Running Scared – a new television serial by Bernard Ashley
Bernard Ashley’s stories of children and adults caught up in tense and emotionally demanding situations are well-known. One of them, Break in the Sun, was previously adapted as a serial for BBC children’s television. Now Paul Stone, the producer of that series, has persuaded Bernard Ashley to write his first original screenplay.
Running Scared is set in London’s East End – between the Woolwich Ferry and the Barking Road. It’s an exciting crime story which takes in protection rackets and robberies. As the story starts Charlie Elkin, who controls this particular patch of the London underworld, sets out to convince a small jeweller that `when you get offered protection you take it. It’s like insurance, a little monthly outlay, my old son, and nasty things like this don’t happen.’ But things go wrong when the getaway car breaks down and the villains, including Charlie, jump into Sam Butler’s taxi. There’s a chase, a crash and Charlie escapes leaving his spectacles behind him broken in two. The police pick up one half, Sam finds the other in his taxi and decides the best way to protect himself and his family is to hide it away.
Charlie wants the missing lens, so do the police in the shape of Inspector McNeill: together the spectacles can identify Charlie as efficiently as fingerprints. The tug of war which ensues involves Paula Prescott, Sam’s grand-daughter, and her best friend Narinder whose Sikh family are also being threatened by Charlie’s gang. And the story grows even more complicated with Sam’s death and Paula’s discovery that not all her family are on the right side of the law. What began as a crime thriller increasingly involves questions of loyalty and justice. At the climax Paula is faced with a final painful decision which she has to make alone.
The series has been shot entirely on location and should keep its audience chained to the screen throughout the six episodes.
Published to coincide with the start of the series early in the new year is a novel also written by Bernard Ashley. Working in television has been good for him – the novel is well-written, as we’ve come to expect; but this one has a clear and powerful narrative voice, racy and pacy, shifting in and out of the situations and emotions which enclose the characters in a way that pulls the reader along inexorably. It’s tightly constructed, very readable and – a tribute to a writer who now, like Jan Needle, seems at home in both genres – bears no obvious signs of its origins in another medium.
The details of family life, of the friendship between Paula and Narinder, of the East End setting are so well realised that you believe the rest as well. How come Bernard Ashley knows so much about the criminal life? And him a headmaster too.
Running Scared is published in hardback by Julia MacRae, 0 86203 238 5, £7.50, and in paperback by Puffin, 014 03.2079 2, £1.95.
TIME FOR A STORY
The first ten programmes in this excellent new series for infants were broadcast this term. Ten more will be transmitted early next year. If you haven’t caught up with it yet, look out for it at the beginning of next term.
The series, from Granada, aims `to provide a rich variety of story themes and styles which can extend those children with experience of books as well as encourage and stimulate those whose experiences have been more limited’. Each programme lasts ten minutes. In that time Bill Oddie grabs the viewer’s attention and creates an appropriate context for introducing and reading a story. The format is simple but very effective. All the stories are original; the first ten were written by well-known and talented authors: Hazel Townson, Grace Hallworth, Hiawyn Oram and Tony Ross. No constraints on style or of controlled vocabulary were placed on them; they were asked simply to write stories of about 500 words for children 4-6. Each story is available in book form with full colour illustration and there .is also an audio-cassette with Bill Oddie reading all ten. It is not envisaged that all children will be able to read the texts – though some will – but they should enjoy listening and following the text, joining in with, for example, some of the dialogue or with repeated phrases.
The excellent teacher’s booklet which accompanies the series contains among other things a useful analysis of the vocabulary used for those planning supported reading activities. It was written by Margaret Clark and Wendy Dewhirst who acted as advisers to the series. The notes for each programme outline content and rationale and include suggestions for follow-up and extension. Other stories, poems and songs with a similar theme are listed.
Details of the Spring Term programmes and copies of the Teacher’s Booklet (95p) can be had from: The Education Officer, Granada TV, Manchester M60 9EA.
The books in sets of ten (£4.50) and the cassette (£3.50) can be ordered from: Mercury Music Ltd, ‘Time for a Story’, P O Box 194, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 8TZ. Cheques or postal orders should be made payable to Mercury Music Ltd, and please add 35p to cover postage and packing.
The Return of the Antelope
Gulliver – hero of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – waded ashore on Lilliput after his boat, The Antelope, was wrecked on 5th November 1699. In 1859 a different Antelope ends up on the rocky shore of an English seaside town. The survivors of this wreck are three Lilliputians, the only remaining members of the crew which set sail in the second Antelope to follow the Gulliver charts and conquer the Land of the Giants. These three tiny people – two men and a woman – are found by Gerald and Philippa, two children on holiday with their grandfather.
So begins Willis Hall’s new thirteenpart television series for Granada scheduled to be shown in the new year.
The adventures of the small but spirited trio with the children, in particular the need to avoid the clutches of the sinister Harwell Mincing who is eager to put the Lilliputians into his freak show, provide ample opportunities for special effects photography. Encounters with the cat, the vacuum cleaner and pink blancmange are but three excitements for the Borrower-like three.
A novel, Return of the Antelope, based on the series and written by Willis Hall himself is available from Bodley Head (0 370 30693 7, £5.50). A picture book version with illustrations by Faith Jaques and text by Mary Hoffman is published by Heinemann (0 434 94201 4, £5.95).
Deutsch are hoping that Bertha, star of the new BBC TV series from Woodland Animations, will become as popular as Postman Pat (created by the same film company). The thirteen-part series started in September and is due to be repeated before long. So far two books have appeared based on Ivor Wood’s original TV designs. The stories are by Eric Charles and the illustrations by Steve Augarde.
Bertha and the Great Painting Job, 0 233 97813 5, £2.50
Bertha and the Windmills, 0 233 97814 3, £2.50
A Benny Collection
Yorkshire TV’s series for children about Benny who lives with Bella and Jack on Midsummer Common has led to an annual-type collection of stories, games, crosswords, information and jokes – all about Benny. The book, Benny – The Story of a Dog (Collins, 0 00 184090 8, £4.95), has been written and put together by Diana Wilmer, creator and presenter of the original series. Looks like good Christmas fodder for young dog lovers.