BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage
Drama


Contact Us

Backstage

A coke-snorting aesthete

What did the 80s mean to you?


Watching The Line of Beauty, it's hard not to be drawn in by the elegance and luxury of the privileged worlds Nick finds himself in. 80s affluence has rarely looked so seductive.

But Nick's posh life is hardly typical. If you were around in the Eighties, it's just as likely you were an unemployed steelworker, a disaffected student, or a lefty shop steward as a coke-snorting aesthete. And maybe you couldn't even stand Thatcher.

We asked for your experiences - here's a selection of the best memories we received.

Norman
I remember the 80's, they were great times for us all. Britain was transformed from the basketcase of pre 1979. The Conservatives were in government and Lawson was a Chancellor who slashed taxes for the hard workers. Bring back the 80's, they were great days for me!

Joe F
I grew up in Northern Ireland in the 80's. We knew nothing of yuppies and had more engaging local problems to give even a second thought to the plight of miners or the general social degradation being inflicted by Thatcher elsewhere.

Coming out was not an option for a catholic kid, even at Uni in NI in 1987. I arrived in London in the summer of '87 and remember poll tax riots, brick motorolas, sequins, walkmans and breakdancing. There was a feeling of danger and undergroundness to the gay scene and on the telly there were doom and gloom adverts reminding everyone to wear condoms.

Mark Bryant
The series reminded me how far drug therapy has come in treating AIDS. I was involved in the voluntary sector response to HIV & AIDS training Buddies and it often seeemd as if a positive diagnosis was like a death sentence. It felt a very intense and heavy time not helped by the rampant homophobia of many of the tabloids

Liz Elgar
Having started the decade aged 6 and finished it aged 16, you could say I truly grew up in the 80's. My memories are:

Testing out our brand new Betamax video recorder by recording coverage of the murder of John Lennon; re-cycling a costume from the previous Hallowe'en and dressing as a witch(!) for the kids' fancy dress parade for the 1981 Royal Wedding street party (an omen perhaps?); failing to undertand just what was meant to be so "rude" about the lyrics to Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Relax' when they were published in Smash Hits magazine; having my first "grown-up" crush on a 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' era George Michael (until he grew a beard); writing a hate letter to Thatcher when my Dad was made redundant from the GLC after almost 20 years (we had to "downsize" and move house); being jeered at at the roller disco for wearing an extremely unflattering puffball skirt; going on my first date to the Odeon in St Albans (now long gone and "replaced" by a nearby multiplex within a leisure centre) to see 'A Fish Called Wanda' and, as the decade drew to a close, sitting my GCSEs and being only the second cohort of school pupils to do so since they replaced the old 'O' Levels. And, through all of this, my hair never succeeded in holding a perm for more than 2 days, much to my eternal chargrin!

Josh
The 80s was the most prosperous time of my life and the nation. We were dragged out of the perils a previous Labour government had left us in by THE greatest post-wartime prime minister; Margaret Thatcher. Leaving the dull, gloomy and stagnant days of socialism in the 70s, I think we all moved on into a time when the government respect the choice to make as much money as you wanted and not be overly taxed for a highly paid job!

Through working my way up the ranks of a small business I made my fortune. I came form a working class background, but I will always be a Tory.

Thatcher saved this country from bankruptcy, and those who forget this usually can't be bothered to work for living and expect the hard working middle classes to bail them out.

Jim Allen
The 80's represented a change towards healthy multiculturalism. Out with skinheads and in with more tolerance towards gays and ethnic minorities. The downside was corporate greed, fat cats, house price volatility, Poll Tax riots, exchange rate mechanism and the start of a recession which seemed to go on well into the 90's.

The music was great - stuff like Visage, Frankie Goes to Hollwood, Killing Joke and Van Halen, Chakha Khan. There was more originality and individuality, unlike today where everything is dominated by marketing and superfical programmes like Big Brother.

