Saturday, 21 January 2017

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old tv film director called David Richards

David, who has died at the age of 68, had fallen ill not long after directing two episodes of the crime drama series 'Silent Witness', entitled 'Remembrance', the second of which was broadcast on BBC1 this week and featured a dedication to him in the end credits.
It seems fitting to celebrate the work of  a director whose work has reached and entertained millions in mainstream audiences over the last 30 years.

David was born 1948 in Hollinwood, an area of Oldham in Greater Manchester, the son of Hilda and David, who already had two daughters and had obviously postponed a third baby until the Second World War was over in 1945, As his elder sister Evelyn recalled : "When David was born I was nearly eight and my sister Emily was 15 so he was quite a surprise to us all. The fact he was a boy was even better." Brought up in a working class area, he attended Limeside Primary School built in 1931 and housed in a large traditional red brick building on the Limeside Estate.

David had suffered from pneumonia as a child and was unwell with a chest infection when, in 1958, he sat his eleven-plus examination and the family was overjoyed when he passed and started to attend the Hathershaw Technical High School in 1959. He developed a strong interest in painting and having passed his 'A' levels, attended the Coventry College of Art where he graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 1969, but not before, as his sister Evelyn said : "Painting was put on the back burner when he and some friends from College decided they wanted to make a film."  As a footnote : for his extra-curricular activity, in his late teens, he played for Oldham Rugby Union Club at Keb Lane.

As a Lancashire lad, it was entirely appropriate that, after graduation, he should begin his broadcasting career with Granada Television which had started in 1956 under the North of England weekday franchise and was marked by a distinctive northern identity and an arrow pointing north. Based at Granada Studios on Quay Street in Manchester, for the next fifteen years he worked as a young director on factual programmes :  news, current affairs, documentaries, music shows and arts programmes. It was a time in which he made films in Britain, the USA, the Far East, China and throughout Europe.

David made the transition to directing drama in 1986 when he made three episodes of 'The Practice', which ran for 47 episodes as a soap opera produced for ITV by Granada Television and aired for two series in 1985 and 1986. Set in a GP's surgery in the fictional Manchester suburb of Castlehulme as a twice-weekly medical drama, it was hoped it would become Granada's second regular networked soap along with Coronation Street, with the idea that its hard-hitting story lines would be a competitor with the BBC's EastEnders.

At the age of 41 in 1989, David directed the first of six episodes, over the next two years, of his next soap opera, 'Emmerdale', known as 'Emmerdale Farm' until that year, set in a fictional village in the Yorkshire Dales, which had first been broadcast on 1972 and was produced by ITV Yorkshire and filmed at their Leeds studio.

It was a the director of 57 episodes of 'Coronation Street' from 1990 to 1993 that David made his name, in what was the soap's thirty-first year and his first episode on the 26th February reached an audience of over 21 million viewers. This was the year that the programme's production base was moved out of the main Granada Studios complex and into Stage One, a refurbished warehouse next to the outdoor set which served as its own dedicated studio.

David directed this episode, which was number 3074, on the 25th May 1990 :

Between 1993 and '94, he directed 13 episodes of the 20 episode series, 'September Song.' which starred Russ Abbot as Ted Fenwick who, when his wife died, joined his friend Billy Balsam in Blackpool, played by Michael Williams.

In 1997 he directed 4 of the 6 episodes of the tv mini-series, 'Reckless', in which the young doctor, Owen Springer, played by Robson Green, returned to Manchester to care for his ailing father and proceeded to fall in love with an older woman, played by Francesca Annis, who just happened to be married to his boss.

In the same year he directed Liam Cunningham in 'Police 2020' which was intended to serve as the pilot episode of a British police drama set in the near future, but didn't make it to fruition.

In 1998 he made four of the six episodes of  'Reckless : The Sequel', again in a Granada Television production for the ITV network and in the opinion of 'Variety' : ' 'Reckless, the Sequel,' though unimaginable without 'Reckless,' is in fact superior to its inspiration. At two hours, it’s a tauter, more polished product, rich in humour and filled with sharply etched, if not entirely well-rounded, characters. Tech credits are aces, as is David Richard’s crisp direction.'

