Sunday, 29 March 2015


Some 20 years ago John Willis, head of Channel 4, told me that he wanted to do a week of shows about the homeless on 4. He was determined to do it but worried that commercials makers wouldn’t want to be associated with a channel doing a week of depressing programmes.

John’s father was the legendary Ted Willis, a writer of extraordinary screenplays and plays, who was also a dedicated socialist. Hence I suppose this was one of the reasons that his son wanted to do this week about homelessness. 

The week would include Cathy Come Home, Edna the Inebriate Woman, interviews with people in terrible circumstances and including a group of people building their own homes.
A few months later I bumped into John and asked him about the success or failure of his experiment. He told me that he was thrilled about it. Far from a disaster, Channel 4’s income for that week had exceeded the income from any week from the previous six months.

This connects to my previous post about Jack Rosenthal. If Channel 4 can do such a radical transformation of their normal weekly output what about Jack and others?

There must be treasures hidden somewhere waiting to be aired. There must be plays from Pinter, Stoppard, Charlie Wood, Rosenthal and many, many more just crying out to be seen and audiences that want to see them.

Come on Channel 4, root around, dust them off and show them again. John Willis has moved on but there must be someone at 4 with the wit to take a chance.

Think about it. Please. Just press the button marked GO.         

Friday, 27 March 2015


When I did two series of TAXI with Sid James and Bill Owen in 62 and 63. Jack Rosenthal and Harry Driver wrote the 2nd series.

Jack and Harry were script writers on Coronation Street. Harry was severely crippled. He had been an under manager in a supermarket and did a comedy act in the evenings. He had accident at work and was completely paralyzed. He wrote using a knitting needle in his mouth and tapping out the letters on a typewriter. In Manchester I visited his house and watched him doing it. Extraordinary.

Jack and Harry came to London for the read throughs. Harry driven down by his secretary stretched out in the back of an estate car.

I’m writing this because of the dedication of Harry and the incredible efforts that he put himself through. Also because of Jack Rosenthal, such a sweet and talented man. Both of them much missed. Part of my passed and my memories.

The WHY is the title of this piece is because Jack wrote some many superb TV plays, Including Sunday and Sweet F.A, Ready When You Are, Mr McGill, Spend, Spend, Spend and close to his heart Bar Mitzvah Boy.

So, why, don’t these ‘up their own backsides‘ TV executives do something about showing these plays again by one of the country’s greatest TV writers?

I know it’s a hopeless bleat from me but fingers crossed.    

Sunday, 22 March 2015


Doomy, gloomy clouds gather over The Little Theatre in Brighton. Why? Because in a 73 seater theatre, 3 seats held back because bad ‘sight lines’, only 37 seats sold for my show.  

Carol ‘Tiger’, my contact at the theatre, says sales are selling ‘slow but sure’. Slow? I have to assume that they thought that they’d fly out of the door. After all, Sam’s arranging interviews with Juice radio, Brighton radio, the local paper The Argus and also a local TV station, surely all these outlets would get people flooding in. But no, not a sausage.

Allowing for all Sam’s pushing not achieving anything in Brighton, everything looks bleak for my bookings  at The Barn Theatre and the Liverpool Lantern Theatre.

As Michael Winner, my early mentor in my career, said ‘Calm down, dear.’, yes, don’t panic Brighton.

In the past, four times on the trot, performing in pub function rooms, I sunk without a trace.

Let me give you the numbers attending these ‘events’. First: 6 people. Second: 8. Third: 4 (two ‘fans’ of mine had driven up on the M.2. to attend (bless them). Fourth: nobody came along.

So, how do I feel about 37 people attending The Little Theatre? At the beginning I’d hoped for more hoping the allure of Mr Benn would pull people in but as time has rolled on my happiness increased.  37 is not a failure, it’s a minor triumph for me.

Maybe I’m the only person happy about it but let’s hope those 37 leave with with a smile on their faces..

I’ll work my socks off to give them a jolly time.

Saturday, 7 March 2015


!: An Oliver outlet has closed in Brighton!

2: Tessa, a friend of ours, has read Lies. She is a distant relative of the the owners of the publishers Jonathan Cape. She loved Lies.

3: I’ve sold some tickets for my show at The Little theatre on Sunday 12th of April. So if any of you fancy an evening in red plush seats, a downstairs Victorian Bar if you need to wet your whistle, watch clips of my films and TV shows, my chatting about the people and my career and also talking about Mr Benn, plus a few tricks, why don’t you come along? I’d love to see you.

Little Theatre for tickets 

Sunday, 1 March 2015


I did a series for Channel 4 many moons ago about the importance of local shops and the community. Ken Richardson had a hardware shop. An old people’s home was just around the corner. Mr Richardson, who’d been trading for over thirty years knew everybody. One day an old lady from the home, saw Mr Richardson putting his wares outside his shop.

‘Morning, Mr Richardson.’ she said.
‘Morning, Mrs Jones, how are you?’
‘Not sleeping well at the moment. I’m on my was to see the doctor.’
‘Do you fancy a cup of tea, Mrs Jones?’

Mrs Jones sat down with her cup of tea, told Mr Richardson about her woes, he sympathized and by the time she’d finished her tea she’d forgotten about going to see the doctor and went back home. She needed someone to talk to. That’s what local shops offer. People that you know, who are helpful and, most importantly of all... listen.

I can go through many examples of the importance of local shops. But they are closing faster than pubs. Why?

Here’s a clear example. A Jamie Oliver restaurant has just opened in our area. Not the best of nosh but he’s popular. Fifty yards away from Oliver’s there was a beautiful children’s book shop. It had been operating for over twenty five years. Now it has closed.

The reason is simple. In comes Oliver’s, the landlords of shops in the same street put the rents up. Their logic is that because Oliver’s in the area, more people will be around, therefore the renters of their shops will make more money, so why not the greedy landlords.

It’s horrible, it’s crazy, the ex-children’s book shop is empty, no one has taken it up. I suppose in time it’ll be a short let for an antique shop, a coffee outlet or, as most empty premises. are taken over by Charity shops.

I don’t know what can be done about it, no point in appealing to the landlords soft side! They’re like armadillos.

And Armadillos are ruthless and devour anything in their path.