Jacquie H
I had my three children in the eighties, my husband had an advertising agency we lived in London “The Only Way Was Up” as far as we were concerned until the recession. We lost everything except each other. My husband has now retrained as a plumber - not such a heady existence, more down to earth. What a journey though! With the excesses of the noughites I can see it happening all over again, on a global scale.

Kenny
I became a Police Officer and had just called off my engagement at the start of the eighties. I came 'out' but not to my colleagues.

It was a time of sexual exploration for me. I got myself into trouble not knowing how things were, and was raped by two guys due to my inexperience.

I tried returning to heterosexual life but it was not for me. I was then approached by my sister's boyfriend and stupidly had an affair with him. I hadn't realised that so many gay guys were not interested in having a monogamous relationships. I wanted to feel a real connection with a guy and we stayed together for a few years before he started cheating. I went straight into another relationship which did last for five years until I was badly beaten.

It was then I started sleeping about a bit. Wearing the best of clothes, credit cards taking a hammering. Something new and expensive to wear for every Saturday night. Way out hairstyles (of which I'm really embarrased when looking back at photos) I was going out to bars and clubs five or six nights a week, nothing else held my interest. I loved the Eurobeat music and the attention I was receiving. I got into a group of 'it' type people and was totally loving life, and started taking speed with them.

Then I found out that my sister's boyfriend now had AIDS, as did a few of my 'it' friends. This was like a bolt of lightning and decided monogamy was necessary, the only way to go. I am so thankful I remained clear of any STDs. I finally found someone who is a good man (we've been together twenty years now) but I constantly find myself thinking back to the Eighties as a time where I really enjoyed myself, even though I can't remember too much of it!

Barry
For the first time barriers between different social classes, in some circles, disappeared. The boy on the dancefloor could be a roofer from Essex, a Viscount, a wealthy spoilt Arab, a rent boy or a trainee barrister. Sex (and drugs) clouded the boundaries.

I arrived in London as an 18 year old student from a working/middle class suburban family and fell in love with a fashion designer who I lived with in Paris for several years. AIDS was a far off thunderstorm, a menace that you were aware of yet it only registered when someone you knew well was struck down. I lost my boyfriend in 1992, after 4 years of illness.

At 22 years old my address book was just an obituary column. I was quite literally the last one alive among my circle of friends and aquaintences.

Mark
I came out in 1983, when Gloria Gaynor's "I am what I am" was in the charts, and visited my first gay bar, hidden away in the back streets of Rotherhithe. Gay people were marginalised in society and experienced frequent hassle from the police. I am pleased that younger people are now growing up in a more tolerant and enlightened society.

Caroline Walcot
I missed the UK in the 1980s through emigrating to work abroad. But I still watched BBB1 and BBC2 a lot. As the decade progressed, I no longer recognised my native country. Nobody outside the UK understood the why or wherefore of the Falklands War. The riots looked frightening but the advent of the too-rich Yuppie was probably more alarming. Then I used to go home to visit family in Somerset and find them living in a time warp of the 1970s - everything OK, don't rock the boat, don't mention the Continent. It was surreal. Britain was split in half - open class warfare, government vs the people in some parts, Little England in other parts - mostly ordinary people trying to survive on too little money.

Ian
I felt utterly displaced. I was in my teens, knowing I didn't buy in to the 'me' culture and Thatcher's lack of belief in 'Society', but also not able to click into the bemoaning left. No political party supported what I believed in - polictical-moderation, toleration, life-balance, and community.

In the North West of England, I felt ignored by government yet without the distinct identity of Scotland which also appeared ignored/ abused. I remember the Tory rants about different minorities (gay people, single mothers, etc), and how each was undermining our country, whilst simultaneously hearing headlines of government corruption and sleaze. At least now the sleze is not quite so hypocritical!

Robert Mee
It was the decade that good fashion sense forgot - mullets, shoulder pads for both sexes, white socks with black suits, pixie boots, puff-ball and ra-ra skirts and sloanes! We should thank the producers for not committing too much true-to-life costuming! Although the cars used do looked somewhat authentically dodgy...