In 2000 he directed Ross Kemp in his first role for ITV, in the tv movie, 'Hero of the Hour', in which he played a security guard who foiled an armed robbery and became a national hero, but whose new-found fame cannot appease his guilty conscience. Ross required hospital treatment after being shot in the face when a stunt went wrong.

In the same year he had, perhaps his greatest success with 'This Is Personal : The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper' and was given the Best Director Award at the New York Film and TV Festival and was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for 'Best Drama Serial.' It starred Alun Armstrong and was a dramatisation of the real-life investigation into the notorious Yorkshire Ripper murders of the late 1970s, showing the effect that it had on the health and career of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who led the enquiry.

In 2001 he directed 'Red Cap' a tv movie drama about the Military Police's Special Investigation Branch stationed in Germany. The team, including new member Jo McDonagh, played by Tamzin Outhwaite, started an investigation when it is found that a British Corporal who attempted suicide was driving the car of Kirsten Railton-Ulmke - the missing wife of a British Army Captain. The success of his pilot led to the two 6 episode series in 2003-04, under the direction of Martin Huthchings.

In 2003 he directed the two episodes of 'Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine' in which Ken Stott reprised his role as DCI Red Metcalfe, a man totally dedicated to putting killers behind bars, but found, when his own estranged brother is found knifed in the hustle and bustle of Leadenhall Market, that the hunt for justice gets personal.

It was at this point in his career, at the age of 55, that David joined wife Judith and Burnley-born screenwriter Paul Abbott to form their own company AKA Pictures and together they produced the 2003 two-part drama Alibi :
It was a psychological thriller Alibi with Michael Kitchen as Greg Brentwood, who, as the story begins, threw a surprise party for his wife, Linda, Phyllis Logan and Marcey, Sophie Okonedo, a woman who worked for the catering outfit that supplied food for the party, went back to the house after the party had ended to discover Greg standing over a dead body.

He made 'Britten’s Children' in 2004 for BBC Two, which focused on the composer's involvement with children, boys in particular and the way in which these relationships fed into central themes of his work, most notably the pre-occupation with the corruption of innocence and at times made for uncomfortable viewing. Libby Purves writing in 'The Times' described it as 'a brave and beautiful film. It not only illuminates Britten himself, but throws much-needed light on to a subject of excruciating delicacy’ and Sir John Tusa said on Radio 3 : 'a remarkable film, wonderfully shot. It never fell over into sensationalism or prurience. To take something which in the wrong hands could have been embarrassing and to turn it into a further explanation of what Britten’s music was about, was a real achievement.’

In 2004 came the tv movie for BBC Two, 'In Denial of Murder' in which Stephen Downing, played by Jason Watkins, is in prison, classed as 'IDOM' and maintains his innocence for the murder of a young woman, Wendy Sewell, in the village of Bakewell in 1973 and Don Hale, played by Stephen Tomkinson, is the crusading journalist determined to prove his innocence.

The following year David made 'Perfect Day : The Wedding' as two-hour tv movie, initially broadcast on 'Five', it centred on a group of university friends who reunite five years later for the wedding of Tom, played by Tom Goodman-Hill and Amy, Claire Goose and tells the story of old loves rekindled, marriages falling apart and the problems of career women finding love. It was well received, both by viewers, drawing some of the channel's highest figures and by critics. So successful was it, that it spawned both a prequel and a sequel under other direction.

Also in 2005 he made 'The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare Re-told', written by Sally Wainwright, in which a young harridan MP Shirley Henderson played by Kate Minola marries a title in order to advance towards her goal of becoming party leader. David himself said : " The original play is very big, quite bawdy in some places, comedy. It isn't a piece of naturalism and we took that same note for our adaption of it "
Rufus Sewell said of playing Petruchio :

In 2007 he directed the tv movie 'Empathy' in which Jimmy Collins is released after a nine-year jail term for manslaughter and back into the outside world, found that whenever he touched somebody he was able to get flashes of their deepest, darkest secrets.

'Little Devil' in the same year, ran for one season, and involved a ten year old boy who decided that if being a little angel couldn't save his parent's crumbling marriage he should perhaps try the opposite approach.

