TV Cream

Play For Today

Price of Coal, The: Meet the People

First of two linked plays by Barry Hines about life in a colliery community, directed by Ken Loach and featuring a quartet of northern club comedians in starring roles – Bobby Knutt, Duggie Brown, Jackie Shinn and Stan ‘Seth Armstrong’ Richards. Meet the People is a comic piece taking in the build-up to a visit by Prince Charles to the fictional Milton colliery near Sheffield. The pit managers schedule much repainting of buildings, planting of trees and grassing of the unsightly muckstack, while the miners, led by Knutt as Sid Storey, debate the rights and wrongs of splashing out so much for a royal visit. A pivotal scene in a working men’s club has Sid squaring up to a pit deputy over attitudes to royalty – Sid, as dissidents in Play for Today so often find, gets labelled a communist, but his real concern is that the workers and the village are having their interests put after national prestige.

In a revealing shot, the miners liberate a garden umbrella from the club to shelter under the downpour, and beckon all and sundry in the street under it as they march home. More farcical mishaps – the grass seed is washed off the muckstack, a royal equerry briefs the board on etiquette (“You look dead like the Duke of Edinburgh!”) and a brick propping open a broken window is painted over – lead up to the visit itself, with much cheering and waving of flags, and while Sid and pals work the coal seam as usual, Sid’s youngest, Mark, takes advantage of the day off school to go fishing. Some nice exchanges of dialogue, much brilliantly-observed banter between the miners (“We’re wandering round ‘ere like second-hand arseholes”), and plenty of topical digs at the silver jubilee, make this a neat little story.

Screen-grabbery:
Item number one: how do we make this boardroom more stereotypically drab? Allied Breweries property is theft Slag heap inspectors
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