K Kearney
I remember the 80's badly. I have absolutely no nostalgia or love for the period. I even hated the 80's at the time! I was very angry at people falling for the 'con tricks' of Thatcherism, the whole 'credit boom' thing, the whole 'buy shares in this, that and the other'. But on the other hand, I LOVED the creativity of the early 80's. I loved the whole New Romantic thing. I remember actually listening to the Top 40 Show and loving every song in the charts! But something happened after Live Aid/Band Aid and the music and fashion scene seemed to lose its way. It all became so commercialised and boring! By the time the 'Rave Scene' arrived, I considered myself too old to fully appreciate it and to take part. So my feelings of the 80's is one of being cheated.

Shima Banks
I was an art student in the early eighties and there was a clear division between the students who were desperate to be a part of the champagne/ party til you die brigade and those (like me) who were collecting funds for the striking miners and their families. It's easier to look back with a certain fond nostalgia now, but at the time it was a cold, brittle decade, one in which faith in real political change started to fade and die. The Line of Beauty totally encompasses that atmosphere of melancholy beneath the glitter.

Colin Williams
I am 67, and the worst period in my life was the eighties. Thatcher was the most evil thing that happened to this country in decades. Never forget the high unemployment, high taxes, high interest rates, and the gap she created between the rich and poor.

She did her best to ruin the NHS. She hated the poor and we are still paying the penalty for a lot of policies made in the eighties by her party - the pension crises is only one of them.

Gemma
A lot of the music from that time has survived. I remember loving Wham, George in particular, I was too young to spot his leanings then! My sister and I both had walkmans and we were excited when we got stereo radio cassette players for Christmas. We loved recording ourselves just talking or singing, and taping songs off the radio.

It seems quite an innocent time now, compared to today's all-knowing sexually precocious teens. I was quite protected from events such as the Miner's Strike as I was at Primary School and lived in a leafy greater London suburb. But I do remember my dad being made redudant and having to go and work for Royal Mail as a postman.

Colin
I was at prep school in the 80s, and whilst I hated it there I loved the OTT lifestyles. 1 August meant everyone had a new car with the latest registration, mostly red, white or electric blue Porsche 911s, BMWs or green Range Rovers, or, for those who'd almost made it Ferraris or Lambos. Those who had made it went everywhere in helicopters like the awful guests at the chateau. I remember I could hardly lift my father's first mobile phone, and everyone had filofaxes.

James Stewart-Taylor
I was in my 30s and a young lawyer who was gay and reasonably "out" living in Edinburgh. There was little political correctness.

I think Alan Hollinghurst caught the period so well. The production is incredibly accurate to the novel and the sets are utterly ravishing.

The 21st birthday dance was as i remember country house parties with those blue lights which made eyes look mesmeric - though Dan Stevens needs no help in that department.

Louise Selkirk
I left Oxford in 83 and headed for London, staying plugged into a core of Oxford friends and lover, and this is such a trip down memory lane. I knew people like this and was intoxicated with the buzz, the excessive flamboyance of those with money and 'class', the public school boys and their expectations of high earnings in the city and Hong Kong, the parties in Notting Hill, the voyeuristic thrill of being a middle-class outsider allowed a glimpse of the laid back, all for granted decadence of the 'upper classes'.

Ah, being one of the beautiful people partying at the Reform Club and the Polish Embassy, tearing barefooted round Harley Street, glorious marquee drink-sodden weddings in the country, heading off for house parties to country piles, mixing with actors and weekends in Bath. And what happened? Got older! Had kids!

kathy
For me the eighties was a time for marching, against the bomb, against apartheid, and a time when I felt out of step with many of my peers.

It's hard to explain to my own children now how we lived under a constant shadow of nuclear annhilation. When I was 14 my mother showed me the pills she had collected, to be consumed when WW3 started. No, my kids live instead under the threat of environmental catastrophe.

Debra
I loved the 80s. Started them still at school, ended them married. Music great. We worked hard and reaped rewards. Bought first a flat, then a house, the market crashed but we came out the other side.

