Alfred Bradley Radio Plays

The Alfred Bradley Bursary Award was established in 1992, in memory of a kind, energetic, innovative producer who helped many unknown writers early in their careers.

The award is to encourage and develop new radio writing talent in the BBC North region. There can be no better tribute to Alfred Bradley's life and work.

Ken Whitmore: "99% of my plays were produced and directed by Alfred Bradley who scoured the country for writing and acting talent like a soccer coach standing on Sunday League touchlines, shivered in his car all night waiting for a promising lad named David Pownall to come home so he could ask him to write a play, gave me money when I was broke or chivvied the BBC into paying my expenses, offered to baby-sit for my kids when I had a son ill in hospital and did tons of such favours to multitudes of writers and actors. By such means Alfred coaxed and bullied plays out of unknowns, cast them, directed them and kept his writers alive. "

Stan Barstow: "The first money I earned by writing was for readings of my short stories on air from the BBC Studio in Woodhouse Lane, Leeds in the middle 1950s. Some years later I was led into radio drama at that same studio by the legendary Alfred Bradley who directed almost everything I wrote for the medium over nearly thirty years".

Frances McNeil: "Alfred Bradley produced a series called The Northern Drift to which I contributed sketches. That experience gave me the confidence to send my first full-length script to him.

I wrote THE SUN AND THE DEVIL after looking up an account of the Pendle Witch Trials in the British Museum reading room during a summer vacation from college. Across the years, I caught the voices. Two rival matriarchal families boasted of their abilities in the dark arts. My title came from Old Demdike. As she was losing her sight, she looked at the setting sun, and saw the devil.

The script had a huge cast. I assembled not only all those accused of witchcraft but half the population of Lancashire. Alfred asked me to cut down the number of characters and shorten the piece. My first response was to assume he was too mean to pay for so many actors – and that I couldn’t possibly cut my precious work. He was right, of course. Alfred had a clever way of coaxing a writer into improving a script. He would give hints about what you might usefully lose. He said not to take out little lines here and there, which would be removing nuts and bolts, but to look for a strand that could be cut and not missed – except by the writer! Where something was not very clear, he asked for a prose account, helping to focus the crux of the conflict.

The play was broadcast in the Monday Night Play ninety minute slot. It was produced in the old Leeds Studio 1, on Woodhouse Lane. Alfred delighted in having lots of parts for actresses. Attitudes towards women’s voices on radio had not always been so enlightened. I didn’t realize until much later how rare Alfred was in the breadth of his sympathies and encouragement.

Watching him coax good performances from actors was an education. He might say something like, ‘A lorry just went by, so if you could give us that line again. And this time …’

My only gripe about working with Alfred is that it gave me a false sense of what the world would be like. I have collaborated with other good producers, but he was special. He would travel miles to see a small scale production or rehearsed reading because some writer or actor invited him".

    Note from Jim:

    After Alfred Bradley's death in 1991 at the age of 65, the BBC re-broadcast a couple of his finest productions, one of which was his 1978 production of John Arden's "Pearl". The re-broadcast was introduced by John Arden who recalled recording the play:

    "Alfred Bradley's production of 'Pearl' was the first time I had ever been in a radio studio for the entire process of work and I remember it as a deeply happy experience. For Alfred was what playwrights like to call an old-fashion director, which is to say he was concerned to broadcast the story as I had written it. I'll go further than that: he wanted to broadcast the story as I had imagined it; much more difficult, much more rewarding.

    What this in fact meant, during rehearsals, is that he never just turned to me, as I sat beside him behind the glass panel in the Manchester studio, and say, as I'm afraid some directors do say, "I'd better go and talk to the actors" and then leave me sitting there while he and they have their secrets like those gangs in the school playground which you were never allowed to join. No. Alfred said always: "Shall we go and talk to the actors?" and he brought me out with him whether or not I had anything to say. And when I did have something to say, he always listened as though it was really important, although often I'm quite sure it must have been niggling and pedantic. He trusted me as much as I was expected to trust him, so I did trust him. I knew exactly what he was doing with the play and why, and also how. I learnt a very great deal about radio production which I never really thought of before.

    For instance, the strain on the actors: like Elizabeth Bell playing Pearl with long passages of internal soliloquy. I discovered, to my alarm, that my story-telling style had caused her to spend hours shut away in a sort-of cupboard with nothing but a script and a microphone, cut off from everything except Alfred's disembodied voice. Some directors would have handled such a technique like high-pressured police interrogation and driven the unfortunate performer up the wall. But Alfred never forgot her; he use to worry about her: "Liz must be going mad in there." he'd say "I'll readjust the work schedule. For heaven sake we must fetch her out if only for a few minutes."

    We also had a labour dispute. The South Bank Show was making a film of a radio play in production and they had cameras in the studio. Were the actors to be paid for appearing on ITV as well for their work on the BBC? Someone in the London Office had failed to arrange this and they very nearly went on strike. Alfred sorted it out. I don't exactly know how, he just said: "You're quite right, of course. Leave it to me, I'll get you your money." And in what seemed five minutes, he got it. He knew exactly what was due to everyone he worked with, everyone knew he knew it; we trusted him."

