Jeremy Sandford ... I’m best known so far for my BBC TV screenplays Cathy Come Home (‘possibly the most successful TV play of all time’ - The Express) and Edna, the Inebriate Woman (‘the difficulty is to control one’s superlatives’ - The Times). Martin Banham in British Television Drama (Cambridge University Press) wrote ‘Television ... is a medium ideally suited to his campaigning and his compassion.’ Quentin Crewe in The Times wrote ‘Plays and novels have altered history, but ordinary writing has done so as well ... television plays like Cathy Come Home have served to awaken us ... the passion of Jeremy Sandford’s play would be inadmissable in a documentary.’
Cathy caused actual social change. Hundreds of husbands were returned to the families from whom they’d been separated in homes for the homeless. There was a specific government pledge to build 500,000 homes a year and the separating of some 4,000 children from their families because they were homeless was brought to an end. Repeated more often than any other programme made for television, Cathy recently was voted the best single television play of all time. The revolutionary techniques used in Cathy were watered down for Edna, the Inebriate Woman but even so it was the most popular television single drama of its year. And, ‘When Edna was first shown, many people commented that it seemed exaggerated ... Those who work in the field know that [it is] depressingly accurate.’ (Colin Hodgetts, Church Times).
Most recent projects have been Spirit of the Gypsies, introduced by David Essex, a 75 minute video celebration of British Romany Gypsy music which I produced and directed for the Gypsy Council; a heritage CD about my own childhood, Herefordshire Childhood; and writing my memoirs. I’m also engaged in preliminary recce for a community play on the Isle of Mull about the three wives of a past Laird Maclean of Duart Castle. And, for the MIND Millenium Project, creating a music based video about one woman’s journey through and triumph over schizophrenia.
Commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, I wrote Raggle Taggle, a community play with music for eighty performers that ran in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
Works for television include the BBC TV documentary Hotel de Luxe, about the Savoy Hotel, which I researched and scripted. It won an ACTT award, and was the subject of an attempted High Court injunction in which the hotel tried to prevent it being shown. My Granada play Don’t Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday starred Rita Tushingham.
I compiled, interviewed for, researched and presented some twenty programmes for BBC TV Women’s Programmes and later was to do thirty or so for Thames Television Religious Broadcasting. I researched and wrote the television documentaries, R.S. Thomas (for Monitor), Cathy’s Not Come Home (ITN), and Cathy Where Are You Now? (BBC TV Byline).
With the poets Adrian Henri and Carol Anne Duffy, I wrote and performed Boxes of Toys and Creamy Whirls, an evening of poetry and music (Young Vic and other venues), and with Philippa Sophia wrote and performed Dream Topping (The Kings Head Theatre Club, Edinburgh Festival at Ricky Demarco, at Olympia for the Festival of Mind and Body, and many other locations).
With the Romany Gypsy Singers, Ted Atkinson and Mark O’Gaillaidh I devised and performed a presentation of Gypsy music (Glastonbury Festival and many other locations). The show is also available as an audio cassette and book, and has on occasion also featured a Hungarian Gypsy Band and Dance Troupe.
I began my professional career with talks and feature programmes on the BBC Midland Region (Goodbye to Gospel Pass, Follies and Grottoes, A Canoe Trip Down the Wye, and many others). I then recorded and presented a largish number of features for the BBC Radio Home Service and Third Programme. (Living in Boats, Homeless Families, Gypsies, Battersea, Mechanical Music, Laurie Lee, John Bratby, and many others).
As poet and musician specialising in Irish, Scottish, Spanish, Romany Gypsy and Sacred Circle Dance music, I teach and perform at Rainbow Circle and Rainbow 2000 music and dance camps, and at Dance Camp Wales.
Books include: Cathy Come Home (Pan) (‘angry, humane, and totally authentic’ - The Observer), Edna, the Inebriate Woman (Pan) (‘Mr Sandford forces attention and involvement. The strength ... lies in his breadth and dimensions, comedy and sadness springing naturally from the character’ - The Telegraph), Synthetic Fun (Penguin) a study of canned amusement (‘a nice thick coarse sandwich’ - The Observer), In Search of the Magic Mushroom (Peter Owen and Sphere) about travels in Mexico (‘highly recommended’ - Guardian), Smiling David (Marion Boyars) (‘an angry and saddening book’ - TLS), Tomorrow’s People (Jerome) (about the world of pop festivals), Gypsies (Secker and Warburg and Abacus) (‘as a work of research it is ideal’ - Evening News), Prostitutes (Secker and Warburg and Abacus) (‘excellent ... valuable information from a range of remarkable women’ - New Society), Down and Out in Britain (Peter Owen and Sphere) (‘a frightening personal dossier’ - Evening Standard), Figures and Landscapes, Hey Days in Hay, Songs from the Roadside, Mary Carbery’s West Cork Journal, Rockering to the Gorjios.
Plays on radio and stage include Dreaming Bandsmen (Belgrade, Coventry) (‘in most attractive bad taste throughout’ - Daily Mail), Not Wishing to Return (Radio) (life in an Irish castle in 1900) (‘haunting’ - Observer), It Is For Ever (Radio) (based on the diaries and poems of Francis Kilvert), The Motor Heist (Radio), Oluwale with Paul Schofield as narrator (‘one of the year’s landmarks in the use of radio’ - Guardian), Whelks and Chromium (Radio) (later published in Penguin New English Dramatists), The Fatted Calf (ICA Theatre), Death of a Teenager, Virgin of the Clearways.
Series and Enquiries for many newspapers, both ‘popular’ and ‘highbrow’, have included Families without a Home (‘the most famous newspaper article in recent years’ - Penguin Special on Housing), The Dossers, Seaside, Soho, Dark Side of Affluence, The Revolt Against Marriage, Gypsies, Down and Out in Britain, Mexico, Fortune Tellers, Frontiers of Perception, Reincarnation, New Religions, The Other Health Service (homeopathy, etc), The Age of Consent, Female Ghosts, Car Thieves, Unmarried Mothers, Holiday Camps, Package Tours, Busking, Prostitutes, Black Britain, Unusual Parliamentary Candidates, etc.
An artist and executive member of the Gypsy Council and Landscape Radio Trust, currently I run a green and ‘New Age’ conference facility at my home Hatfield Court near Leominster. With my ex- wife Philippa I have lived the life of a wandering busker in the Balearic Islands.
Recreations listed in Who’s Who are painting, traditional and Romany Gypsy music (accordion and Irish whistle), travel, mountain exploration, riding, wandering, windsurfing, wondering, festivals, holistic educational camps, sacred circle dance.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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