Fighting Back

Conceived in the dark days of the miner’s strike and the Falklands War, this was Gareth Jones’s first personal writing for the screen and for BBC television.

It reflects a frustration with the limitations of soap and other television genres, expressed here by a desire to get beneath the surfaces of our inegalitarian society and discover a world of real people never before shown on screen. This milieu in Bristol St Paul’s is far from the well-disciplined, organized working classes of Coronation Street, which were already heading for terminal decline with our industrial white-out.

It delves into the emerging alternative lifestyles both just above and just below the criminal threshold, a melting pot of truculent individualism then taking shape in all its fascinating richness and rebelliousness.

This was where our counter-culture was at, approaching half way between the hippie optimism of the late sixties and the zero-hours frenzy of today.

The embattled single mother Viv Sharpe is variously a total disaster, utter basket case and/or a heroine of political and personal resistance, all in the face of a grindingly reductive society that crushes the marginalized with its levers and controls.

Emerging out of left-wing outrage at the Thatcherite hegemony complemented by a Labour Party in meltdown, the work feels curiously modern, except that these lower depths could be treated with a hint of glamour that would now seem preposterous.

Directed with flair and authenticity by Paul Seed, produced by Chris Parr and executive produced by Robin Midgley, it catapulted Hazel O’Connor onto the front cover of the Radio Times and featured a dangerously youthful Derek Thompson.

Controller, BBC 1, Michael Grade is reported to have commented at an editorial review following its broadcast in August 1986 (with whatever irony is hard to judge at this distance) that ‘Fighting Back has graced our screens…’  a graceful verdict, born of an age when left-wing politics still warranted dramatic analysis, a personal authorial voice and prime-time exposure.

 

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