Social Realism at It’s Best……. This is England

One of the things I most love about travelling to the UK is watching television! That’s right. Skip the Tower of London, turn right at Madam Tussauds, do a wide arc on Buck Palace and instead watch British TV!

I always seem to find high quality drama series running what ever time of the year I visit London, After walking the parks, hitting the galleries and navigating the tube, nothing is better than an evening bath and a good engaging drama on TV. Brits do great crime dramas. Think Line of Duty, Shetland, Luther, Silent Witness. There’s the quirky, easy watching, scenically beautiful Doc Martin, Miss Marple, Grantchester and Father Brown.  But there are also dramas such as A very English Scandal with Hugh Grant and Years and Years with Emma Thompson.

Stephen Graham is one of my favourite British Actors, appearing in series 5 of Line of  Duty. Last year in London I saw him in The Virtues, a TV miniseries about a man struggling with alcoholism. Brilliant. He also appears as Tony Pro Provenzano in The Irishman with Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, currently streaming on Netflix. Take a look….

Then There’s This is England. Stephen Graham is outstanding in this gritty, social realist drama series of working class ordinary people struggling to make a life for themselves and often disarmed by crime and booze.  (Think Ken Loach films like I, Daniel Blake and Sorry we Missed You that are a socially critical commentary of working class people’s lives.)

Graham plays a racist, criminal skinhead with such conviction that it makes your skin crawl. After the original pilot there was TIE 86 and This is England 88. It’s a coming of age series where a skinhead gang, unemployed and living on council estates find kinship, love and identity in 1980’s England. Bleak, tough, life-hardened people who have learned how to survive poverty, domestic violence and tough sometimes brutal lives by the time they are adolescents.  The series was filmed in Nottingham and Grimsby. It’s a bleak landscape of derelict council estates, boarded -up shops  with betting shops and pubs being the most vibrant fixtures in the town. In the 1980’s it was also the corner store  and video shop.  The backdrop is the Falklands war and Thatcher’s England. What shines through is the loyalty, kindness and love these bruised kids find in each other’s company and how together as a ” family” they survive. Later series shows the kids forming relationships, becoming parents themselves and the bitter, steely grip of inter-generational poverty, violence and unemployment.

In Australia This is England is released on STAN. I can do an episode a day. Too tough to binge -watch this one. This is not Mary Poppins. The violence and rape scenes are deeply disturbing. Equally disturbing is that this is still the reality of life for many people, not only in England but in communities around the world. Ghettos of poverty exist in all countries. The housing estates that are no-go zones to outsiders  still exist. The pandemic only exacerbates poverty as people make the gut – wrenching choice of feeding their kids or paying the gas bill. But This is England is a good reminder of our privilege as we complain about having to wear masks and the closure of the golf club.


I’m waiting for the streaming service Brit Box to hit our shores so that in Australia we can access good quality British Programming. It was scheduled for late 2020 but in a Corona world who knows. BritBox is available in US and Canada. This brings together ITV and BBC programs. Currently I understand you can watch BBC programs in Australia using iplayer but I haven’t gone down this path. Otherwise you wait for streaming services such as Stan, Netflix and Amazon to pick up this content…or plan a trip to London as soon as planes are in the air…!!! YES!!!

words by Nora Vitins Feature Image with thanks Vectors Icon.

21 August 2020 | Arts

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