Ken Loach

If there is one director whose name is synonymous with The Wednesday Play, then it is Ken Loach, if only by virtue of the fact that he was responsible for the two most famous editions of the series. Born in 1936, Loach joined the BBC as a trainee director in 1963, with his first transmitted work was the Troy Kennedy Martin and John McGrath serial The Diary of a Young Man in August 1964, followed by numerous impressive episodes of Z Cars. The Wednesday Play began two months later and Loach directed three in rapid succession: Wear a Very Big Hat by Eric Coltart, and James O'Connor's A Tap on the Shoulder and Three Clear Sundays. The former was an observation about society's regard for different sorts of "crook", while the latter was in impassioned tract against capital punishment (O'Connor himself was a ex-con victwho had been in the condemned cell, but reprieved).

November 1965 saw Loach directing Nell Dunn's Up the Junction, based on her book of dead-pan short stories of dialogue from Clapham factories, pubs and the illegal abortionist that the vast majority of viewers were wholly unfamiliar with, and in this respect is probably a more accurate reflection of what life in "Swinging Sixties" London was like for real working class young people, leading Frederick Laws in The Listener to remark: "Indignation about the frequency of tabooed words and at the scandalizing of the good name of Battersea was inevitable but not important." A year later (after directing The End of Arthur's Marriage and James O'Connor's The Coming Out Party, which prompted Nancy Banks-Smith in The Sun to say that he was, "one of the best writers to come out of prison since Bunyan.") Loach followed it up with the Wednesday Play, Cathy Come Home, on which he used the same leading lady, Carol White. Loach took the concept of naturalism to its ultimate end, with Jeremy Sandford's essay on the grim reality of homelessness, through the use of handheld 16mm film cameras, looking more like something that had come out of BBC News and Current Affairs than the Drama Department. In 1967, Loach's treatment of David Mercer's In Two Minds used similar techniques in a study of schizophrenia, which memorably inspired Anthony Burgess to go out and drink himself insensible.

After directing Far From the Madding Crowd in 1967 and The Golden Vision in 1968, Loach tackled for the first time what would become a regular subject for him, that of trumpeting left-wing politics, in Jim Allen's The Big Flame. In subsequent years similar collaborations with Allen would be The Rank and File (1971) and Days of Hope (1975). After directing Barry Hines' feature film Kes, Loach formed Kestrel films with Tony Garnett and Kenith Trodd to produce films for LWT, but his association with the writer continued with The Price of Coal for the BBC in 1977 and The Gamekeeper for ATV two years later, as well as Looks and Smiles in 1982. A Question of Leadership saw Loach working on a "straight" documentary at last, based on Hines research into the 1980 steelworkers' strike, but with such obviously pro-left sympathies that in the end the programme was only ever screened in ATV's midland area.

In recent years Loach's television work has been almost wholly documentary, including an edition of  Channel 4's Dispatches in 1991, although one on the 1984-5 miners' strike landed him in hot water when he over-dubbed thuds on footage of a policeman truncheoning a picket. In the meantime he has directed a number of feature films, more often than not appearing in the Film on Four strand, including Hidden Agenda (1990), Riff-Raff (1991), Ladybird, Ladybird (1994, returning to the themes of Cathy Come Home), and Land and Freedom (1995).

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[Biography as submitted for inclusion in The Guinness Book of Classic British TV (1996, 2nd edition), with minor corrections]

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