Football’s Darkest Secrets, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, director Daniel Gordon.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000ths2/footballs-darkest-secret-series-1-1-the-end-of-silence

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000tjhv

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000tjgr/footballs-darkest-secret-series-1-3-the-reckoning

Dalmuir Diamonds is long gone. A boy’s football club I wasn’t part of, but knew about.  Players aged nine, ten or eleven played on the gravel park at Beardmore Street in the early 1970s. The park paved over. Whenever anyone mentions Dalmuir Diamonds there’s that snigger and Bob Finlay’s name is mentioned. Bit of light-hearted bender banter. He was a janitor in the Community Education Centre boys got changed in and he was manager of the team. He was also a kiddy fiddler.

I took a similar light-hearted tone when writing about getting trials for Celtic Boy’s Club and standing there with my kit in a plastic bag and the manager picking the team and not having a clue who I was. I might well have wandered in off the street. My punchline was that I didn’t stay long enough and wasn’t even good enough to get sexually abused. Looking back to the under-15s team that Davy Moyes played in (along with some of my schoolmates, but not me) and we trained on the gravel parks at Barrowfield, there were two abusers there. One was Jim Torbett, the other manager of the under-16 team that included Charlie Nicholas, was Frank Cairney. He spotted me running off the pitch after a Thursday night training session. And he did a strange thing, although he didn’t know me and had never seen me before, he punched me in the stomach as I passed him. I didn’t think anything about it.

I played football for over thirty-five years, but didn’t win any Scotland caps or play professionally as these guys did. I played Welfare leagues for teams that needed bodies that were semi-ambulant and would pay two or three quid for a game. I loved it.  

Andy Woodward, who played for Crewe Alexander; Former England internationalist, Manchester City and  Liverpool forward Paul Stewart, who also scored in the FA cup final for a Spurs team that included Gazza and Gary Lineker; David White the new wunderkid at Manchester City who played for England; Ian Ackley who didn’t play professionally, Dean Radford, who played for the Southampton youth team; Dion Raitt, who played for the Peterborough youth team, and like all the other boys hoped to become a professional player; David Eatock at Newcastle United youth team; Colin Harris at Chelsea. All of these boys had the joy of playing the sport they loved and excelled at sucked out of them. They became different boys, different people after the abuse. Watching these three programmes, the pattern seemed similar to how Michael Jackson worked away from the bright lights.

Befriend the family and offer the dream. If your kid works hard enough, he’s going places. He’s already got the talent. All that’s needed is that bit of extra encouragement and tuition. Barry Bennell, sentenced to 31 years, for 50 counts of child sexual abuse, with hundreds, perhaps thousands of cases not coming to court hid in plain sight. He was the star maker for up-and-coming boy’s teams and had contacts with Manchester City and later provided a conveyor belt of talent to lowly Crewe Alexander. He indirectly propelled them and their up-and-coming manager Dario Gradi up the English leagues. Bennell was untouchable. He raped and sexually abused Andy Woodward, daily, while he was a schoolboy at Crew Alexander academy aged between eleven and fifteen. He married Woodward’s sister. That’s how convincing he was. Andy Woodward even wrote a letter exonerating and praising Bennell for his work with kids like him when he was arrested and sentence to four years in prison for child abuse offences Florida in 1995 after accepting a lesser plea of sexual molestation.

Thirty years later, 2016, aged 43, Andy Woodward waived his anonymity in an interview with Daniel Taylor, a sports journalist at The Guardian. He also spoke on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show. This had a catalysing effect so that others who suffered sexual abuse came forward with their own stories of abuse.

An NSPCC hotline, set up with the English Football Association money, but dedicated to ex-footballers who had experienced sexual abuse received more than 860 calls in the first week.

‘One of the texts we had was from a 13-year-old boy who was preparing to take his own life. He texted to say that, because of Andy, he was going to talk to someone.’

Paul Stewart also waived his anonymity. He spoke publicly of his ordeal after being abused by Manchester City youth coach Frank Roper. Roper told him he had to have sex or he wouldn’t make it as a footballer. Other kids were doing it too. Normalising behaviour. Holding the dream at arm’s length. Holding the shame inside. Roper threatened to kill his parents and brothers if he told anyone.

‘I had some highs in my career, but I never enjoyed them, because I had this empty soul,’ Stewart says. ‘I was dying inside. I masked it with drink and drugs’.

Frank Roper died before he could be brought to justice.

