56 Up

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

I viewed the first two episodes of Michael Apted's 56 Up with nervous anticipation of a wonderful TV venture – one I have been watching since the late 1970s when the early programmes were used on Bath's pre-service teacher education PGCE as an illustration of the link between class and disadvantage and the struggle to escape them.

In those early shows [ 7 / 14 / 21 Up ] explorations of class and disadvantage (and advantage) were not hard to find;  indeed it sometimes seemed that the children had been identified with that in mind – and I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case to some degree.  Much, but not all, of it was harrowing – but that was in the editing, of course, which skilfully blended hope with despair, those two sides of life's mintage.

I watched the first episode of 56 Up with particular nervousness because I feared that modern ITV would bugger it up, bringing 21 century reality TV values to bear, but, not so, though they do describe it as "entertainment", I note, on their web pages.  Still harrowing in parts, though, but that's mostly the flashbacks.

In recent years, if you're my age, watching these programmes has been a bit like looking at a reflection of your own life.  The early programmes began with an intonation of the alleged Jesuit maxim: Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man, and it seemed clear that the programmes were testing out that idea – and maybe still are.

Well; not proven, I'd say; but there's evidence enough of both the kernel of truth within Philip Larkin's overly-dystopic maxim about parents' baleful influence, and of how determined people can survive it all and thrive nonetheless.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response

  • Mintage? Now that's what I call a coinage!

    Enjoyed reading your recent posts, Bill, and especially the revisiting of the 1979 guidance. Progress in these matters takes a very indirect route - in fact, a right old waggledance.