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Land of Green Ginger (1973)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Land of Green Ginger (1973)
For Play for Today, BBC Birmingham for BBC1, tx. 15/1/1973
50 minutes, colour
DirectorBrian Parker
ProducerDavid Rose
ScriptAlan Plater

Cast: Gwen Taylor (Sally); John Flanagan (Mike); Jean Heywood (Mrs Brown)

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A young woman returns to her hometown of Hull for the weekend. But will she stay?

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Alan Plater's characteristically affectionate, witty, poetic and musical evocation of Hull, 'Land of Green Ginger', was shown nationally in the Play for Today strand, marking a highlight of the regional drama culture overseen from BBC Birmingham by producer David Rose.

The play does not simply record Hull, although Plater's stipulated locations are served well by director Brian Parker's location filming, both in poetic shots of the city and river Hull and semi-documentary observation of everyday details and people. Hull is partly romanticised (as Plater notes in his script, don't expect cold reason in a place that gives a street the mythical name Land of Green Ginger) from the perspective of Sally who has moved away. However, Sally resists romanticised images, sardonically replying "Lucky old us" to a journalist who intends to write about the area and who describes "mysterious Northern mist" behind Hull people's eyes.

The simultaneously real, imagined and distant Land of Green Ginger becomes associated with Sally's sense of home as she considers whether to work abroad or settle back in Hull with trawlerman boyfriend Mike. Equally, the traditional working-class community of her Hessle Road background contrasts with the isolated council estate to which her mother has been relocated following the demolition of inadequate housing. Therefore, Sally's visit to her bulldozed house reflects her problematic idea of home, just as the Humber Bridge (at that time as distant a prospect as Mike and Sally's reconciliation, and not completed until 1981) reflects her attempt to bridge London and Hull, traditional and fragmented communities, childhood and adulthood, and the way jobs require people to move away from home.

These ideas are heightened by inspirational incidental songs (and, briefly, on-screen performance) performed by The Watersons: folk music that reflects situation and theme in its lyrics and, given its traditional nature and community setting, form. Plater also draws inspiration from Philip Larkin: his original script quotes Larkin's evocation of the river Hull in his poem Here.

Despite the importance of the fishing industry to themes of loss and community, civic figures complained about associations with fish and decline rather than affluence. Plater dismissed such PR image-making in a public talk about 'Hull on Television', and insisted that the play was written out of love for the city. Such love burns brightly here and in the local theatre plays in his adopted Hull and native North-East which figure alongside Plater's successful television work.

Dave Rolinson

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Video Clips
1. To London hath strayed (3:54)
2. Bulldozed (2:12)
3. The bridge (3:25)
4. I must obey (3:47)
Plater, Alan (1935-2010)
Rose, David (1924-)
Play for Today (1970-84)