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Armchair Theatre

November 29, 2015

I’ve been wondering for ages what it would take to bring about a wider public interest in the real lives of the learning disabled. Not a patronising Children in Need/Pride of Britain exposure. More a Ken Loach/Jimmy McGovern boot in the privates. A drama with a cast of thousands that includes the social workers, the health workers, the courts, the psychiatrist’s, the charities, the positive behaviour crowd, etc etc.

I’m old enough to remember when Cathy Come Home first aired. I remember lessons at school being cancelled to discuss issues the play raised. We talked about it at family get together. It was repeated yearly for several years after the initial transmission. Something changed in a big way. I don’t think that in 2015, with the schedules flooded with reality shows that a Cathy would even cause a ripple. Unless we could phone in and vote which of Cathy’s kids would be released from care. And win ¬£25k in the bargain. Hearts and minds are very different to what they were in the Sixties.

On Friday, I spoke at a Best Interest Assessors event in Birmingham. The evening before, I had dinner with Wendy the BIA trainer. Like me, Wendy is a complete Court of Protection geek and over a simple meal, we talked about recent cases. I did the same event two years ago when Justice Baker was the main speaker. During the break, he told me he thought the Get Steven Home story was very filmatic. It was very funny seeing Wendy go all weak kneed over meeting her hero, Justice Baker, in a rather George Clooney fashion.

We talked how some judges like Justice Baker and Justice Peter Jackson are great writers. Real dramatists. Their judgments are fabulous page turners. They take you on a raw, brutal journey. Wendy told me how she had turned some judgments into “radio plays” for her students to wrestle with. I thought that was a great idea.

Later, in bed, I thought that some judgments could be presented in exactly the form they were written. A bit like Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads dramas. The legal arguments may need some editing but the cases are big stories. Always a matter of life and death. Always exploring major existential and philosophical issues. Always shocking and packed with emotion. Could it work? Six big cases given a series? Would it have any impact?

My fantasy is that they would start off like Bake Off. On a smaller channel with limited appeal. But then something would happen. And just possibly, hearts and minds might be engaged in a way that we thought had been lost forever.

Where is Dennis Potter when you need him.

From → Social Care

  1. Jayne knight permalink

    That’s just great. I wonder if any if the drama schools or media studies places do films of this nature. Just maybe to get an interest later from a larger channel. Or maybe some of the law firms sponsoring a short demo type film. I think people often get this aired then on social media and then if it’s picked up there is more interest? Crowdfunding is very popular for the arts. I read about a play that was crowd funded and the bonus in the crowd fund depending on the pledge was tickets plus posh bits depending on pledge. They got the whole production funded at the Edinburgh Fringe.

  2. Lizzie D permalink

    I heard an interview recently with a young woman who had won a drama prize (a prestigious one, I think) for a play she had written about her brother’s experiences of the WCA. Apparently, part of the prize is that it will be shown at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. So I think the budding Denis Potters are around – audiences may be a bit more of a problem. In the 60s, Ken Loach was admired, and people could be shocked into action. Now, he tends to be sneered at.

    There are good people who care, lots of them. But those with the power seem to be cut from different cloth.

  3. Shirley Buckley permalink

    How about Mr Justice Charles judgments on Martin’s and my case in the Court of Protection 2006 to ? A bit Alice in Wonderland “Off with her head” High comedy until you realize that Martin’s rights have been annihilated – then a tragedy. Or to quote the judge himself “a shambles” The Official Solicitor’s case was a shambles that makes it sort of slapstick

  4. weary mother permalink

    Love the idea. Hope someone like Ken Loach runs with it. If others do it, could be be a parody/pantomime. Full of boos and cheers?

    Really really bad baddies and truly inspirational heroes and heroines…

    Half a decade on from Cathy a back drop where:

    vulnerable people are lazy ‘scroungers’. ‘THE’ ‘working poor’ doing 3 jobs and too poor to heat their house or feed their children

    Re-ablement’ works miracles. Senna pod for constipated LA budgets……

    Person centred planning’ – is Hobson’s’ or nothing at all.

    ATU’s. no housing shortage here ?

    Social workers don’t do social work – now ‘care managers’ who frighten the bejasus out of us.

    And Cathy thought she was having a rough time?

  5. weary mother permalink

    OOps, meant half a CENTURY since Cathy (‘came home’). Time and support has flown.

  6. Lizzie D permalink

    Cathy WAS having a rough time. But what was so striking about that at the time was it showed how easy it was to fall through the “net”, and how dire the consequences were. People were shocked, and it did cause an uproar.

    Would that happen now? The net is so full of holes it barely exists – but compassion and the belief that things can and should be different seems to be gone. In my opinion, most people assume that disabled people ARE taken care of – until they find out the hard way that it is a horrible mess – and that the systems in place are a large part of the problem.

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