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Ken Loach: Up the Junction by Gemma Starkey
Introduction The Wednesday Play Up the Junction From studio to street Controversy Legacy
The Wednesday Play
Image from titles of The Wednesday Play

What was The Wednesday Play? What made it so innovative? And why did millions of people watch it?

In an age of hundreds of digital, satellite and cable TV channels, it's easy to forget that until 1955 there was just one, the BBC. By 1964, when the BBC launched its weekly drama strand The Wednesday Play, there were three: BBC1, ITV and the newest arrival, BBC2.

The Wednesday Play was created to give upcoming writers and directors the freedom to make exciting, original dramas reflecting contemporary life. From the outset, the strand was regularly generating upwards of nine million viewers. As Ken Loach remembers: "The medium was new, therefore it was more exciting. It was more innocent; the audience hadn't grown up with it, so they were prepared to watch and be excited by it in a way people aren't today."

These huge audiences meant that the makers of The Wednesday Play were in a privileged position - they had a unique platform from which to tell the stories they wanted to tell, and a public ready and willing to tune in. Covering topics as diverse as homosexuality and capital punishment, racial prejudice and mental illness, these plays were sometimes controversial, but more often than not they were original, dynamic and challenging.

In this short film we discover how and why The Wednesday Play began, who made it and why it is considered so important in the history of British television drama.

Click on 'Featured Video' in the right panel to start watching.