Letter: 'Cathy Come Home' returns along with lingering myths

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The Independent Online
Sir: Cathy Come Home is once again to be shown on television (31 March, Channel 4). I wonder whether it will be accompanied by a couple of myths which seem to have claimed their place as part of the action.

The first goes: 'On its second showing, most of the background comments giving statistics were, in fact, omitted because of doubts about accuracy.' This has popped up over the years in various places, the earliest being a book called Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama (1975). Where did the information come from? 'I can't remember. I believe I copied it out of a quality daily whose name I have forgotten,' says the author.

Of course it's nonsense. I work as a journalist as well as an author and it would be professional suicide to be inaccurate. Ken Loach and Tony Garnett, director and producer, were already experienced film makers. And the BBC establishment of the day would hardly have given the play such loyal support if it involved conniving in shifting the goalposts.

A second myth goes: 'If Cathy had been more realistically portrayed as a foul-mouthed working-class scrubber and her pretty, appealing children had been replaced by appropriately snotty-nosed delinquents, then the sympathies of the good, honest, hard-working and decent British people would have remained dormant.'

This myth has also had an innings since it appeared in the same book. Once again the author says she's forgotten the name of the writer she is quoting. No research is presented to support the proposal that a typical homeless mother is 'a foul-mouthed . . . scrubber', or the children 'snotty-nosed delinquents'.

However much research, for example, by Shelter, the Child Poverty Action Group, and indeed by myself, exists which points in exactly the opposite direction - that in a time of housing famine it is the 'ordinary, honest, decent folk' who find themselves homeless.

The judgemental 'foul-mouthed scrubber' does not belong in the vocabulary of sociologists, or even those with respect for their fellow humans. It is, rather, a useful tool for those who would prefer to minimise their responsibility for the vicissitudes of the society they live in by the ridiculing and criminalisation of other people's misfortune.

Yours faithfully,

JEREMY SANDFORD

Leominster,

Hereford and Worcester

23 March

Jeremy Sandford wrote the screenplay for 'Cathy Come Home'

(Photograph omitted)

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