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Diary of a Young Man (1964)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Diary of a Young Man (1964)
BBC, 8/8-12/09/1964
6 x 30 min episodes, black & white
DirectorKenneth Loach
 Peter Duguid
ProducerJames MacTaggart
ScriptTroy Kennedy Martin
Story EditorRoger Smith

Cast: Victor Henry (Joe); Richard Moore (Ginger); Nerys Hughes (Rosie); Roy Godfrey (Mr Silver); Leslie Dwyer (Mr Gold); Will Stampe (Uncle Arthur)

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The adventures of two working-class northern lads during their first few months in London, and their attempts to seek their fortune. They set about looking for work, somewhere to live and Joe also has various romantic escapades.

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This six part drama series was a visual breakthrough, experimenting boldly and breaking down the formality of much of television drama in the early 1960s, which was often shot live in the studio, resembling filmed theatre.

Following his work as a director on Z Cars (BBC, 1962-78), Ken Loach directed three of the six episodes, alternating with Peter Duguid. It was also early in the career of the writers, Troy Kennedy Martin (Z Cars' creator) and John McGrath, both of whom went on to prolific and successful writing careers for television.

Diary aimed to take television drama "by the scruff of its neck and deconstruct it" as Loach later commented. It moved away from apparently naturalistic styles of studio presentation, making use of voiceover and sequences of still images fluidly edited together to music. Loach later pointed out that these techniques have been adopted more by advertising than other TV or film forms. Loach himself subsequently moved towards a more naturalistic style, often improvised and usually referred to as social realism.

Loach was also interested in moving out of the studio, and there are some notable scenes shot in the streets of London, giving a vivid sense of the swinging sixties, as well as a glimpse of the not so swinging, such as the shortage of affordable housing. This issue was the subject of Loach's better known 'Cathy Come Home' (The Wednesday Play, BBC, tx. 16/11/1966), which is widely, but not entirely accurately, seen as groundbreaking in its use of location shooting.

As in most of Loach's work, the characters are memorable for their humour and vitality. Throughout his career, Loach has tended not to use conventionally good looking actors, but the energy and directness of the performances draw in the audience to engage with the characters emotionally. Loach doesn't romanticise Joe and Ginger or make them straightforwardly likeable, but their humour and down-to-earth reactions to difficult circumstances make them rounded, vibrant characters.

Like his characters, Loach has often fallen out with the Establishment, and this is aptly illustrated by some of the contemporary reactions when Diary was broadcast. "Vicar raps the BBC's 'filthy young man'" was a headline in The Daily Herald. The same vicar was quoted in The Times, calling for "a good standard of taste."

Ros Cranston

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Video Clips
1. Arriving in London (4:11)
2. Looking for work (4:31)
3. London and the North (6:20)
Complete episode: 'Survival, or They Came to a City' (41:28)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
MacTaggart, James (1928-74)
Martin, Troy Kennedy (1932-2009)
McGrath, John (1935-2002)
Smith, Roger
Ken Loach: Television Drama
Ken Loach: The Lost TV Dramas