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Lez Cooke

4 BBC English Regions Drama BBC English Regions Drama emerged out of the regional reorganisation within the BBC at the beginning of the 1970s (see Chapter 2). The proposals announced in Broadcasting in the Seventies (BBC, 1969) were confirmed in the 1970 BBC Handbook when Director-General Charles Curran described the initiatives the BBC was taking in regional broadcasting, including a major investment in new studios in the Midlands: In non-metropolitan radio and television in England there will be some really radical changes. In television we shall have eight

in A sense of place
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Regional British television drama, 1956–82
Author: Lez Cooke

This pioneering study examines regional British television drama from its beginnings on the BBC and ITV in the 1950s to the arrival of Channel Four in 1982. It discusses the ways in which regionalism, regional culture and regional identity have been defined historically, outlines the history of regional broadcasting in the UK, and includes two detailed case studies – of Granada Television and BBC English Regions Drama – representing contrasting examples of regional television drama production during what is often described as the ‘golden age’ of British television. The conclusion brings the study up to date by discussing recent developments in regional drama production, and by considering future possibilities. A Sense of Place is based on original research and draws on interviews by the author with writers, producers, directors and executives including John Finch, Denis Forman, Alan Plater, David Rose, Philip Saville and Herbert Wise. It analyses a wide range of television plays, series and serials, including many previously given little attention such as The Younger Generation (1961), The Villains (1964-65), City ’68 (1967-68), Second City Firsts (1973-78), Trinity Tales (1975) and Empire Road (1978-79). Written in a scholarly but accessible style the book uncovers a forgotten history of British television drama that will be of interest to lecturers and students of television, media and cultural studies, as well as the general reader with an interest in the history of British television.

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Lez Cooke

Conclusion Granada Television and BBC English Regions Drama provide contrasting models of regional television drama production in the ‘second age’ of British television, from 1955 to 1982. A comparison of the two – one a major company producing a range of programming for the ITV network, the other a small department within the BBC established specifically to produce regional drama for the BBC network – illustrates the range of regional television drama produced in a duopolistic era when only three channels (and only two before 1964) were available to the

in A sense of place
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Lez Cooke

detailed examination of BBC English Regions Drama, from its establishment in 1971 to the beginnings of its decline in the early 1980s, when a number of key personnel departed to work at the new Channel Four. The Conclusion reflects on whether this ‘second age’ of British television, from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s, might be considered, in retrospect, a ‘golden age’ for regional British television drama, before proceeding to consider the present situation and future possibilities for regional television drama in an era of global, multi-channel television and new

in A sense of place
Lez Cooke

number of regional playwrights to contribute to BBC English Regions Drama’s portfolio of plays, along with other writers from regional theatre such as Alan Bleasdale, Mike Bradwell, David Halliwell, Henry Livings, Mary O’Malley, Willy Russell and Peter Terson. The symbiosis between regional theatre and regional television drama proved very productive throughout the 1970s. Not only did BBC English Regions Drama enable a number of regional playwrights to break into television, the department also drew upon a range of personnel from regional theatre companies, including

in A sense of place
Lez Cooke

-outs within the eight English regions. As far as television drama was concerned the most important aspect of the regional reorganisation of BBC broadcasting was the building of the new Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham and the establishment of a new department, BBC English Regions Drama, to be based there with a remit to produce regional television drama for the network. While BBC Pebble Mill was to produce programmes for the network and programmes of local interest for the Midlands region, the purpose of English Regions Drama was not simply to produce Midlands-based drama

in A sense of place
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Lez Cooke

, whereas a distinctive feature of Coronation COOKE PRINT.indd 51 05/07/2012 13:36 52 A Sense of Place Street’s regionality was the Lancashire accents of most of its characters, A Family at War was not noted for its Liverpudlian accents. Ironically it was the BBC, rather than Granada, that helped to promote the Liverpool accent with The Liver Birds (1969–79) and with the production, by BBC English Regions Drama, of work by Liverpool writers such as Alan Bleasdale, Willy Russell, Neville Smith and Ted Whitehead (see Chapter 4). In a section of Granada’s 1980 franchise

in A sense of place