Former Southampton youth coach Bob Higgins is filmed in an interview suite not answering question put to him by Hampshire Police detectives as they conduct interviews. Even more worrying, Higgins was the subject of a police investigation in the early 1990s, but the subsequent trial resulted in his acquittal. Dean Radford and Ian Ackley waived their anonymity.

Watching this programme it’s difficult to believe a jury would not convict Higgins. And whilst he was put on the sexual-offences register, he was not jailed. Dion Raitt, who was abused by Higgins at Peterborough in the mid-nineties sums up the belief that justice delayed is justice denied: ‘If they’d have got their justice the first time around, then I wouldn’t have even met him’.

Following a trial in which a jury couldn’t reach agreement, and a retrial, Higgins was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse against 24 boys and sentenced to 24 years in jail.

Derek Bell confronted George Ormond, a youth coach connected to Newcastle United, who had abused him. He went to his door with a knife. Luckily for Ormond (and Bell) he wasn’t in. He later went back and recorded a confession from his abuser on a tape recorder hidden in his jacket pocket. Ormond was convicted in Newcastle Court of 36 sexual offences (I’d guess you can multiply that by any figure over ten to 1000) in a period spanning twenty years between 1973 and 1998.  

 Judge Edward Bindloss described Ormond as ‘wholly preoccupied with sex’ and said he ‘used his position as a respected football coach to target boys and young men in his care’.

George Ormond received a twenty-year prison sentence. A substantial sentence like the other paedophiles featured in the programme. Too little, too late, for many. Those abused lost not their dreams of glory, but their ability to dream. They lost their childhood, and the abuse cast long icy spikes into adulthood. These paedophiles, who still plead their innocence, stole their innocence. It makes me angry, really angry. Magnify that anger and multiply the shame those poor boys felt. That’s the way I create my characters and the way they walk and talk. Let’s hope they rot in prison. They’ve created a prison for their victims.   

Black Narcissus, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Writer Amanda Coe based on a novel by Rumer Godden (1939), Director Charlotte Bruus Christensen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08x8kml/black-narcissus-series-1-episode-1

 Gemma Arterton plays the lead role of Sister Clodagh, famously taken by Deborah Kerr (from Helensburgh).  Diana Rigg, who died this year, plays a cameo of Mother Dorothea. From the safety of Darjeeling she gets to task of warning Sister Clodagh that it won’t all be peaches and cream at Mopu in the Himalayas when the snow sets in. A missionary group of brothers have already failed in their quest to bring Anglo-Saxon English with a sprinkling of Catholicism to the natives. Jim Broadbent even pops up as bumptious, but kind, Father Roberts to add authenticity. Karen Bryson gets to play the token black nun, Sister Philippa. Alessandro Nivola as Mr Dean, the love interest. Nila Aalia as Angu Ayah, the caretaker and cat women, who predicts doom, doom, doom.

Nice scenery and the tolling of the bell that extends, over three nights, to three episodes.  

Small Axe: Mangrove, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen, directed by Steve McQueen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08vy19b/small-axe-series-1-mangrove

In my day Steve McQueen was the go-to guy if you wanted ride a motorcycle over barbed wire to escape the Germans, or rescue screaming women and children from a building skyscraper. We’re still waiting for the enquiry into Grenfell Tower, but we all know the score. Nothing much will be done, while the issues of class and race hatred will be quietly shunted into a side-line of something been seen to be done offscreen.

The black Steve McQueen is the new king of cool. He can do pretty much anything, (apart from ride a motorbike over barbed wire) and won pretty much everything, including an Oscar for best film, 12 Years a Slave. He’s part of the establishment and being given an OBE.  He edited The Guardian’s The New Review to publicise his film anthology about historical injustices involving racial discrimination. BBC gave him a prime Sunday night slot for his drama.

Steve McQueen claims, ‘With Small Axe I want to reshape history’.

That sort of stuff doesn’t make me think of invading Poland, but of a joke in which Jesus answers a parable with a parable in which adulterous woman are going to be stoned.

‘If anyone is without sin, let them fling the first stone.’

And the Virgin Mary lobs a big rock.

Steve McQueen can’t walk on water.  In the first episode of his series, Mangrove, depicts a true story about what happened in Notting Hill in early 1970s. His aim is to get under your skin.

Mangrove is the name of a West Indian restaurant opened by Frank Chrislow (Shaun Parkes)  and closed, nine times in three weeks by the Metropolitan Police. Chrislow was following the dictates of the Enlightenment written in black and white in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations which extolled the righteousness of free enterprise, free from political intervention, government interference or legal restraint, ‘ruled by divine law for the ultimate being of all’.

