Willy Russell is one of Britain’s most famous dramatists and playwrights. The writer of Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers, probably his most famous work for television was Our Day Out, which went on to become a stage musical. First broadcast as a Play of the Week and then as a Play for Today, it’s a bittersweet comedy about a school trip to Conwy Castle in North Wales.
Although the play was ostensibly a look at the highs and lows for a group of illiterate teenagers of being away from school, Russell, a firm champion of the working class, particularly the working class of Liverpool, gives us a play largely about the poor lives faced by inner city children, in which a day out is about the best they thing they can look forward to in life.
Amazingly, it only took Russell five days to write the piece, although given he was a teacher, he was able to draw a lot on experience. Shot on 16mm film by the first-time director Pedr James (who went on to direct Our Friends in the North and then to become head of drama at BBC Wales), it also took just three weeks to film and features a largely untrained cast, but remains one of the BBC’s most popular plays.