What TV’s on at the BFI in May 2013 + The Wednesday Play (on Thursday): The Spongers (1978)

Tony Garnett

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in the month of May 2013. This month, as well as the continuing celebration of Doctor Who, which reaches the Peter Davison years with The Caves of Androzani

…there’s a Missing Believed Wiped special and the first half of a season of Tony Garnett’s work, that’s partly a Ken Loach season and which also includes Roland Joffé’s directorial debut, The Spongers, which I will arbitrarily declare this week’s Wednesday Play (on Thursday). Set during the 1977 Jubilee celebrations, Jim Allen’s script focuses on the plight of Pauline as she struggles to make ends meet. With a searing contemporary relevance, the film shows the human cost of decisions made by bureaucratic committees as council budgets are put under increasing pressure. Christine Hargreaves’ performance is devastating as we see the full impact of these decision on her children. One of the most important plays of the 70s, it still speaks loudly to our conscience today. Don’t forget to watch it at the BFI if you like it!

Wed 1 May 17:50 NFT2: In Two Minds
BBC 1967. Dir Ken Loach. With Anna Cropper, Brian Phelan, George A Cooper, Helen Booth. 72min
+ Play of the Month: The Parachute
BBC 1968. Dir Anthony Page. With John Osborne, Alan Badel, Jill Bennett, Lindsay Anderson
From the Tony Garnett season: The first is a powerful examination of the link between mental illness and the family environment; the second, set in Germany in 1940, elucidates German history and the culture that led to the atrocities of the war.

Fri 3 May 18:20 NFT2: The Big Flame
BBC 1969. Dir Ken Loach. With Norman Rossington, Godfrey Quigley, Peter Kerrigan. 85min
From the Tony Garnett season: a dramatisation of a take-over of the Liverpool docks by the dock-workers.

Sat 4 May 14:00 Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani
BBC 1984. Dir Graeme Harper. With Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant. 100min.
Peter Davison’s final story is a tour de force, combining some of the best writing and performances in the show’s history. The BFI hopes to welcome some special guests onstage to celebrate.

Wed 8 May 18:00 NFT2: Play For Today: Hard Labour
BBC 1973. Dir Mike Leigh. With Liz Smith, Clifford Kershaw, Alison Steadman, Ben Kingsley. 70min
+ Some Women
BBC 1969. Dir Roy Battersby. With Fionnula Flanagan, Natalie Kent, Cleo Sylvestre, Edith MacArthur. 70min
From the Tony Garnett season: Liz Smith perfectly captures the daily grind for a woman trapped by poverty and a loveless marriage, followed by Tony Parker’s play that uses real-life interviews to look at the causes of criminal behaviour among women.

Thu 16 May 18:20 NFT2: The Gangster Show: The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui
BBC 1972. Dir Jack Gold. With Nicol Williamson, Sam Wanamaker, Peter Frye. 105min
From the Tony Garnett season: George Tabori’s adaptation of Brecht’s play, with Williamson playing the psychopathic megalomaniac Ui.

Thu 23 May 18:00 NFT2: Days of Hope: 1926 (The General Strike)
BBC 1975. Dir Ken Loach. With Paul Copley, Pamela Brighton, Nikolas Simmonds. 133min
From the Tony Garnett season: A look at the pivotal point in British history when the uneasy balance between the establishment and the worker fractured.

Tue 28 May 18:30 NFT1: Missing Believed Wiped Special: An Evening With John Henshall
To celebrate 20 years of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative, it is mounting a series of specials throughout 2013, highlighting the most recent finds and revisiting some old favourites. This event will feature a discussion with cameraman John Henshall, who was found to have hundreds of tapes of rare and missing bits of television within his collection. Expect missing music, segments of lost dramas and rare pop footage.

Fri 31 May 18:20 NFT2: Play for Today: The Spongers
BBC 1978. Dir Roland Joffé. With Christine Hargreaves, Bernard Hill, Peter Kerrigan. 90min
From the Tony Garnett season: one of the most important plays of the 70s and Joffé’s directorial debut, this looks at the plight of Pauline and her children as she struggles to make ends meet as council budgets are put under increasing pressure.

Champions’ priority booking: 11.30am April 1
Members’ priority booking opens: 11.30am April 2
Public booking opens: April 9

£9.50 (members)
£7.00 (member concs)
£11.00 (non-members)
£7.50 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00.

All shows are £6 on Tuesdays. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.

As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.