Monday, 9 February 2015

Up The Junction (1965)

Up The Junction has three lives; a source novel by Nell Dunn, this Wednesday Play directed by Ken Loach, and a feature film adaptation directed by Peter Collinson some three years after this broadcast.

Dunn's novel was based on conversations she overheard among women around the Clapham Junction area and this fragmentary style is seized upon by Ken Loach in his play. It's a groundbreaking piece which contributed towards the legalisation of abortion in 1967.

Bearing that impact in mind, its understandable that the drama is includes several documentary (or faux documentary) elements, including an interview with a doctor, who talks of the need for a change in the law, to prevent fatal back street abortions and George Sewell's unscrupulous and racist tallyman speaking directly to camera as he conducts his rounds. 

This mix of the factual and fictional, whilst adding to the fragmentary nature, can be a little confusing as characters drop in, say their piece and drop out again. But for Loach and his collaborator Tony Garnett this was a vital device when considering the scheduling of The Wednesday Play strand, which came after the nightly news. They believed that the programme merited a say on contemporary, current affairs.

It's documentarian style gives the piece its deeply authentic credentials and the enjoyable lively and raucous air keeps it fresh even today, fifty years on although the language and promiscuity that so shocked some critics (Mary Whitehouse somewhat inevitably chief among them) at the time naturally appears very mild now. Nevertheless, you do genuinely feel like you're in the middle of the action depicted, brushing shoulders with real people rather than watching a play and that's a remarkable achievement both then and - perhaps even more so - now.

Up The Junction is available on the excellent boxset Ken Loach at the BBC, along with many other great TV plays Ken helmed. But some aren't as lucky and remain languishing in the BBC vaults unwatched. To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Wednesday Play's and Play For Today's please sign the petition I started here


  1. I love the feature film but have not seen the Loach TV drama. Thanks for the info. Our cat is named after Nell Dunn.

  2. Up The Junction caused such a stir when it came out, it was often covered in current affairs programmes. My partner lived at the Junction at the time, and can remember Michael Aspel (who went to school very close to the Junction) being sent in to her road to interview local residents about their views on the play. I wonder if footage remains of that interview (probably at the BBC at that time? - Tonight seems the most appropriate, except I can't remember Aspel on the Tonight Team; World In Action? except Aspel probably hadn't moved to ITV then...); I cannot find it in my basic google searches. anyone got a clue when and for what programme it might have been conducted...and - even unlikelier - whether it's managed to survive....? Dave Benlow

    1. Oh how fascinating! That's the kind of thing that would have made a great extra feature on the DVD, unfortunately I find that must straight drama fare released to DVD often has poor extras compared to the likes of Doctor Who where fandom and archivists rule. I'm afraid I have no idea about this footage or whether it exists (of course if it doesn't, we can't blame the beeb for not including it as an extra!) but I'm leaving your comment here in case there's someone out there who does :) Thanks for stopping by