the writer of Cathy Come Home and Edna the Inebriate Woman,
Jeremy Sandford has the distinction of an output which is the one
of the smallest yet possibly the most famous in the history of British
television drama. Cathy Come Home is surely the most talked
about television play ever, and an iconic text in the radical canon
of the 1960s Wednesday Play, which has become overshadowed
by the association with its director, Ken Loach, and producer, Tony
more or less disappearing from television, Sanford surfaced in 1980
with a play commissioned for the series Lady Killers, and
then in 1990, as the homeless population in Britain began once again
to be a topic of public debate, with a documentary for the BBC,
Cathy, Where Are You Now?
Cathy was reshown in 1993 as part of a season commemorating
the setting up of the housing charity Shelter, Sandford wrote to
the Independent taking issue with a claim that doubts had
been raised over the accuracy of the homelessness and family separation
statistics given at the end of the play. "I work as a journalist
as well as an author," he wrote, "and it would be professional suicide
to be inaccurate." Sandford has never wholly identified himself
as television dramatist. A one time poet and artist, he had nursed
an early ambition to be a professional musician and played the clarinet
in an RAF band during his national service. One of his first plays,
Dreaming Bandsmen, broadcast by BBC Radio in 1956 and later
staged in Coventry, seemed to confirm his early reputation as a
surrealist, but at the same time he was recording radio documentaries
about working class life in the East End and it was as a journalist
and activist that he began writing about homelessness in the early
1960s. As he told an interviewer in 1990, he had always sought to
play his role on the stage of life rather than simply reflecting
it. Thus, not only did he submerge himself in the nether world of
the down-and-out for his research on Edna, but went on to arm himself
with his written work as part of an active crusade on behalf of
the dispossessed. A special showing of Cathy was arranged for Parliament
and Sandford himself toured the country screening and talking about
both plays at public meetings.
itinerancy and housing policy have been particular obsessions of
Sandford. His Anglo-Irish grandmother, Lady Mary Carbery, was a
member of the Gypsy Lore Society and he has campaigned on behalf
of gypsies and edited their newspaper Romano Drum. A play about
gypsies, Till the End of the Plums, was to complete a trilogy
about the homeless but was never produced.
of wealthy parents (his father owned a private printing press) and
educated at Eton and Oxford, he was brought up in a stately Herefordshire
home. In the late 1980s, after a long association with the alternative
communities of folk festivals and camps, he moved into a large country
house and opened it up as a study centre for New Age travellers.
further play, Smiling David, about the case of a Nigerian
drowned in a Leeds river and the agencies implicated in the events,
was commissioned for radio and broadcast in 1972 but never made
it to the television screen. Sandford's oft-remarked status as a
documentarist and social advocate rather than a natural television
dramatist is emphasised by the fact that the scripts for Cathy
and Edna are published in a series of political and social treatises.
His polemical and factual writing, such as Down and Out in Britain
which accompanied Edna, far exceeds the amount he has written
for television. However, the importance of his two major works in
defining the cultural role of television drama in Britain as an
intrinsic part, rather than mere mirror, of socio-political actuality,
cannot be ignored. Cathy Come Home remains a landmark in
this sense and Sandford's exchange with Paul Ableman in the pages
of Theatre Quarterly over the ethics of fictional form in
Edna the Inebriate Woman set the agenda for a debate about
the aesthetics and politics of drama-documentary that was to dominate
television drama criticism through the 1970s and 1980s.
SANFORD. Attended Eton Public School, Berkshire; Oxford University.
Married 1) Nell Dunn in 1956 (divorced 1986); three sons; 2) Philippa
Finnis in 1988. Worked initially as a journalist; established reputation
as socially-committed writer for television and radio with the documentary
Cathy Come Home, 1966; editor, Romano Drum (gypsy
newspaper); director, Cyrenians; executive, Gypsy Council; sponsor,
Shelter. Recipient: Screen Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award,
1967 and 1971; Prix Italia Prize for Television Drama, 1968; Critics'
Award for Television Drama, 1971. Address: Hatfield Court, Hatfield,
Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 0SD, England
1966 Cathy Come Home
1971 Edna the Inebriate Woman
1980 Don't Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday (Lady Killers)
Cathy, Where Are You Now
Dreaming Bandsmen, 1956. Smiling David, 1972
Bandsmen. Coventry: BBC Radio and Belgrade Theatre, 1956.
Come Home. London: BBC, 1966.
Fun, with Roger Law. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967.
the Inebriate Woman. London: BBC 1971.
and Out in Britain. London: Owen, 1971; Revised edition, London:
New English Library, 1972.
Search of the Magic Mushrooms. London: Owen, 1972.
and Cathy: Just One Huge Commercial." (Production Casebook No. 10),
Theatre Quarterly (London), April-June 1973.
London: Secker and Warburg, 1973. Tomorrow's People. London
and New York: Jerome, 1974.
David. London: Calder and Boyars, 1974.
London: Secker and Warburg 1975; Revised edition, London: Abacus,
Virgin of the Clearways. London: Boyars, 1978.
Songs From the Roadside, sung by Romani Gypsies in the
West Midlands. Clun: Redlake Press, 1995.
Paul. "Edna and Sheila: Two Kinds of Truth." Theatre Quarterly
(London), July-September 1972.
Martin. "Jeremy Sandford." In, Brandt, G.W. editor. British Television
Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Elizabeth (1990) "Gimme Shelter." Sunday Telegraph (London),
8 July 1990.
Alan. The New Documentary in Action: A Casebook in Film Making.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
Irene. Play for Today: The Evolution of Television Drama.
London: Davis and Poynter, 1975.
T.C. Television: The Ephemeral Art. London: Alan Ross, 1970.
Come Home; Garnett,