I thought Maggie was great, I still do. If you worked hard, you reaped the rewards. What's wrong in that? Why should anyone else have my cash?

Gnu
I have been trying, without success, to forget the 80s. I was a fat, insecure, pimply, closeted teen. The whole world seemed to close in on me, even clothes seemed to gang up on me by making me look and feel even uglier than I already felt. Even the wonderful feeling of loving other men was veiled in sickness and danger.

Reading Hollinghurst makes me re-think all the emotions I attach to the 80s. Was I just too insecure to see the beauty of such a decadent era? Was it really this idyllic place in time Hollinghurst describes?

Steve Evans
I was in my 30's in the eighties and I loved it. I was fit, having fun and the music was great (though some of it seems pretty tacky now). There was a sense that you could have it all. The trouble was that sometimes it looked like greed. Reality hit in the nineties and now, in the noughties I'm just coming out the other side and learning to take it easy all over again.

A Russell
I was a student nurse in London and remember the Brixton riots, the first time AIDS came in to the picture and the general hysteria. Boy George was a huge cultural phenomenon. I wasn't particularly happy personally and was coming to terms with my sexuality, but didn't feel able to 'come out' until the end of the era.

Madelaine
We bought our first house in 1984, and between the time of our offer being accepted and moving in the interest rate had gone up to something ridiculous. The miners' strike went on for ages and I remember a policeman I knew saying the picket line overtime was building his extension. Video recorders arrived and you had to pay to belong to a video club an idea which seeems so weird now. AIDS was a huge shock to us all although so little was known about it in the early 80's. It was a world without mobile phones and computers were still a rarity.

Jennifer Wilson
Unemployment - highest I believe at the time I left school in 1983. I remember Thatcher being hit by an egg when visiting Maryhill in Glasgow - it was riots against the Poll Tax - so the lifestyle in the Line of Beauty is not what I remember. No champagne around here !

Morte
Golf Gti/Mobile Phone/Where's your wad?

Justin Dix
I graduated in 1980. It was a decade of contrasts; in some ways liberating with more television channels (believe it or not we found breakfast TV fascinating), the breaking up of old state monopolies (such as post office telephones), and an explosion of new musical talent. But it was tough too; my first job as a graduate was working for what was then British Steel, collecting information that would be used to close unproductive plants, making thousands of people redundant. This was too much for my labour voting conscience (especially when I walked out of the building one lunchtime just as a group of my old University friends passed by on a student demo on the way to Hyde Park and start jeering at me). I resigned after six months and spent a long summer drinking beer and living on kidney beans and Ryvita before joining the NHS where I still work twenty five years later. Remarkable, fascinating, unstable days; I hope we never see their like again.

Jeff Duncan
I and a couple of mates ran a weekly disco called The New Depression - it moved around a lot in the Kings Cross area but brought together all the young gay people of that era - from Bronski Beat, Andy Bell to Boy George and whole lot of other well known names (not so then). Sex was as important as the music back then and it was all about drugs, politics and sex. The came AIDS... party over.

racy racy
The eighties for me were special. I was in my early twenties; and found myself in an immensely well paid job with lots of perks (this was in the North of England) and I had very little in the way of educational qualifications! I travelled abroad extensively and had a very small mortgage. The music had its pitfalls (Joe Dolce/Jason Donovan?) but I'd never swap my time in the 80's. It was fantastic! A memorable life learning curve. Viva Maggie!

jazzbaby
It was a great time to become a teenager. New Romance allowed me to continue to play 'dressing up' and yet call it fashion. Big hair, ra-ra skirts, lacy gloves and ankle boots. Top films? Pretty in Pink and Desperately Seeking Susan.

Jess
I enjoyed the early part of the decade as a teen (good music, etc), but as the realities of the polictical scene became apparent to me I felt strangely out of step as an older teen. I remember going to parties where everyone wore blazers and listended to music by Stock, Aitken and Waterman -I felt very cheated as a young person with strong social ideals and a love of singer-songwriters! I look back on the late eighties as a really shallow era.

