Roy Battersby obituary


The director Roy Battersby, who has died aged 87 after a stroke, was one of many leftwing radicals who joined the BBC within the Sixties and sought to carry tales of working-class wrestle to the tv display. However his overt political activism with the Staff’ Revolutionary celebration led to his being blacklisted by the BBC, a results of secret vetting carried out on the company’s workers by MI5.

The interval of his best work, at a time of political upheaval in Britain as commerce unions took on the federal government, ended with Leeds – United!, a 1974 Play for At present, written by Colin Welland, about an unofficial strike by feminine textile staff within the north of England whose unsuccessful motion was undermined by their very own union.

It was based mostly on a real-life strike by ladies at a manufacturing facility in Leeds, together with Welland’s mother-in-law, combating to be paid the identical as their male colleagues. The militant commerce union chief was performed by Lynne Perrie, a singer whose naturalistic performing expertise had been found by the director Ken Loach and producer Tony Garnett – additionally utilizing tv to hunt social and political change – once they have been casting the 1969 movie Kes.

Leeds – United!, written by Colin Welland and directed by Roy Battersby

Alongside complaints in regards to the accuracy of the play, which Welland vigorously defended with proof of his intensive analysis, Mary Whitehouse, the self-appointed guardian of Britain’s morals, complained about swearing by among the ladies. However the drama was most vital for Battersby’s directing fashion. He shot in black-and-white and opened with an aerial shot of a feminine employee strolling alongside darkish, early morning streets whereas a voiceover spelled out her restricted new contract.

Loach, Battersby and Kenith Trodd, the producer of Leeds – United!, have been amongst those that from 1968 – the yr of anti-Vietnam demonstrations and scholar sit-ins – met at Garnett’s home for Friday-evening gatherings to debate the alternatives for radical politics after feeling let down by the guarantees of Harold Wilson’s Labour authorities.

Battersby additionally joined the Socialist Labour League, forerunner of the Trotskyist WRP, in 1968 and by no means hid his views or his activism, which included a historic pageant, Two Hundred Years of Labour Historical past, at an anti-Tory rally organised by the SLL in 1971.

In 1972, he was assigned by the BBC’s head of performs, Christopher Morahan, to direct The Operation (1973), a few crooked property developer. As revealed in Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor’s 1988 e book Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting, MI5 knowledgeable the BBC that Battersby was an energetic member of the WRP. “It was indicated to me that [the personnel department] could be happier if he was not engaged,” mentioned Morahan. “I mentioned he was one of the best director for the job and I wasn’t ready to just accept it.”

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The Southport premiere of the 1986 movie comedy Mr Love, directed by Roy Battersby, centre, with members of the solid. {Photograph}: ANL/Shutterstock

Trodd, branded a “safety danger” by MI5, equally survived a BBC try to not renew his contract, in 1976, whereas Battersby left to work full-time for the WRP for 5 years (1975-80). He was a member of its central committee (1970-80), and, along with his then associate, Liz Leicester, he ran its training centre, White Meadows, in Derbyshire from 1975 till 1978.

After leaving the WRP and returning to programme-making with ITV, Battersby was blocked from working for the BBC – a results of the blacklist. Trodd needed him to direct Pebbles from My Cranium, a play about Italian resistance fighters, however the company refused to offer him a contract.

It did the identical when he was set to direct the collection King of the Ghetto (1986), about racial tensions within the East Finish of London, however Graeme McDonald, controller of BBC Two, overruled the personnel division.

Battersby continued to direct for one more 20 years, throughout channels. Politics hardly ever invaded his work, however he was handed the meaty, authority-challenging drama he craved when Garnett – reviving his personal profession to turn into a massively profitable unbiased producer – employed him as a director on Between the Traces (1992-94), which starred Neil Pearson as head of a workforce of officers investigating police corruption.

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Between the Traces, 1994, starring Neil Pearson, second left, with Hamish McColl, Richard McCabe and Tom Georgeson, and directed by Roy Battersby. {Photograph}: Brian Bould/ANL/Shutterstock

Roy was born in Willesden, north-west London, to Amy (nee Putman) and Frank Battersby. He graduated in economics from College School London and gained a PhD from the London Faculty of Economics earlier than beginning his profession within the theatre, behind the scenes at Nottingham Playhouse, in 1960.

From 1963, he labored for the BBC, directing Males and Cash, a collection in regards to the Metropolis of London, the next yr, then working as a producer on the primary three runs (1965-67) of the science collection Tomorrow’s World, making documentary options.

Switching to drama, Battersby directed Some Girls (1969), reconstructing real-life tales of feminine prisoners. The BBC, involved in regards to the realism, cancelled the published however, following a public marketing campaign, screened it late at evening on BBC Two.

Between contracts with the company, Battersby made a number of dramas for ITV, notably Roll on 4 O’Clock (1970), written by Welland (a former instructor), about homophobic bullying in a college, once more shot in a naturalistic means. Again on the BBC, he directed The Punchy and the Fairy (1973), written by Jim Allen, one other leftwing radical.

Following Battersby’s decade with the WRP, the producer David Puttnam advised Battersby that he needed him to direct a big-budget movie however couldn’t elevate the finance due to his blacklisting. Nonetheless, Puttnam did assign him to 2 low-budget movies, the romantic drama Winter Flight (1984) and the light comedy Mr Love (1986).

Returning to TV, he directed episodes of the police collection Eurocops (in 1989 and 1990), Inspector Morse (in 1991) and A Contact of Frost (between 1994 and 2006). He introduced atmospheric rigidity to a three-part Cracker story in 1995 and directed Olly’s Jail (1993), Edward Bond’s solely play for tv, which starred Bernard Hill.

His movie Purple Mercury (2005), starring Stockard Channing and Pete Postlethwaite, launched shortly after the 7/7 London bombings, proved a bitingly topical drama about British-born Muslims holding hostages in a restaurant.

In 1995, Battersby obtained Bafta’s lifetime achievement award.

His first marriage, in 1959, to Audrey Chaney, with whom he had a son, Frank, and a daughter, Anna, resulted in divorce. He married the actor Judy Loe in 1997, after they’d been collectively for 15 years. He additionally had two sons, Tom and Will, from his earlier relationship with Leicester, and a stepdaughter with Loe, the actor Kate Beckinsale.


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