Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Kizzy (1976)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Kizzy (1976)
BBC, tx. 21/1 - 25/2/1976
6 x 30 min episodes, colour
Directed byDavid Tilley
Production CompanyBBC Birmingham
Produced byDorothea Brooking
Dramatised byJohn Tully
Original novel Rumer Godden
PhotographyJohn Turner
MusicPeter Gosling

Cast: Vanessa Furst (Kizzy); Anne Ridler (Olivia); Melissa Docker (Prue Cuthbert); John Welsh (Admiral Twiss); Patrick McAlinney (Peters); Lisa Welsford (Elizabeth Oliver); Toby Bridge (Clem Oliver)

Show full cast and credits

A little gypsy girl must overcome personal tragedy and bullying when she is forced to adopt a 'gorgio' way of life.

Show full synopsis

Adapted from (Margaret) Rumer Godden's 1972 novel The Diddakoi, the only major change apart from a linear re-ordering of events was regarding the title. In the TV serial, little Kizzy Lovell is not diddakoi, a half-gypsy, but a full Romany. This simplification aside, the serial remains the story of orphaned traveller Kizzy and her trials and tribulations as she fights to be accepted by village gorgios (the gypsy word for those who live 'in brick').

As Kizzy's young teacher Miss Blount says: "Children can be so cruel," and at its core this is a story of bullying and intolerance. Kizzy continues a tradition of hardship fiction, in which misery after misery is heaped upon the shoulders of an unfortunate hero to great reader/viewer sympathy (The Railway Children and A Little Princess are among earlier examples). In the course of events Kizzy's guardian Gran dies and her gypsy caravan home is burnt down (in accordance with gypsy custom). Kizzy then catches pneumonia, is threatened with being put into care, bullied and physically attacked and sees her beloved horse die of old age.

Kizzy is no shrinking violet victim however but an ambivalent heroine, who gives as good as she gets. Given to tantrums, she pouts and sulks her way through six episodes. Hot-tempered, almost feral at times, she is quick to lash out or even scratch and bite. She spits during a juvenile court appearance. Viewers' parents complained about the poor example being set.

Kizzy's bad behaviour brought some grit to what is overall a sweet story but with some tough moments. A frightening sequence in which Kizzy is attacked by a posse of bullying girls and sickeningly cracks her head open on a brick wall was edited for maximum impact and is well remembered by many who saw it.

Kizzy's themes include comments on the care system, tradition versus modernity, middle class snobbery (mostly from society busybody Mrs Cuthbert, Angela Browne's hairstyle and performance perhaps owing something to the then-Leader of the Opposition Margaret Thatcher?) and above all tolerance for - and indeed celebration of - difference and cultural diversity.

The sheer misery Kizzy undergoes demands a happy ending - sentimental and unlikely it may be but who would begrudge the battling little Kizzy a little happiness? Aimed squarely at the female half of the young audience Kizzy was one of the best-remembered 'weepies' among girls of that era.

Alistair McGown

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The tripwire (1:45)
2. Joe's old clothes (2:17)
Complete fifth episode (26:30)
Margolyes, Miriam (1941-)
Children's TV Drama