Friday, 12 April 2013

Watching the poor- Cathy Come Home

The 1960's TV film  Cathy Comes Home was not year zero for those of us who work in housing but it was the start of something. A docudrama about a homeless family that not only galvanised support for a change in legislation but was the spark that reignited the housing association movement.
It's Director, Tony Garnett has complained that the 'BBC has little interest in poor people.' He perceives that the BBC is only interested in ratings. I would suggest that TV in general, not just the BBC have plenty of interest in the poor though seldom in a good way.
While there was some great stuff made by the BBC in the 60's and 70's it was a far less competitive world. Worthy but depressing films such as Kes didn't have to compete for space with umpteen brightly coloured alternatives. The power of Cathy Come Home was that so many people saw it and were shocked. If a similar film were made today it would just preach to the converted while the vaste majority watched something else.
No matter how good the play the theatre will close if the seats are empty, even if the state is chipping in. The challenge for Directors is to make exciting programmes that people will want to watch that address serious social issues. Bemoaning the passing of a golden age feels like a waste of breath.