I’ve just been looking at the delightful Beiderbecke Affair – thank you heartily whoever uploaded it to YouTube! It was filmed in and around my stamping ground in Chapel Allerton (indeed one location was right opposite my friend Chas’s house). It concerns the doings of a couple of misfit teachers, played by James Bolam (Likely Lads and until recently New Tricks) and Barbara Flynn. Yorkshire Television commissioned three series, which went out between 1985 and 1987. They are a feast for a nostalgic like me. There are vertiginous cobbled streets (in Woodhouse), sooty Victorian spires, bowling greens, red-brick back-to-backs being demolished (in Beeston), the spacious estates that replaced them and green-and-cream buses passing in the background. In the second series, the Beiderbecke Tapes, there’s even a trip to Amsterdam.
It’s scripted by Alan Plater so the dialogue is witty – for instance the teachers teach at San Quentin High – and full of northern working-class male preoccupations and the politics of the time.
Not only is it crammed with references of jazz and football, by the start of episode 3 we get to the co-op movement. Trevor and Jill are in the basement of the church where Big Al the wheeler-dealer has his Aladdin’s cave of a storeroom. He explains that he started his ‘underground’ retail operation after he was made redundant: “Monetarism – it may be great for the pound sterling but it’s deadly for the building trade.” It goes on:
Big Al: What I mean is, on the average housing estate where we live, everybody knows somebody that can get things through the trade.
Jill: I see.
So we get things that way – cut out the middle man – use the profit for the Cubs’ football team – and other good causes. Of course you do need a very understanding vicar.
Jill: And you’ve got one?
Big Al: Good lad – for a Christian. Reads the Guardian, goes on marches… He says we’re like the Rochdale Pioneers – we’ve reinvented the co-op movement.
Jill: That’s fair.
Big Al: On the other hand I read an article in the Financial Times saying that all this sort of thing was undermining the Whitehall economy, could bring the whole of civilisation toppling to its knees. Don’t see that, personally.
Jill: Oh I think civilisation can organise its own destruction.