The following year he directed 'Albert's Memorial'  for ITV in which terminally ill Albert, played by Michael Jayston, summoned old war buddies Frank, David Warner and Harry, David Jason, to his hospital bed with a bizarre request : when he died, he wanted them to snatch his corpse from the hospital morgue and drive it, in Harry's taxi, to Germany, where they all met, for burial.

'Fast Freddie : The Widow and Me' was an ITV Christmas Special in 2011
which centred around Jonathan Donald, a wealthy,arrogant car salesman, charged with drink driving and sentenced to 60 hours community service at the Moonbeam Club for unruly kids where he befriended 'Fast' Freddie, so named for his skill at computer games, a teenager dying of a kidney disease,brought up in foster homes and for whom this will be his last Christmas.

In 2011, for Sky 1, he directed 'The Runaway', a six part adaptation set in London and New York during the 1960s, in which Cathy Connor played by Joanne Vanderham, is the daughter of a prostitute, Madge who everyone assumes that she will be following in her mother's footsteps.

In addition to 'Silent Witness' and the programmes highlighted, David also directed episodes of 'The Bill', ' The Grafters', 'Wild at Heart'. 'Foyle's War'. 'Vera' and 'DCI Banks.'

                              David's last credit this week 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Britain is no country for a Green Prince, Eco-Warrior and Ladybird book writer called Charles Windsor

That is no country for old men..
Caught in that sensual music all neglect 
Monuments of unageing intellect.    
W.B.Yeats 'Sailing to Byzantium'
The 68 year old Charles, Prince of Wales, who visited Somerset in 2014 to see the damage caused by the flood waters, may well have known and sung the children's hymn : 'When a knight won his spurs', when he was a small boy in the 1950s and was doubtless told about his ancestor, King Edward II who became the first 'Prince of Wales' in 1301 and ss a young man he would have been the premier knight of the realm of England.

"When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into story land giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth."

As well as the hymn, the young Prince Charles would have also been familiar with Ladybird Books and as he grew older moved away from the 'Peter and Jane' reading books to more serious topics like 'The Story of Metals.'

Now that he is the old Prince Charles he has been given the opportunity to produce the first of a new series from Ladybird Books aimed at explaining complicated subjects to a mass and adult audience and 'the complicated' subject he has chosen is 'Climate Change.' This is not surprising since Charles has been an eco-warrior for a number of years and has said : "Ignore the headless chicken brigade [climate change deniers] and do something practical."

He has co-authored his 52-page, 5,000 book with former Green Party Parliamentary candidate, Tony Juniper and polar scientist, Emily Shuckburgh and in it he claims that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that largely man-made global warming causes catastrophic events, including the recent flooding in parts of Britain and rising global temperatures. His front cover is a flood rescue from the year 2000. Despite the fact that the publishers have said the book had been extensively peer-reviewed by scientists, including the Royal Meteorological Society, his critics have said that he risked being too partisan on the controversial issue when there was still disagreement among experts.

If his motivation is to enlighten, change opinion and generate action, Charles and his fellow eco-warriors have a mountain to climb. Last year official figures indicated that the 'carbon footprint' for the pollution caused by Britain's consumption has not decreased but, on the contrary, increased slightly and the amount of greenhouse gases linked to goods and services consumed by British households, rose by 3% between 2012 and 2013. Admittedly, the figures cover imported and domestically produced goods and services consumed in the Britain, which account for more than half (55%) of the total carbon footprint alongside heating homes and fuelling household vehicles with fossil fuels.

The graph indicates that Britain's greenhouse gas emissions fell significantly between 2007 - 2009, but have plateaued ever since, running above 1,000,000,000 tonnes per annum.

So the Green Prince rides forth, like the good knight of yore, and says to himself :

"still to adventure and battle I ride 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to the Patron Saint of children with asthma and cystic fibrosis, Doctor Archie Norman

That is no country for old men..
Caught in that sensual music all neglect 
Monuments of unageing intellect.    
W.B.Yeats 'Sailing to Byzantium'
Archibald Norman, who has died aged 104, was a pioneer in the treatment of respiratory diseases and in particular, cystic fibrosis, in children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. He enjoyed a career which started after the Second World War, in which he had served in North Africa and returned to Britain after three years as a POW in Poland and a tortuous journey home via the Ukraine.

