Posts Tagged ‘margaret thatcher’

How is the copyright on a liquorice allsort and a caricature of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher connected?

In February 2010, Sylvester McCoy who played the seventh Doctor Who from 1987 to 1989, claimed, according to DailyTelegraph, that he and Andrew Cartmel, a script editor at the time, were part of a conspiracy in the late 1980s to give episodes of Doctor Who an anti-Thatcher plot. In the article, McCoy, who took over as Doctor Who three months after Margaret Thatcher’s third election victory in 1987, said that they brought politics into the show ‘deliberately’ but ‘very quietly … We were a group of politically motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do. Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered’.

Cartmel, who was asked by the programme’s producer at the time, John Nathan-Turner, what he hoped to achieve in being the show’s script editor, recalled ‘My exact words were: I’d like to overthrow the government.’ In an article in The Guardian however in 2013, John Nathan-Turner is said to have replied ‘Oh you can’t do that on Doctor Who, all you can do is say that purple people and green people are equal and should live in harmony’.

sheila hancock, ronald fraser, happiness patrol, doctor who, bbc, margaret thatcher

Sheila Hancock with Ronald Fraser as Joseph C. Though Sheila Hancock was not told that the character of Helen A was based on Margaret Thatcher, she realised this early on and ‘went for it’. Hancock stated that she ‘hated Mrs Thatcher with a deep and venomous passion’.

The Happiness Patrol written by Graeme Curry was broadcast in three episodes in November 1988 and was part of the 25th series of Doctor Who. It featured a transparent caricature of Thatcher, Helen A, the vicious and egotistical ruler of an Earth colony Terra Alpha, played by Sheila Hancock. On Terra Alpha, sadness is against the law – a law zealously enforced by the Happiness Patrol. The penalty for those found guilty of gloom or melancholy is death in a stream of molten candy prepared by Helen A’s chief executioner and confectioner supreme, the psychopathic and robotic killer, Kandy Man, played by David John Hope.

The first episode opens with the Doctor, and his young companion Ace, travelling to Terra Alpha to investigate why its citizens are disappearing without trace. The last episode shows the time travellers helping to foment rebellion amongst the downtrodden population who toil in the factories and mines. The Doctor calls on the ‘drones’ to down their tools and revolt. The script-writers intended this to be an echo of the miners’ strikes and printers’ disputes during Thatcher’s first two terms in office.

doctor who, kandy man, happiness patrol, bbc

Doctor Who confronts the Kandy Man. The appearance of the Kandy Man has been variously described as the weirdest or most ridiculous monster of the era. The Doctor however simply outwits the Kandy Man by gluing him to the floor with lemonade.

In the final episode, while a revolution rages outside the palace walls, the Kandy Man is destroyed by a flow of his own ‘fondant surprise’ which dissolves his external candy shell. And in a low-key comeuppance, the Doctor confronts Helen A and tries to explain that happiness can only be understood if counterbalanced by sadness. As Helen A weeps over her dearly departed lapdog monster Fifi, she experiences her own sadness.

Cartmel said that ‘Critics, media pundits and politicians certainly didn’t pick up on what we were doing. If we had generated controversy and become a cause célèbre we would have got a few more viewers but, sadly, nobody really noticed or cared’. The story has been described as a political allegory of Thatcher’s Britain, and as a morality tale. The Daily Telegraph article added that a spokesman for the BBC said it was ‘baffled’ by the claims. Following falling viewing numbers, no further series of Doctor Who were commissioned after the 26th series in November 1989. Except of course in 2005, the BBC relaunched Doctor Who after a 16-year absence.

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j lyons, teashop, delivery van, lyons swiss rolls

A typical J. Lyons teashop, with a Lyons delivery van to the right

If you were born in the 1970s in Britain, you’re unlikely to remember Joe Lyon’s teashops. J. Lyons & Co was a very large British restaurant chain, food manufacturing, and hotel conglomerate founded in 1887. It is best remembered for its chain of 250 tea shops, the first of which opened in 1894 and the last of which closed in 1981, and for the posh Lyons Corner Houses in the West End of London. It was said there was a Lyons teashop every 100 yards in the centre of London.

J. Lyons & Co was named after Joseph Nathaniel Lyons, who was appointed by the owners, the Salmon and Gluckstein families, as a ‘front man’ to run a pilot teashop at exhibitions. His name was used because it was felt to be beneath the dignity of the families to go into catering. By the 1950s and 60s the teashops had become quick stops for busy shoppers where one could drink a cup of tea and eat a snack or an inexpensive meal. The tea shops always had a bakery counter at the front, and their signs, art nouveau gold lettering on white, were a familiar landmark. There was competition from ABC teashops which had a more modern look about them – ABC stood for Aerated Bread Company – but the ABCs were considered a little more down-market than their counterparts.

Before the Second World War service uniformed waitresses, known as ‘Nippies’, would serve you at your table, but after the War the tea shops were converted to cafeteria service. At the end of a long counter, before the cash register, were steaming water urns for the tea (coffee drinkers were in a minority), with rows of cups set out ready to be filled.  In the middle of the counter, much of the hot food was served from square steel compartments stacked on top of each other (to be replaced later by bains maries), into which staff would insert plates of food from their side and you had to lift the ‘doors’ of the compartments to try to find your chosen meal. The tables had formica plastic tops – no tablecloths like in the corner houses – with invariably a bottle of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce on it, together with salt and pepper pots, and an ash tray.

j lyons, corner house, restaurant, oxford street, tottenham court road, london

J Lyons Corner House, Oxford Street & Tottenham Court Road, London

The Corner Houses, which first appeared in 1909 and remained until 1977, were noted for their art deco style. Situated on or near the corners of Coventry Street, Strand and Tottenham Court Road, they and the Maison Lyonses at Marble Arch and in Shaftesbury Avenue, were large buildings on four or five floors. On the ground floor was a food hall with counters, and on the upper floors was the restaurants, each with a different theme and all with their own musicians. (more…)

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The funeral procession of Winston Churchill at Ludgate Hill in 1965

The last state funeral was that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. Margaret Thatcher, like Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and Diana, Princess of Wales, was given a ceremonial funeral in April 2013, but it was widely seen as a state funeral in all but name. And the chimes of Big Ben were also silenced for Mrs Thatcher’s funeral for the first time since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.

When Harold Macmillan, Conservative Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, and who had served in government since 1940, died in 1986, 45 minutes were allowed for tributes in the House of Commons, two weeks after his death. On the death of Mrs Thatcher, Parliament was recalled the day after, and seven hours of tributes were allowed.

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