Main content

Tony Garnett/Mary Whitehouse

Episode 2 of 5

Film-maker Tony Garnett has an imagined conversation with the late Mary Whitehouse. Using archive clips, they are reunited in one final debate across the political and moral divide.

Filmmaker Tony Garnett has an imagined conversation with the late Mary Whitehouse. Using archive clips, they are reunited in one final debate across the political and moral divide.

Tony Garnett's productions include Cathy Come Home, Kes and This Life. He has made films investigating police corruption, and advocating abortion law reform and the abolition of the death penalty. Mary Whitehouse, alarmed at the rapid social changes of the 1960s, waged crusades against 'the permissive society' and criticised the BBC for portraying 'promiscuity as normal'.

Although diametrically opposed to her ethics and opinions, Garnett reveals a respect for Whitehouse's courage. As the conversation develops, he re-evaluates the effectiveness of his own attempts to influence public opinion, and the successes and failures of Mary Whitehouse's moral and political campaigns in the years since her death in 2001.

In 1991 Natalie Cole sang a duet with her long dead father, Nat King Cole - the result was Unforgettable. This is the radio equivalent. In each edition of the series, a different guest is invited to interact with someone, now dead, with whom they have, or have wanted to have, a connection. Using technology designed for musicians and DJs to spontaneously play out short musical clips, producer Adam Fowler facilitates a real-time conversation between the two participants, using conversational snippets of the deceased from past recordings.

The guest has no advance knowledge of the excerpts, and the conversation can take unexpected turns, occasionally leading to some emotionally charged interchanges, as living voices engage with those preserved in the archive.

Research: Philippa Geering
Producer: Adam Fowler
An Overtone production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

15 minutes