When Walter Greenwood was looking for a setting for his gritty 1933 novel Love on the Dole, he looked no further than his native Salford.
Born above his father’s hairdressing shop in Hanky Park in 1903, Greenwood grew up in the area’s grimy, overcrowded streets and saw first-hand the deprivation of slum living.
Love on the Dole shocked a generation as it portrayed how a working class community, used to hardship, was crushed by unemployment.
It was the fore-runner of the realistic kitchen-sink drama – synonymous with Salford through Shelagh Delaney’s trail-blazing 1958 play A Taste of Honey.
Two years later Granada TV’s Coronation Street, based on Archie Street in Salford, took kitchen sink drama to a new level when it launched in December 1960.
On top of that, Salford had already been the inspiration for Ewan MacColl’s iconic song Dirty Old Town and the setting for Harold Brighouse’s 1916 play Hobson’s Choice.
Director David Lean returned to Salford to shoot his movie version of Hobson’s Choice in 1953. He hoped for grey and foreboding skies; what he got was a heatwave!
Greenwood’s celebrated novel Love on the Dole follows the Hardcastle family of Salford from the time of the General Strike in 1926 through to 1931.
Apprentice Harry Hardcastle is one of thousands laid off as a result of the Great Depression.
He falls in love with Helen, a girl from his street, who becomes pregnant. The two marry. Harry’s sister Sally is then attracted to socialist agitator Larry Meith who dies from injuries sustained in a protest march.
Sally then gives in to the unwelcome attentions of bookmaker Sam Grundy to provide her father and brother with money and a chance to find work.
The novel’s climax was based on a real event – the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM) march on Salford Town Hall in October 1931.
Greenwood’s novel was adapted for the stage by Stockport dramatist Ronald Gow – and proved highly successful after opening at Manchester Repertory Company in 1934.
Bramhall-born actress Wendy Hiller played Sally as the play toured the UK in two separate companies, playing to packed houses up to three times a day. By the end of 1935, more than a million people had seen the production.
Love on the Dole was made into a film starring Deborah Kerr and Clifford Evans in 1941. A previous proposal for the movie was rejected by the British Board of Film Censors in 1936 because it was felt to be a ‘very sordid story in very sordid surroundings’.
Salford playwright Sheila Delaney’s debut work A Taste of Honey, written when she was 19, focuses on the relationships of 17-year-old working glass girl Jo and her mother Helen.
It explores issues of class, race, gender and sexual orientation against the backdrop of Salford in the late 1950s.
After its London run, the play transferred to New York’s Broadway in 1960 with Angela Lansbury as Helen and Joan Plowright as Jo.
The highly acclaimed movie version, starring Rita Tushingham as Jo and former Oldham repertory actress Dora Bryan as Helen, was released in 1961.
It won four BAFTA awards, including Best British Film. Bryan was named Best Actress and Tushingham Most Promising Newcomer.
Tushingham also received the rare Hollywood accolade of a Golden Globe for the Most Promising Female Newcomer, while Delaney won a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award.
By the mid-1960s, the term kitchen-sink drama was in wide use. It derived from the description ‘kitchen-sink realism’ applied to the work of expressionist artist John Bratby.
He depicted a range of everyday objects in his paintings – including toilets, trash cans and kitchen sinks!
Everyday dilemmas were used in kitchen-sink dramas to capture powerful raw emotions and conflicts.
Nowhere was this more true than in the new Granada soap opera Coronation Street, first broadcast in December 1960.
Just eight minutes into the first episode, Dennis Tanner, played by Ashton-under-Lyne actor Philip Lowrie, couldn’t afford to pay for his drinks in the Rovers Return because he was out of work.
Ken Barlow, portrayed by William Roache, had to step in and buy the round of four shillings and seven pence ha’penny.
Barlow was known as the Street’s ‘scholarship boy’ because he’d enjoyed a reasonable education – immediately throwing into sharp focus the lack of opportunity faced by working class young people in the early 1960s.
Within moments, programme creator Tony Warren had transplanted the very real daily challenges of Archie Street straight on to the Coronation Street set.
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