Archie was born Archibald Percy Norman in the summer of  1912 in the Lancashire textile manufacturing town of Shaw and Crompton, where his father, George, was a GP and his mother, Mary, had been a nurse who originally haled from the Isle of Kerrara in the Inner Hebrides. As the son of a doctor, his would have been an privileged Edwardian background with servants in attendance and for his education, at the age of 11 Archie was packed off to travel the 240 miles south to Charterhouse, the independent boarding school for boys in Goldaming, Surrey As a pupil he was in the same year as David Dane who would become the virologist who first isolated the hepatitis B virus at London's Middlesex Hospital in 1970.

In 1930 he gained a place at Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read 'Medicine and Psychology' and while there, had the distinction of winning a 'Boxing Blue' and did so, in the words of one of his sons : “Rather improbably for the most unpugilistic of men.”

In 1935, in his last year at Cambridge, he trained at the Middlesex Hospital under Alan Moncrieff who was a consultant at both the Middlesex and the
Hospital for Sick Children, St Ormond Street. Archie became a resident physician, living in the hospital and taking weekly whooping-cough clinics for which mothers and children queued around the block. It was Moncrieff who recruited him to Great Ormond Street, where he was a house doctor before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

In addition, his dedication to care found him working, at some risk to himself in the days before penicillin, in a tuberculosis clinic in West London, where patients were traditionally offered minimal treatment and where he was acting as Assistant Tuberculosis Officer to the Middlesex County Council. Here, many of the patients were trapped in a vicious circle of poverty : suffering from TB contracted in their poverty-stricken accommodation and poor working conditions and condemned to poverty after being sacked to prevent infection. He was a long way away from that privileged home life in the North and student life at Cambridge.

A year after the outbreak of the Second World War, at the age of 28 in 1940, he volunteered to serve in the Army and was assigned as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps with 4th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, who in 1941 were posted via Cyprus and Palestine to the Western Desert. There, in May and June 1942, they took part in the hard-fought Battle of Gazala which preceded the fall of the garrison town of Tobruk to Rommel’s Panzer Tank Divisions.

The Eighth Army’s 'Gazala Line', defending Tobruk, consisted of a series of defensive boxes, each holding a brigade, laid out across the desert west of Tobruk. Under fierce attack, Archie maintained a dressing station on the reverse slope of the forward 'Knightsbridge Box', named after the Household Cavalry Barracks. He had been wounded by shrapnel, when on June 5, orders came through from his Colonel, before he was killed later in the day, to “get away now
while you can." This proved to be impossible for Archie who, having dispatched a last ambulance of the wounded, found the remaining vehicles ablaze and had no choice but to surrender to the Germans.

Archie was flown to Italy as a POW and put to work in hospitals in Parma and Milan. Later he was transferred to a camp in Upper Silesia in Poland where he ran an X-ray unit, identifying TB in Russian prisoners. After the War he found out that those he had diagnosed with the illness were almost certainly dispatched to one of the death camps in Poland.

In the last months of the War, in the Spring of 1945, he found himself the senior officer of some 150 British and Indian POWs freed by the advancing Red Army, but with no provision for their safety. Archie now led the group which had to scavenge for supplies and fend off bandits as they made their way across Ukraine to Crimea, where they found a British ship bound for Gourock in Scotland.
After the War, on the strength of his men’s testimony to his leadership, Archie was awarded an MBE.

On resuming his medical career, Archie returned to Great Ormond Street and recalled that : “for those of us who had come back from the War, the late Forties, it was an extremely exciting period. So many new advances in medicine ; paediatrics itself had become accepted as a real branch of medicine, and not a junior part; there was the discovery of antibiotics that totally changed our attitude to infectious disease which was of particular importance, of course, to cystic fibrosis; last, but not least, was the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 - we could prescribe drugs without worrying whether the family could afford them, a matter of immense importance in a persistent long-term disease such as cystic fibrosis”

Working again under Alan Moncrieff, he was now able to spread his wings and demonstrate his brilliance as a paediatrician. In 1950 he set up the Hospital’s 'Respiratory Clinic' as a centre for treatment of asthma and cystic fibrosis. The latter, a genetic condition causing severe growth problems and lung disease, had only recently been diagnosed for the first time and had no effective treatments and Archie set to work to develop treatment which involved life-extending multidisciplinary care. With his combination of physiotherapy and diet he began to transform cystic fibrosis from a condition which was inevitably fatal in early life, to one in which a majority of sufferers were given a good chance of living into middle age.