Enoch Powell’s River of Blood Speech 20th April 1968 in Birmingham. ‘If they’re black-send them back.’ Remember that? Pre-Brexit, the threat of the black invasion. They were over here threatening our British way of life. ‘No blacks, No Irish, No dogs.’ It’s just as well we’ve moved on since them and we have Priti Patel as Home Secretary enforcing a policy of deporting refugees, equally, regardless of skin colour. Anyone sleeping rough can be deported back to their country, even if they’ve not got a country. It’s just best guess.

A cameo in Mangrove shows how that works. The rookie cop at Notting Hill station is playing at cards. He picks out the Ace of Spades. The other cops josh him, ‘you know what that means?’

He’s told that he needs to nick the first black man he spots.

‘What if he hadn’t committed an offence?’ the rookie cop asks.

In case you don’t get the Ace of Spades reference, we see the cops chasing a black guy and arresting him.

Frank Crichlow has committed even more of an offence. He’s opened a restaurant that sells spicy food such as goat curry. Worse than that it’s full of British people of West Indian descent that play cards and listen to music. In cop parlance that’s dealing drugs and running a prostitution ring.

Fling into the toxic mix Altheia Jones-LeCointe  (Letitia Wright) mouthy student, and leader of the British version of the Black Panthers. Add in Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby) whose study into black oppression suddenly includes his lover Barbara Beese (Rochenda Sandall) and their child threatened with being taken into care.

Show don’t tell is one of the rules of screenwriting (and writing in general). We can’t taste spicy food or curry, but we can listen to the music. We can see how the community lived. The before and the aftermath of police brutality and cover-ups.  The laws that are suddenly dragged out of retirement home for white people to confront a lippy West Indian community. New laws made on the spot for troublemakers.

We see the ‘riot’. We follow the arrests. There’s even time to nip off and get a screenshot of Chrichlow’s white girlfriend in the mirror telling him to come back to bed. That’s a double-dunt, in case you missed it, he’s not racist—they are. The establishment is.

Nine black men and women, including Chrichlow, are tried at the High Court, the Old Bailey. Incitement to riot and affray. They face serious prison time. Judge Edward Clarke (Alex Jennings) is described the Defence Advocate as your typical bully boy. In a different age he might well have become Prime Minister. Here he’s presiding over a case where no one will admit they’re guilty. Cops are always right, even when they’re wrong. And it’s not the Mangrove Nine who are on trial but the British establishment.

Viewers know how it ends, but we watch anyway as all wrongs are righted, or something like that. Rishi Sunak occupies 11 Downing Street, he’s looking to upgrade and evict the buffoon next door, all the better to deport even more refugees, wanting something for nothing. Even Steve McQueen OBE would find it difficult to write that script. It’s got to be Grenfell, that would be my cry. Grenfell puts these stories into the shade.     

Play for Today, The Black Stuff, BBC 1, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, written by Alan Bleasdale and directed by Jim Goddard.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tw1jz/play-for-today-series-10-the-black-stuff

Most people my age fondly remember Boys from The Black Stuff shown in the early 1980s. Yosser Hughes’s (Bernard Hill) catchphrase: ‘I can do that, gie’s a job!’ The Black Stuff was a prequel to Boys from The Black Stuff. It had the kind of audience figures—I’d guess around 15-20 million—that had cultural resonance in its depiction of working-class life in rundown Liverpool. Ironically, the repeat of The Black Stuff on BBC 4 was preceded by another programme, as it was in real life, Thatcher: A Very British Revolution.

It was the latter, rather than the former that was essential viewing. Alan Bleasdale’s drama hasn’t aged well. At just over an hour and a half it was overlong, and I thought it was shite.

Yosser Hughes was a bit-part player in The Boys From the Black Stuff series, yet he reached iconic status. Here we get the back story. He’s a misogynist wife beater, with a couple of kids, whose wife is cheating on him. His main gripe against Chrissie Todd (Michael Angelis) is that ‘he’s too nice’.   

Nice doesn’t get you anywhere in a Thatcherite world. Chrissie even admits to being nice and what’s worse, being happy. He shows he’s being nice by bringing a goose, ferret and some other animal in the work van with him as he drives to the tarring job they got lined up in some new housing estate in the Midlands. They’re staying in swanky digs and he claims nobody will feed the animals.  

