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Speech Day

Barry Hines revisits the Yorkshire secondary school territory of Kes with this meandering look at the class politics dragged up by a prizegiving speech day. Ronnie Warboys (David ‘Flaxton Boys‘ Smith) and fellow school-leavers from underachieving form 5G1 find themselves roped into various menial tasks in preparation for the ‘prestigious’ afternoon – mowing the lawn, shifting chairs, etc. This they carry out with heroically sarky reluctance. As the event draws near, battle lines are drawn up between the haves and have-nots – senior staff are separated from juniors (including a debuting Paul Copley as woodwork teacher), prizewinning pupils are slagged off in absentia on the bus by Ronnie and pals, and most telling of all, the mayor, a former steel factory compadre of janitor George (Bill ‘Harry Cross’ Dean) blanks him completely.

The action cuts to flashbacks of Ronnie’s hard home life – everyone else in the family works: his dad (Brian Glover) at the steelworks, brother Danny at the factory which looks like Ronnie’s likely destiny, and mum sewing seams. Ronnie pops round to his Grandad’s, to be regaled by some unreconstructed Old Socialism, while George tells him how the mayor sold out from his Labour roots for a spot of social climbing. The progressively liberal stance of the school (the head reads out Martin Luther King speeches, and there are “modern folk songs” instead of hymns) is shown up as the same old divisive guff, leaving kids like Ronnie, unqualified but, clearly from their winningly sharp dialogue, far from gormless, on the industrial scrap-heap.

Screen-grabbery:
Glover for breakfast Write that down It was stools before 1976, trowels after, right?
Dear Lord and father of mankind... A PiF waiting to happen Regulation mucking about
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Julie Stringer

    June 3, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    To my amazement I have stumbled across a copy of Speech Day. I was a pupil at Ashleigh School in 1973 when it was filmed there and was given the bit-part of Margaret Shipman, one of the prize winners. I’ve remembered the experience since then but was never aware of the title of the play or that it had actually been aired, nor had I ever seen a copy. The experience had been a memory for 40 plus years and it was quite an emotional experience when I found and watched it last evening on YouTube, seeing my 15 year old innocent self. It’s a very poor copy and I’d love to see a better copy if one exists. I’d be very grateful for a lead please.

    Many thanks

    PS I have also stumbled across this website by chance so hope my request doesn’t disappear into a ‘dark hole’ – fingers crossed.

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