Ian Drury - Sheil Land Associates Ltd. - 52 Doughty Street - London WC1N 2LS

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Something in the Air

Okay, so the meeting went well. Really well.

There was me, the very picture of nonchalance as I wandered into the famous BBC Television Centre, probably looking like someone who's spent too long in the countryside and might actually have arrived by tractor. And it turns out that they've moved the drama department. We used to be across the road, behind the bike sheds. Now we have something called 'The Drama Building'. And before long, we'll be moving again.

Hey - dig that "we"!

Anyway, a great chat, most encouraging. And oddly enough, there's a guy working a door or two away on Lark Rise to Candleford. He was script editor on the last series I worked on with the producer I was meeting (she's now an executive producer, two steps down from God). I haven't seen this script editor chap in fourteen years. Only yesterday, though, he was asking after me.

Now, all this is just a wee bit weird. But I've been having a strange sense of a return to business-as-usual after something like ten or twelve years. Let me explain.

One of my very first writing jobs in British TV was developing an idea by Paul Theroux into a potential TV drama series. This was for a firm called Euston Films, a company for which I had, and still have, almost unqualified admiration.

The project stalled rather suddenly when the parent company, Thames Television, lost its licence to broadcast. It lost its licence because it had annoyed a certain Margaret Hilda Thatcher. See, Mrs Thatcher had unleashed a death squad to assassinate a group of Irish people in broad daylight on the streets of Gibraltar. Thames TV made a documentary about it. By doing so, they signed their own death warrant, so to speak. Their broadcast licence was effectively revoked, and my series with Euston Films withered on the vine, basically because Euston Films no longer knew if it had a future.

I got my revenge, up to a point, by restaging the shooting of the Irish Republicans for another TV drama series (we did it on Brighton sea-front, though, rather than in Gibraltar). But it was a hollow victory. I had in fact lost one of my very first jobs because of a politician who went ape whenever somebody questioned the terrible things that happened while she was in power.

But it was a golden period for me, following on from Thatcher's own political demise, because her party remained in government for another seven years. Great news for hard-hitting drama and political thrillers. Why? Simple:

Because we expect Conservatives to misbehave. We know that they're up to no good. We can devote all our energies, 24/7, to uncovering their multitudinous peccadilloes, their evil little schemes, their shady deals, their assaults on civil liberties ...

Thirteen years under a centre-left government just weren't the same. Okay, so the Labour leadership might mess things up a bit. They might annoy us somewhat. They might even lead us into illegal wars. But they're not hideous, twisted, self-serving swindlers, bigots and cheats. Right-wing conspiracy theorists will go out of their way to invent strange stories about Labour but they're unlikely to be true.

The last thirteen years have not been very good for drama in the UK. But no sooner have the forked-tongued chinless wonders of the right got back into power and, hey, the BBC beckons me to The Drama Building. Former colleagues are enquiring about me after all this time. Looks like we might be back in business. TV Drama is about to be reborn out of fear and loathing, the anguish and the outrage which it is only sensible and proper to feel in the face of this dreadful coalition government.

Something in the air, my friends. Something in the air ...

(Oh, and BTW - hi, Shayne!- a really good friend who works in arts documentaries has suggested that the BBC might be interested in a documentary or two about Shakespeare, or rather about the revelations I can offer. So that's something else I'll be looking into very closely, while publishing's very, very quiet just now.)

1 comment:

  1. Oh! I'll permit myself cautious excitement regarding your last paragraph.