Chrissie is too nice to be the gaffer. Gaffers are always bastards. Dixie Dean (Tom Georgeson) is fighting a losing battle with Yosser from the start. The men want more money. And even when Dixie gets it from his boss, McAuley, the men still aren’t happy. Yosser demands the men get a five pound a day rise, then when McAuley agrees says they should have asked for an extra tenner.

The only worker Dixie has power to bully is his son Kev (Gary Bleasdale—I guess a bit of nepotism here with the writer’s son getting a key role in the production).   They play this for laughs, and was about as funny as Benny Hill.

Kev, for example, ogles a female student in the petrol-station café who is holding a sign for Leeds. Loggo Logmond  (Alan Igbon) nicks his food from the counter but finds its display only, not edible, and then nicks food from his mates’ plates. Inevitably, been nice, Chrissie picks the female hitchhiker up and gives her a lift. Yosser gives her a hard time about being a student, and even worse, being female. Saudi Arabia’s got it about right he says were females are shackled to men’s needs. She gives as good as she gets with a feminist manifesto that includes details such as it’s not a good idea to threaten to rape female hitchhikers, while finding time to talk to shy Kev, and make him admit that he too had dreams—but hey, needs must, we live in the real world.  

Booking into the hotel, Dixie tells Kev to stop staring at the female customers and gives him money to go to the pictures. Make sure it’s not one of those Emmanuel type movies is his advice.

Chrissie’s worried about old George Malone (Peter Kerrigan) he’s heard him spewing up in the toilets. Old George is about my age now. George says he’s fine. A former Communist, Chrissie tell his fellow workers in a whisper with some admiration and a grudging respect. He needs to work and takes painkillers to sleep.

Kev, in Benny-Hill mode, finds out the hotel has a masseur that does extras. Naturally, there’s a bit of a mix-up.  £4 for a masseur, £15 for extras. I found the financial details more interesting than the smutty strand of the storyline, which makes me think, I might be turning into my da.

The major storyline also relies on stereotypes. Here you have a major turning point. Hardcore on a farm laid, but no tar to finish it. Yosser is willing to cut a deal and drag his mates along. But they two Irish ‘gypos’ type. Easy to stiff. Right from the off, the plot goes  as you’d expect. If you can’t see the ending then you too must have been on the hard stuff.

I’m sure Boys from the Blackstuff was good at the time. Maybe I should have left it there. You never step into the same stream twice argument. To think I used to watch Benny Hill—fuck off. To think unemployment was around the fifteen percent mark in the early eighties. It’s only five percent now. Dream on. Nobody’s laughing.

Inside the Bruderhof, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Emma Pentecost and narrator Katherine Jakeman.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00071xr/inside-the-bruderhof

The end of the world is nigh. That’s not religious dogma, but the science of global warming. Hundreds of millions will die. Perhaps billions. The mass extinction of non-human species on land and sea has already begun. But Inside the Bruderhof is a joyous look at communal living in a religious community. But then again, I’m a big fan of utopia. The flip- side of Brave New World was Aldous Huxley’s Utopia. An island nation where everything was going swimmingly until a takeover bid called democracy with an injection of neo-liberalism was just another way of saying dictatorship, and not of the proletariat.  Remember onscreen when hard-bitten cop Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis looking pretty dinky in Amish costume got together in Witness. ‘Worlds apart’ was the tagline. The Bruderhof aren’t Amish, they don’t, for example, travel about in horse and cart, but director Emma Pentecost in this forty-minute documentary goes for that angle of cute otherness.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah, who plays a major role in this documentary, puts it bluntly, ‘It feels like I’m from a different time zone… Someone from the middle-ages shows up in London and stays in those ages… That way of life. I kinda feel like a foreigner.’ She probably doesn’t even realise she’s a ginger.

Ford and McGillis had to protect an eight-year-old boy in a corrupt world. Here we’ve got the before and after. Hannah is leaving the idyllic countryside setting of Darvell in Sussex and moving fifty-six miles to inner city Peckham (of Fools and Horses fame) to find work for a year, outside the community.

Hannah, the eldest of three children leaves behind her father, Bernard, and mother, Rachel, and around three hundred other people in the community she has known all her life to ask a very important question of herself: Does she want to remain part of the Bruderhof?

 Ironcially, she moves into another Bruderhof community, with house parents, but in London, which isn’t the London I knew when I hitchhiked down there when I was nineteen. A London of smash and grab and no time for anything but money, money, money and fuck-you more money.  This is a different kind of cloistered freedom Hanna experiences with other girls on the same quest. For the first time in her life, for example, she’s handling hard cash and toying with eight-inch heeled shoes in Rye Market.

