What TV’s on at the BFI in July? Including The Wednesday Play (on Thursday) – Stocker’s Copper (1972)

Do you love director Jack Gold, who was responsible for – among many other things – The Naked Civil Servant? Then I have got the season for you at the BFI in July, with everything from documentaries to plays.

Do you want to watch something other than Jack Gold’s directorial work? Then sorry, nothing for you here. Move along. Although you might want to try this week’s Wednesday Play (on Thursday) first – Stocker’s Copper, a neo-realist dramatisation of the Cornish China Clay workers strike of 1913, starring Gareth Thomas (Blake’s 7), written by Tom Clarke (Muck and Brass) and directed by Gold. Or you might not.

Friday 1 July
18:20 NFT2
Jack Gold Documentary Programme
Jack Gold quickly progressed from being a film editor to producing and directing on the Tonight series in the 1960s. These works display his great strength in finding empathy at the heart of every story.

Tonight: Black Campus
BBC 1968. 31min
Esteemed BBC journalist Malcolm Muggeridge visits Fisk University, described as the senior American ‘Negro’ university. Gold’s astute observational skills make this a fascinating time capsule of 1960s views on US education.
+ Alan Whicker Reports from a Private World: The Model Millionairess
BBC 1963. 45min
The inimitable Alan Whicker explores the rarefied lifestyle of model and 1960s society icon Baroness Fiona Thyssen.
+ Tonight: Is It Cricket?
BBC 1963. 11min
The shared cultural values of cricket are contrasted with the prejudice and isolation experienced by immigrants in 1960s Britain. As the marvellously poetical commentary by Barbadian George Lamming states, ‘cricket is the legacy they share against the blasphemy of race.’
+ Tonight: Happy As Can Be
BBC 1959. 14min
Following the workers of one South London factory on their day out, Gold’s earliest work in the season displays his skills as a film editor-turned-director.

Saturday 9 July
15:30 NFT2
Jack Gold Drama Documentary Programme 
Gold’s experience as a director of documentaries as well as drama meant that he was able to perfectly judge the tone required for these dramatisations based on real incidents

Play for Today: Stocker’s Copper 
BBC 1972. Dir Jack Gold. With Gareth Thomas, Bryan Marshall, Jane Lapotaire. 75min
During the Cornish China Clay strike in 1913 police were drafted in and billeted with miners’ families. Some formed close relationships, making the violence that followed all the more painful. Gold invests his film with wonderfully unselfconscious performances (especially from the late Gareth Thomas) and a gritty neo-realist style.
+ Ninety Days + intro by Gillian Slovo, Ruth First’s daughter
BBC 1966. Dir Jack Gold. 
With Ruth First. 55min
Gold encouraged Ruth First to write the script and play herself in this highly revealing account of her arrest by the South African authorities for being a supporter of Nelson Mandela at the Revonia trial, after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. The result 
is a film that resonates with truth and authenticity.

Wednesday 27 July
18:20 NFT2
Jack Gold’s Early Dramas
These two early dramas display Gold’s dazzling versatility

The Wednesday Play: The Lump
BBC 1967. Dir Jack Gold. With Leslie Sands, Colin Farrell. 75min
Jim Allen’s script tells the story of 
a bricklayer who’s sacked from his job and forced to take up work on ‘the lump,’ an exploitative mode of employment without proper regulation. With a style reminiscent of Ken Loach, Gold brings a deep humanity to the workers’ struggle.
+ The World of Coppard: Dusky Ruth Omnibus.
BBC 1967. Dir Jack Gold. 
With Francis White, Mike Pratt. 20min
Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, Gold (alongside DOP Brian Tufano) creates a beautiful and powerful dissection of the nature of desire through images and performance, with dialogue pared down to essentials.

Saturday 23 July
18:00 NFT2
Jack Gold Arts TV Programme
Gold was equally at home in the world of arts programming, as these two superb examples testify

A Lot of Happiness: Kenneth MacMillan Creates a Television Ballet
Granada 1981. 64min
An insightful behind-the-scenes look at how the great choreographer MacMillan constructs a ballet, based on Orpheus, specifically for TV.
+ Dowager in Hot Pants
Thames TV 1971. 51min
A revealing examination of the Hollywood studio system and the survival tactics its stars had to adopt from the earliest days up to the 70s. The film includes rare interviews with Betty Blythe, Stanley Kramer, Adolph Zukor and many more.
+ Tonight: Dance Hall 
BBC 1960. 10min
A charming observational short looking at a dance hall in the Midlands on a typical Saturday night circa 1960.

Monday 25 July
18:30 NFT1
The Naked Civil Servant
Thames TV 1975. Dir Jack Gold. With John Hurt, Patricia Hodge, John 
Rhys-Davies. 78min
This groundbreaking drama, rightfully regarded as Jack Gold’s masterpiece, had a huge impact on audiences in 1975. Adapted by Philip Mackie from Quentin Crisp’s autobiography, it saw Gold coax an astonishing performance from a young John Hurt and find precisely the right style to tell this moving story of intolerance and one man’s fight for dignity and acceptance.
Joint ticket available with the Jack Gold panel discussion (below) £16, concs £12 
(Members pay £1.70 less)

20:30 NFT1
Jack Gold Panel Discussion 
with actors Sir John Hurt and Jane Lapotaire (work permitting), producers Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Tony Garnett, composer Carl Davis and cinematographer Brian Tufano TRT 90min
Our distinguished panel, comprising those who knew and worked with Jack Gold, will discuss the career of one of the most important directors British television has so far produced. The event will be illustrated with clips of Gold’s work, plus there will be the opportunity to ask questions of your own.

Saturday 30 July
18:10 NFT2
Jack Gold Drama Programme
Two totally contrasting dramas, in both content and tone, that demonstrate Gold’s incredible ability to adapt his style to the subject

The Wednesday Play: Mad Jack 
BBC 1970. Dir Jack Gold. With Michael Jayston, Michael Pennington, David Wood, Clive Swift. 68min

Michael Jayston excels as the complex poet Siegfried Sassoon, who awaits his fate having declared that he will not fight in a war he regards as a pointless waste of life. Gold’s direction and Carl Davis’ score combine wonderfully with Sassoon’s own poetry and the result is both compelling and highly revealing.
+ Sunday Night Theatre: Faith and Henry 
LWT 1969. Dir Jack Gold. With Hilary Baker, John Baron, Julia Jones, Allan Surtees. 56min
This drama is remarkable for the casual, almost incidental way a charming interracial relationship is presented, given attitudes in 1969. Julia Jones’ coming-of-age story and Gold’s unselfconscious direction nicely capture the optimism of youth as Henry asks Faith to be his girl – but Faith demonstrates a surprising independence that reflects the emergence of the modern woman.

Champions’ priority booking: June 6 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: June 7 11.30am
Public booking opens: May 14 11.30am

Prices (excluding gift aid)
£9.15 (members)
£6.85 (member concs)
£10.65 (non-members)
£8.35 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00

Prices (including gift aid and voluntary contribution)
£10.10 (members)
£7.55 (member concs)
£11.75 (non-members)
£9.20 (non-members concs)

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. 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.