Archie recalled the difficulties he faced in the immediate post-war years as indicated in a week's ration for an adult in 1951 : "The low-fat diet was supposed to be supplemented by a high-protein diet, but as much as one insisted on children having a high-protein diet, it was virtually impossible. These were still the days of rationing; proteins of any sort, and particularly meat, were in short supply and very expensive, and certainly there weren’t many children who received even a normal protein diet by today’s standards." In addition, "the amount of interest and clinical research into cystic fibrosis in this country was infinitely less than in the USA and it is tempting to blame the effects of the War for this."

On the other hand he conceded that : "Physiotherapy, I think was really pioneered in this country, rather than in the USA, with postural drainage and chest tapping. Surprisingly these very primitive measures did decrease early mortality and at least temporarily improved the outlook for the older and therefore less severely affected child."

Archie was at the forefront of research into cystic fibrosis in Britain and in 1950 he and Cedric Carter (left) joined Martin Bodian, Great Ormond Street's Morbid Anatomist to collaborate on his book 'Fibrocystic Disease of the Pancreas', which was published in 1952 and within which Cedric established for the first time that cystic fibrosis was a disease caused by a recessive gene.

He modestly recalled that : "I had a fairly large number of children with cystic fibrosis and developed a team of dietitians, physiotherapists and social workers, who saw each family every time they attended." He noted that : "not a great deal of interest was shown in cystic fibrosis in this country, and there was certainly a tendency to believe that it did not occur at all in certain regions." He also noted that : "From the beginning we got the impression that the children with cystic fibrosis were exceptional in the way in which they overcame their difficulties, in their determination and in their intelligence."

In 1953, at the age of 41, running parallel to his career at Great Ormond Street, he was appointed Consultant Paediatrician at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital, where he worked with newly born, including rhesus babies in need of life-saving blood transfusions.

Archie realised that parents of children with cystic fibrosis had too little support and in 1964, he played a major role in founding the 'Cystic Fibrosis Trust' as a national charity 'To fund medical and scientific research into effective treatments and the development of a cure for cystic fibrosis' but also 'To provide information, advice, support and, where appropriate, financial assistance to anyone affected by cystic fibrosis.'

He was caught on camera with the other Great Ormond Street Hospital Team, sitting second from the left next to the bespectacled Sir Alan Moncrieff.

In 1969 through his consultancy at Queen Charlotte's Hospital he was responsible for the care of Britain’s first quintuplets, born to Irene Hanson in 1969, with the help of the team led by George Wynn-Williams, the Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. The birth made headline news and Archie was photographed with the staff, in a group photo. The tiny Hanson girls did survive and are believed to be only the second set of all-girl quintuplets to do so.

Archie retired from the National Health Service in 1972, but continued his research work and private practice and in 1974 working with A.R. Chrispin from the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, he devised measures to track deterioration and treatment response in children with cystic fibrosis in what became known as the 'Crispin-Norman Score.' It is based on the systematic analysis of radiological scans and they created created uniform terms, describing 5 radiographic characteristics. Evaluation is based on the division of the chest X-ray into 4 zones and on the classification of images into 3 categories depending on the presence and severity of alterations.

He became Chairman of the Research Committee of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in 1978 and served until 1984 and in 1985, he was also instrumental in seeing the conversion of Great Ormond Street’s former long-term care facility at Tadworth in Surrey into the 'Children’s Trust Centre for Respite Care and Rehabilitation' of brain-damaged children and had one of its buildings is named after him. in a ceremony attended by himself and Elaine Paige, first lady of musical theatre and Trust Ambassador.

In the year 2000 at the age of 88 at a seminar at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, entitled 'Childhood Asthma and Beyond' he lightened the proceedings when he said :

"I just happen to remember I recommended that a dog should be taken away from the house because an asthmatic child appeared to be sensitive to the dog. The family came back to see me a month later and said that they had had a burglary the next day."