Sunday, 25 November 2012

Cathy Come Home

Two weekends ago I hopped on a train to Birmingham University to attend a screening of Cathy Come Home at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts with Team v East Croydon leader Alex.  When our first campaign was announced at the Team v residential in October, we were given training by Shelter and the charity's representative mentioned the importance of Cathy Come Home in bringing about the creation of the national charity for single homeless people Crisis due to the unprecedented reaction from the public.  

The Power of the Play

Cathy Come Home is a television play first broadcast by the BBC in 1966.  Directed by Ken Loach and written by Jeremy Sandford, it tells the story of Cathy and Reg, a young couple who face endless housing problems when Reg is unable to work after an injury.  The documentary style and the use of true facts about the housing crisis in Britain opened the public's eyes to a problem many were unaware of. 

In my days as a Film with Television Studies student at the University of Warwick, we looked at Cathy Come Home as a seminal piece of television history.  As it was at least four years ago that I studied the television play, I jumped at this opportunity to view it again especially when I heard that the screening would be followed by a talk from the producer Tony Garnett.   

Ask the Producer 

Tony Garnett spoke passionately about the fact that the homelessness situation now is far worse than in the sixties, and suggested that if he wanted to produce Cathy Come Home today he would have great difficulty in getting past the first stage at the BBC.  When questions were opened up to the audience, most wanted to know about production of the play and one gentleman was desperate to discover the reason for naming the main character Cathy (there wasn't one).  Other questions concerned what the government should do to solve the housing crisis.  Alex and I were both itching to ask a question but struggling to find a way of mentioning our campaign within one, until a golden opportunity was presented by a fellow young person: 

"What can we, as young people, do to tackle homelessness... because we've been really affected by the play?"  

In the blink of an eye Alex' hand shot up and the professor guiding the talk realised he wanted to answer the question rather than ask his own.  Alex gave a fantastic 'elevator pitch' style answer to the whole lecture hall, explaining about Team v and how we're encouraging other young people to take action through our campaign. 

Tony Garnett responded saying "Well done and what a positive note for us to finish on."  In his own answer to the young lady's question he encouraged her to go and volunteer with charities that help the homeless, learn from that, and then tell people about it so they do the same - create an impetus.  

Spreading the word

When the talks finished we raced to the stage to try to speak to Tony Garnett.  On the way we stopped to tell the young lady who asked the question to search for Team v in Birmingham and look out for the stunts and events, as we knew there are a lot of Team v leaders based around the city.  I really hope they found it.  Two older ladies came to talk to us and wrote down the website so they could find out more, because they were so impressed by what Alex had said about what we were doing.  When we reached Tony Garnett he kindly gave us his email address and praised our efforts. 

I'm always being told how softly spoken I am so I have a massive fear about speaking in public, especially to a large audience in case they can't hear me, so I am enormously grateful to Alex for speaking up for both of us - and our fellow 100 Team v leaders.  Just by attending that event and Alex's courage in sticking his hand in the air we were able to spread the word about the many campaigns taking place across the country.  We spoke to the producer of one of the most important pieces of drama in television history and were given his blessing and encouragement for our campaign. 

If Alex and I hadn't made the trip from Croydon and Derby respectively, the fifty people in the audience may not have heard about Team v.  If Alex hadn't been there, maybe I wouldn't have had the guts to approach Tony Garnett by myself, and he would never have known about the group of young people taking action on a problem that affects over 75,000 of our peers every year.  

I suppose that's why it's called TEAM v. 

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