The Wednesday Play: Up The Junction (1965)

Social realism, Ken Loach-style

What would Wednesday be like without a little bit of cheery social realism from Ken Loach, hey? You don’t have to imagine, because today’s play is Up The Junction, a Wednesday Play from 1965. Based on the 1963 Nell Dunn novel of the same name, which in turn was based on conversations the authoress overheard in local pubs, the play depicts then-contemporary life in Battersea, showing everything from petty thieving and sexual encounters, to births and deaths. Unsurprisingly, it was watched by 10m viewers and attracted a record 400 complaints.

More importantly, Loach’s characteristic documentary-style depiction of back-street abortions was powerful enough that the public debate was swayed and abortion was legalised in 1967. Loach commented that the use of documentary elements reflected the programme’s scheduling: The Wednesday Play appeared immediately after the evening news. “We were very anxious for our plays not to be considered dramas but as continuations of the news,” he added.

Less importantly, it led to a movie the same year that starred Dennis Waterman and Maureen Lipman. Can’t be helped, that.