BBC Radio Broadcasts
1972 A shot in the dark, by Ivor Wilson
1973 The Wizard of Oz, by L.F.Baum
1973 Stringer's Last Stand, by Stan Barstow
1977 A taste of honey, by Shelagh Delaney
1977 Rightful Possession, by Valerie Georgeson
1977 Pen Friends, by Ken Whitmore
1978 Pearl, by John Arden
1979 Standard Procedure, by Michael Wilcox
1980 The scatterbrained Wizard of Oz
1982 The great Times crossword conspiracy, by Ken Whitmore
1986 The Gingerbread House, by Ken Whitmore
1988 After Agincourt, by Peter Mottley
1989 Winter Music, by Ken Whitmore
1990(?) King Canute, by Barry Collins


08/04/1972; by Ivor Wilson.

Somebody just tried to kill me - and before you roll your soft brown eyes and tell me I'm mad, that makes the third go in the seven weeks since I came out of prison.

Peter Ellwood Brian Peck
Mrs Bristow Barbara Mullaney
Rose Howard Pam Craig
Prosecuting Counsel David Mahlowe
Mia Anderson June Barry
Phillip Daniels John Franklyn Robbins
Sir Gresham Grey Geoffrey Banks
Chris Ogden John Nightingale

Producer Alfred Bradley

The Wizard of Oz....1973
When a little girl from Kansas USA named Dorothy Gale, and her dog Toto are whisked through the sky in a cyclone, her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East in the blue Munchkin Country - one of the four great countries of Oz. Here she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, and together they set off down the Road of Yellow Bricks to the Emerald City; each searching for their own "heart's desire".

When told by the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz that he will grant their wishes only after they "liquidate" the Wicked Witch of the West they encounter more adventures.

Adapted by Alfred Bradley from his 1970 play based on L. Frank Baum's book 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', first published on 15th May 1900.
With Wendy Padbury [Dorothy], Christopher Godwin [The Scarcrow], Douglas Fielding [The Tin Man], John Blyth [The Cowardly Lion], Ronald Herdman [The Wizard of Oz / Uncle Henry], Kathleen Helme [The Wicked Witch of the West / Aunt Em], Elizabeth Pagett [The Good Witch of the North / Glinda], and Brian Miller [The Guardian of the Gates / The Cat]. Produced in Leeds by Alfred Bradley. .........synopsis by S-J........many thanks.

Stringer's Last Stand....1973
By Stan Barstow & Alfred Bradley 15.9.1973 Avis Bunnage/Ronald Baddiley.

30.7.1977. SNT. By Valerie Georgson. With Elizabeth Bell / Alan Rothwell. A man and his wife, both career people with no wish for a family, find an out-of-the-way Elizabethan house which they decide to buy. They move in. Suddenly their previously straightforward life is filled with creepy happenings when they buy an ancient cradle at a nearby antique shop. Producer Alfred Bradley; 90m.

15 Oct 77. By Ken Whitmore. A man and his wife invite their penfriends to stay. The man's penfriend is female; the woman's is male. They hope that the two strangers, both lonely, might pair off. This is how the story begins, and whilst it's fairly amusing; it seems a little like 'Terry and June" territory. But it continues to develop; a multilayered crime story gradually appears, where each couple (there are four of them) attempts to double-cross at least one of the others. Producer Alfred Bradley. 90m.

Directed by Alfred Bradley. Broadcast 3.7.78.
with Elizabeth Bell, David Calder, Peter Jeffrey, David Mahlowe, John Jardine.

28 Mar 79. Afternoon Theatre, 45m, by Michael Wilcox. A teacher feels sorry for a youth who has absconded from school and foolishly gives him shelter. Cast: John Wheatley, Derek Gilbert, Ronald Herdman, Anne Rye, Christopher Ravenscroft, Ronald Baddeley. Producer Alfred Bradley, Manchester.

The Scatterbrained Wizard Of Oz....1980
by Alfred Bradley, 28.12.1980; with Wendy Padbury/Christopher Godwin/Brian Murphy/David Beames . Directed by Alfred Bradley.

Cast: Tony Robinson, Meg Johnson, Bob Grant, Bonnie Hurran, Peter Wheeler, Stephen Granville. Directed by Alfred Bradley.

...... exploits hair-raisingly the Hansel and Gretel story.

This is a fascinating monologue: war as seen through the eyes of a soldier who fought at Agincourt, played by Bob Hoskins and produced by Alfred Bradley. It was broadcast on Radio 3, 15 Nov 1988, and was repeated in a slightly amended version (45minutes instead of 50) on World Service. It gives a very vivid account of the events surrounding Agincourt, and what it was like during the battle.

A plot originating from a moment of extreme violence years ago.... There's some wonderful writing in this play, but the subject matter is grim....with Martin Jarvis as Thomas Havilland, the narrator, Julie Higginson as Virginia and Angela; Linda Gardner as Grace. Also stars Geoffrey Banks, Harry Beatty, Peter Wheeler. Pianist Tom Steer; directed in Manchester by Alfred Bradley.

KING CANUTE....c1990
by Barry Collins. An odd story about a member of a brass band. With Bernard Hill, Judith Barker, Rosalie Williams, Sally Edwards, Paul Webster, Peter Wheeler. SMs David Fleming-Williams, Maggie Richmond and Diana Lane. Directed by Alfred Bradley.

The Archive Hour: Alfred Bradley ....2003
4 Sep 03. During the 70s and 80s, Alfred Bradley produced some of the most innovative drama to have appeared on BBC Radio. Alan Plater looks back at his career, recalling classic plays such as Shelagh Delaney's `A Taste of Honey', Stan Barstow's `A Kind of Loving' and Peter Terson's `The Fishing Party'.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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