Richard Glover
Sydney Morning Herald 17th Sept 1984


In One Summer (on 2 at 8.55 pm), the dispossessed of England claim back the heritage of the green and pleasant land.

Written by Willy Russell, the author or Educating Rita, One Summer is a five-part series about two lads from Liverpool who jump from a train into a rural idyll in Wales.

The world they leave behind is one of unemployment and hate - a world where money is so scarce it takes , on an evil power, breaking families and ruining lives.

For the tougher boy, Billy, crime and arrest hover inevitably in the future. For the younger, Icky, life is lived on greying street corners, smoking stolen cigarettes.

But Billy has seen another Britain on a school excursion to Wales, and he can't shake the memory.

Between opening and closing episodes of urban decay, these two feral kids go screaming, singing and romping through the hills of Wales - complaining all the time of the lack of shops.

The series is full of sharp wit, touching moments of adolescence, and the brutality of post-industrial Britain. It studies a younger age-group than the ABC's last series from Liverpool, Boys from the Black Stuff, but it has the same tone of lightly-shouldered human tragedy.

An audience has to work hard to find sympathy for these two likely lads. Billy steals from a passerby but takes only five pounds - exactly the amount he needs. His moral code is elastic - which means it can be stretched, but also means it can spring back. However feral, the kids of the industrial north can be salvaged and saved.

Keith Richardson, who produced the drama for Yorkshire TV, says he hopes this optimistic message will be received along with the more depressing themes of the series.

"We set out to make people aware of kids in decaying urban cities," he said speaking by telephone from London. "Billy and Icky are unformed kids whose only view of life comes from a very harsh town.

"Audiences will hopefully ask. 'What can we do I do for kids like this?' " he says, "because unless we help, it is going to he an urban life without employment, producing totally embittered people."

Richardson admits audiences may dislike these unlikely heroes, but says that when the series was shown in Britain, "people found themselves liking them, almost in spite of themselves.

"Icky particularly grows on you like some awful virus, and you become tremendously concerned with what will happen to him."

Richardson said he had filmed a drama in Belfast after completing One Summer, but had found Liverpool the more disturbing city.

"One day we trucked-in an undrivable wrecked car to dress the set, and went away for a meal break. When we came back it was gone - someone had got a lorry and towed it away within the hour.

"All the industrial north is depressed, but Liverpool is uniquely terrible, because there is no industry left at all."

Despite the note of hope in the series, Richardson says he avoided a simple happy ending. "I didn't want a starry ending that said all we need to do is move kids into the country like horses."

What has emerged is an emotionally complex experience for the viewer: an insight into the two worlds of Britain, without any easy answers and ending with some open questions. Watching it is an absorbing experience.

Main One Summer site