke, hear Ben E King blaring from a juke box and was transported to that damp sweet factory where Sheila sits in her torn vest worn under an incongruous gold blouse. 

And it is that energy and boldness that all of the titles in Radio 4’s British New Wave season share.  Published in the late Fifties and Sixties, the content of these books hasn’t grown dusty with age. They are as vibrant and alive as ever, as I hope listeners will agree.  

Even though they tackle fairly near-the-knuckle subjects with gritty realism, they are not depressing.  They grab you by the scruff of the neck and don’t let go.  You get dragged across the rugby pitch with the hulking Arthur Machin. You fall down the stairs with the obnoxiously charming Arthur Seaton. You slurp spaghetti with Georgy and Peg at Fred’s. You drink whiskey with John Osborne on his houseboat that reeks of cabbage soup. You race cackling on the back of Dave’s motorbike alongside Terry and Rube.

Up The Junction actors Up The Junction actors

The season kicks off (literally) with This Sporting Life on Saturday 31st August directed by Johnny Vegas (recorded in St Helens- the home of Rugby League). Followed by Paul Allen’s Beyond the Kitchen Sink which takes a look at the key players of the period and sets the dramas in context.

It’s been a treat to spend time with these gutsy characters and we’ve been lucky enough to attract some brilliant actors to our productions. James Purefoy, Joe Dempsie, Lacey Turner, Samuel Barnett, Sheridan Smith to name but a few.  Perhaps they’ve seen something of the same appeal in these iconic books as I did when developing the season.

This Sporting Life is on BBC Radio 4 at 14.30 on Saturday 31st August

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    Comment number 1.

    British Social Realism in the Arts since 1940:

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Although the content of them books haven't grown dusty with age, sometimes marriages can, so the missus has got it into her head to give the splicing certificate the big vac over to get her shaking about like the day she got into it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Love this stuff - great to hear it brought to life again. These stories have been an inspiration to me over the years. British new wave for the 21st century:
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Getting caught with Up the Junction, Poor Cow or Valley of the Dolls were rewarded with confiscation + 20 laps around the football field + a letter home to one’s parents at my school. Reading in secret was compulsory.

    Can’t criticise any of the plays (fine scripting, acting, direction etc), but not too sure that I want to revisit this period. I thought I spotted Santo and Johnny’s ‘Sleepwalk’ [1] during the broadcast of ‘This Sporting Life’ which was slightly puzzling, since it was released in 1959 (perhaps it was related later in the UK?).

    Found the whole period – as a child – between late 50’s and early 60’s hopelessly depressing. I recall the family dog (Flossie) pinching Mrs Hassle’s bra off the washing line and, on recovery, being met with: ‘mind your own business’ after asking my mother innocuous bra related questions. Anything even vaguely related to reproduction was a no-go area. Even women who were pregnant were expected to hide the consequence of sexual reproduction and the maternity clothes were just vomit inducing. Women’s lives must have been utter misery. My foul childhood underpants (biscuit cream with elastic that clearly didn’t obey Hooke’s law!) ended up as dishcloths – an insult to dishcloths.

    Even some of the cars looked as though they’d been designed by someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I mean the Standard 10’s face [2] looked as if it has gone out shopping for a fedora and returned with a trilby. Why was it such an unhappy car when the Yardbirds were on the horizon? The Standard 8 must have suffered from a terrible inferiority complex. Oh and the evil washing machines that deliberately tangled one’s clothes……


    [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1st_9KudWB0
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Ten


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