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Days of Hope (1975)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Days of Hope (1975)
BBC, 11/9-25/9/1975
4 x 35 mins episodes, colour
DirectorKen Loach
ProducerTony Garnett
ScriptJim Allen
PhotographyTony Pierce-Roberts

Cast: Paul Copley (Ben Matthews); Pamela Brighton (Sarah Hargreaves); Nikolas Simmonds (Philip Hargreaves); Helen Beck (Martha Matthews); Clifford Kershaw (Tom Matthews); Gary Roberts (Joel Barnett); Jean Spence (May Barnett); Christine Anderson (Jenny Barnett); Alun Armstrong (Billy Shepherd)

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The experiences of a working-class family from World War I to the General Strike of 1926.

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Days of Hope (BBC, 1975) was Ken Loach's first historical piece and, although tracing events fifty or more years previous, it was strongly informed by the contemporary situation of the 1970s. Parallels can be drawn between the political and industrial struggles of the 1910s and '20s and the 1970s, particularly in the treatment of the 1926 General Strike and the industrial unrest.

Loach has commented that the filmmakers hoped to provoke debate on how to achieve social and political change. The series was met with an outcry from sections of the British press and the army, and from Conservative politicians, who condemned the series for its critical portrayal of the army, government and police.

Loach's work has often been criticised as unbalanced. In response, Loach argues that television programmes and films are never balanced, but when presenting the dominant viewpoint their subjectivity is not recognised. As producer Tony Garnett commented during the debate about Days of Hope, "Our own anger is reserved for the phoney objectivity, the tone of balance and fairness affected by so many programmes. We deal in fiction and tell the truth as we see it. So many self-styled "factual" programmes are full of unacknowledged bias. I suggest that you really are in danger from them and not us."

The style of Days of Hope is low-key. Loach overturns the conventional film and television technique of individual characters speaking clear, consecutive lines while the camera records their expressions and gestures; it is sometimes difficult to make out the characters clearly, and sections of the dialogue are lost. The family meal scene is a good example of Loach's naturalistic technique. The camera behaves as though it does not know who is going to speak next, and sometimes lingers on a character's face after they have finished speaking and someone else has started.

Similarly, Loach avoids the use of background music to heighten the emotion of a scene. Music is used sparingly and as part of the world of the film. When Ben is in Ireland, he and his fellow soldiers taunt an Irish serving girl to sing "one of your rebel songs." She overcomes her intimidation through the songs, and the men are quietened and listen with respect. Loach shows two opposing groups come together, in a spirit of working-class unity which overcomes the hostility instilled in the soldiers during their training.

Ros Cranston

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Video Clips
1. 'Why don't you join the army?' (3:55)
2. Obey orders (3:59)
Complete episode: '1916: Joining Up' (35:13)
Topical Budget 767-1: Britain's First 'General Strike' (1926)
Monocled Mutineer, The (1986)
Allen, Jim (1926-99)
Garnett, Tony (1936-)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
Rea, Stephen (1943-)
Ken Loach: The Controversies
Drama Documentary
Ken Loach: Television Drama