Days of Hope – Loach and Allen go to war for Another Britain

Forty years after airing on the BBC, the incendiary Days of Hope blew onto our TV screens to remind us of how those in authority have the habit of pulling the wool over our eyes while making the common man and woman clean up the mess.

Anything changed? Yes, Jim Allen isn’t around to probe, push and provoke like nobody else could with his searing scripts and savage indictments of not only the government of the day but also union bosses who actually get off worse than anyone with their taste for power and the good life.

Allen died in 1999 but his legacy is a strong, searching one. His work with director Ken Loach included the The Big Flame, The Rank and the File, Hidden Agenda, Land and Freedom and, a personal favourite, Raining Stones.

There were also the unforgettable, harrowing The Spongers and many others plays and scripts that got up the nose of somebody or weren’t made at all.

But it was his partnership with Ken Loach – and Days of Hope in particular – where he was allowed free reign to flex his scriptwriting  muscles and go all out in an ambitious mission to convey a broken political system which was failing to serve the people.

It’s a sharp, four-part drama, covering the Great War through to the General Strike of 1926. The first two parts are probably the best as the British Army get a Full Metal Jacket-style examination with some devastating and emotional scenes. The final two parts are more overtly political with lots of deals in smoky rooms, high-level talks and union bosses (yes, them again) showing they don’t mind a bit of power when it suits them.

It’s the kind of drama that is unlikely to be made today, particularly by the BBC, perhaps because of its socialist leanings. The BBC’s enemies, of which there are many, would probably ask them to shut down.

But what can’t be shut down is the range and breadth of Allen and Loach’s work which still, in the main, holds up today as we enter another troubling period of austerity and war.

Add in the cream of Loach’s canon, which includes In Two Minds, Cathy Come Home, Kes, My Name in Joe and few others and you see how a unique clash of sensibilities came together. Theirs was daring collaboration and our viewing experience was more enriched and uncomfortable because of it.

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