Jean Barnes Radio Plays

Jean Barnes writes:

The Second World War, starting in 1939, finished in Europe in 1945, and meant that all my teenage years were during black-outs, rationing and all the other wartime troubles.

It also meant no theatres, no new books - no new writing at all.

Everything was naturally concentrated on the war and morale - keeping the stiff upper lip!

When Osborne came along (1956) with 'Look Back in Anger' and the 'angry young men' it was like a gale of fresh air.

Until then, for women, it was Elinor Glyn, Naomi Jacobs and their like, with honourable decent men, manly looks, and - oh so dependable - and feminine frailty.

But we had been through a war, and women had found their own strength.

Now at last we could write on equal terms.

The theatre showed this; films, once the wartime epics were done, followed, and women started writing with muscle.

What all this is about is to show that we had to learn this new technique of equality.

I churned out the usual romantic drivel until I realised that I could actually write about men as human beings and not stereotyped little gods.

Novels got me nowhere. Then my typist said "It's all dialogue" and I realised that radio was my love and I could write as people speak, not as they thought or felt. So it was off to Radio Drama.

No luck for years. I knew I could go no further without help - but from where? Eventually in desperation I did ninety minutes on the life of George Stephenson. It took me two years. But it brought my breakthrough.

I was determined - if I got nowhere again - this would be the last.

So off went George, and back he duly came, quicker than usual. There was a letter:

Dear Madam,
Thank you for sending the play on the Life of George Stephenson. This is the dullest, most boring play I have ever read.
yours truly.

I thought "If you think that's boring you should read the Life of Mrs. Stephenson".

But it was criticism, you see... not the usual "Thank you for your play which we are returning as it is unsuitable".

It was dull and boring. I knew that. I had read old George's life - boring, boring, boring - and I had written it just as that.

So now I knew. Real life was not wanted. Real life spiced-up was wanted. There was no entertainment in writing about good people - they had to have the imp sparkle in them.

So real life....O.K.....I wrote about the life I knew. Working men and women. No glamour. No histrionics. Life with emotion with a capital E.

........many thanks, Jean, for this piece..... N.D.

Jean has written a lot for the theatre. Her radio plays for the BBC are listed below. She attended the recording of "The Guinea Stamp" and has recalled it for us.


4.3.1970 The Little Palaces*
John Hollis/Anne Jameson/Joyce Latham/James Mellor

23.4.1969 The Fire Eater*
Wilfred Pickles/Kathleen Helme/Barbara Mitchell

1.11.1967 The Guinea Stamp*
Eva Stuart/Henry Stamper


Interesting social story set in the North. A middle aged couple are forced out of their house because the council needs it for a young family. Then there's the young man who's expected to go to university but has quite different plans.

This play is nearly forty years old, though it might have been written yesterday. Hilary is a very academic middle- aged teacher, who's spent most of her life teaching in a girl's boarding school. But she's left under a cloud because of an incident (innocent but unwise) with a student. She's still teaching now, at a technical college, a far cry from her last job. She meets salt-of-the-earth Bill, who's worldly-wise except in the matter of women. There's an instant rapport...

Hilary is clever, bright, and innocent about the way the world operates. She learns, with Bill's help, that life can't be reduced to equations and logic. There are no easy answers where relationships are concerned.

This lovely play is immaculately acted by Harry Stamper (Bill), Eva Stuart (Hilary), strongly supported by Hilda Chriseman, Noel Hood, Nigel Anthony, Sheila Grant, Lockwood West. Producer - David H. Godfrey.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

Asterisked plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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