‘One thing I have learned is how empty life is,’ she concludes. ‘And how we fill our life with stuff. It’s just so unnecessary.’

Amen to that. The question who am I? becomes what am I? (A question we all need to ask ourselves, and there’s a category of hell for Trump supporters and Tories.)

Aged 21, Hannah knows, like the other youngsters, she must commit or leave the Bruder community. Her father tells the narrator that around 25% to 30%  of young people in the community do not commit to staying and do leave. That it is not a utopia or a democracy.  ‘But it’s healthy, them leaving’.

‘People move where they’re told. People move internationally. It’s a way of life where you have to give up that kinda stuff, or you shouldn’t join.’

There are a few types of jobs, but everybody that is able works. And the domestic duties are taken predominantly by the females. Men work the land and workshops that produce, for example, wooden chairs and toys for classrooms and day-care centres.

Bernard says, ‘People come here and see gender segregation. But it’s no big deal. Nobody is getting paid.’

What is also noticeable to the viewer is there are no people of colour in the Bruder community. Is playing the white man, literal, metaphysical or other?  

The narrator quizzes a young lady in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, ‘Have you ever questioned the division of jobs?’

Answer, ‘Yes as a young woman, as a teenager, but as I grew older I came to understand the significance of why it is, we do what we do, here.

‘I’ve never been so free in my life.  Because we are under no pressure to follow anything, but to follow Christ.

‘And we do that in a free way, by taking care of our kids, taking care of other people’s kids.

‘We have our roles, it’s a traditional thing, but not a bad thing, it’s a wonderful thing.’

Hardy, aged 26, presents the flip-side of the community. The one that got away, but ‘if you ask me, I couldn’t live anywhere else’, he says, while being filmed angling.

He moved to UK, 2010. He grew up in Bruderhof. As a child he described it as ‘paradise’.  Rebel, typical teenage behaviour, ‘the grass is greener’. He left with his family of five siblings when he was fourteen, with the blessing of the community. They returned, well mostly, a few of them didn’t. That didn’t make them bad people.

Hannah’s father Bernard concludes, ‘We’re not utopia. The Bruderhof works because everybody has given up their life.’

The narrator asked Hardy, ‘Why did you come back?’

Hardy, ‘I never felt the same sense of belonging anywhere else.’

Narrator, ‘Some people might say you’re running away from real life by moving back here’.

‘I don’t think the Bruderhof is an escape from reality. We’re not trying to get away from the terrible things in the world. From a selfish point of view, I think I’d probably be happier living elsewhere. I knew it’d take sacrifice. I’d have to give up what I’d have to do with my life.

After a month away Hannah has more or less made her mind up. ‘All the people of the Bruderhof have committed themselves to a cause, there’s that meaning that gets you out of bed in the morning. If it wasn’t for my faith, yeh—I’d see no point in life’.

There’s a lot of good faith in the Bruder community. It would have been interesting to see it during lockdown with the corona virus. I’m sure with green field and sunshine they’d have handled it better that most. Generally, people with strong religious beliefs live longer, happier, lives. But there’s always the bad apple. That’s the story I want to hear most. Paradise is great, but after the fall is more interesting. The four horseman of the apocalypse are already in the saddle. I believe that. I truly do. Perhaps the Bruder community can teach us something useful about the way we should live, but I think it’s too late for most of us. Perhaps for all of us.

Anthony, BBC 1, 8.30pm. BBCiPlayer, Writer Jimmy McGovern and Director Terry McDonough.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000lb9c/anthony

I’m a fan of writer Jimmy McGovern’s work rooted in Merseyside and working-class life. His production company can pretty much sell what he produces to the BBC. His focus here is the murder of eighteen-year-old Anthony Walker. A black kid murdered by an ice-pick through his head in a Liverpool park, in an unprovoked racist attack in 30th July 2005. His two assailants received life sentences. The most convincing part of the drama is how this happened and the aftermath of the tragedy.

Toheeb Jimoh is given the role of Anthony in a sliding-doors moment of what would have happened had he lived in a life told backwards from his mid-twenties. The girl he would have married, Katherine, nee Dooley, Walker (Julia Brown), the children they would have had, the people he would have helped. Anthony wanted to be a civil-rights lawyer and work in America. It all comes dramatically true here, but in a less than convincing way.  Too much sugar makes poor drama.