L Robinson
All I did was go to gay clubs and have sex!

S Brennan
I had just arrived in London and discovered the Gay scene. Wow! So heady, so fast, so exciting. Nothing prepared me for the rush of my first night at Heaven (Gay club) - hundreds of men dancing to the most exciting music I had ever heard. I remember meeting lots and lots of people, going to parties where there where famous people were, so much money being spent on every thing. Oh, the excitement of it all! I went everywhere - illegal raves, private parties, aftershow parties, openings. Then of course there was the iron lady. Things went from the best to the worst. Unemployment, taxes, the NHS - the things that woman ruined. But I am glad I lived through it all. Oh yes, so glad.

Paul Andrew Tipper
The 80s were a heady era; the surface fantasy-glitter eclipsed a fundamental black reality; the girls sported emerald rara skirts and the guys gold lame jackets. But the threat of Cold War annihilation sent a decade-long shudder down everyone's spine.

Linda McDermott
It was hard for us. I was homeless with my son who had TB living in a homeless hostel. I was from Liverpool and at the time there were riots. Life was not much better in the South East. I hated Thatcher. Whilst waiting for my divorce my husband seemed to be having a fine time buying a house starting a new family.And he soon lost it all due to the false economy. It was a laugh watching him spouting off his mouth voting Tory. I bet he doesn't now, as he is destroyed and living in a rented caravan. Loved the music. I had a really decent stereo and used to have it up so loud at parties.In the morning I would put the records back in their sleeve wiped clean of the jam, curry sauce etc.

Fine Buliciri
I hated the eighties, it was a period of such immense greed and selfishness. There was also a definite division between rich and poor. I did like the music, but I got bullied badly at school during that era, so maybe that's why I don't really like the eighties.

Karen
I left school and started my working life. As Linda said there were lots of bright colours and carefree times. I had a huge crush on John Taylor from Duran Duran - hey ho. They were great times. No pressure, which is definately not something we will be saying about the 00's

Simon Jackson.
I was at university and then in my first job during the period in question, but I remember most that the Tories were on their way out of office before the Falklands War in April 1982. The previous summer there were riots in many inner cities, including the Chapeltown area of Leeds (the city where I grew up. You could have cut the air with a machete there the following day. Growing up where I did, my memories are of industry being cut off at the roots without anything being done to replace it: steel and coal in particular. People in the South-East find it difficult to believe that there was a recession going on in the early '80s elsewhere in the UK, one which some areas have never recovered from. I admired Mrs Thatcher for the fact that she had principles, and stuck to them, but she was totally without compassion in Government, and I could never, ever vote for her. The book did bring out the dichotomy between the South-East, which seems to have pulled away from most of the rest of the country during 1983-87, and the insouciance that was perceived by those of us not fortunate enough to be part of the very localised golden age of Thatcherism, on the part of those who were.

J Sanders
I was a child throughout the entire 1980s, and it was hell! Can you imagine a worse time to grow up? I very much doubt it. The whole decade was one giant headache! Teachers were striking, miners were striking and fighting with the police on the TV, while parents tutted knowingly at them all. We even had a water strike one summer when we had to collect fresh water from great communal taps in our suburban street. On top of that the fashion was terrible, the music was worse and being a school child through all this was like a form of abuse. And then they wonder why the teens and twenty somethings of the last fifteen/sixteen years have become so cynical and disinterested in everything around them. I left school in 1994 with a PHd in cynicism, like the majority of my generation.

Linda Craig
I was a new mum in the eighties, I remember the New Romantic music and lots of bright colours, a change from all the brown cord furniture of the seventies. Happy memories for me, as my three sons were all born in the eighties, but I must admit looking back to photographs taken then, my hairstyles seem very strange!

Episodes

Episode 1
Episode 2 transmitted 9pm, May 24 2006
Episode 3 transmitted 9pm, May 31 2006

Backstage

Related Links





About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy