Land of the Free by Jan Needle

One of the beauties of the BBC is that if you pay your licence fee (or even if you don't, come to think of it) you can watch the most amazing things for free.

I received a heads up through my inbox this morning from a friend of mine called Kath Shackleton, who is the maker of an amazing new series of programmes for educational TV called Children of the Holocaust.

Martin Kapel. Male. Leipzig....
With the utmost clarity, and in language that anyone can understand, it recounts the personal stories of refugees from the Nazis, who found their way to England as children at the time of World War II.

Each narration, in the voice of the actual survivor, is illustrated by rather wonderful but extremely simple animations. I'm hardly a child myself, but I found them moving and enthralling.

And all you need to do, of course, is go onto the BBC website, press the right buttons, and you can watch them. You can also download them and keep them. At no extra charge.

Given the state of the world today, including the demonic complexities of Israel and the Gaza Strip, the timing is quite chilling, and it's compulsive viewing. Here's the link:

There's another BBC series on at the moment, I also learned through my inbox, which I wrote myself.
You can watch that for free as well, which is slightly less satisfactory (for me and the taxman!) than watching the  work of Kath's company, Fettle Animations.

It's my 1980's series about long-distance lorry drivers called Truckers, and some bright spark has put all eight episodes up on YouTube. I am still quite often asked, all these years later, when the Beeb is planning to repeat it, and I can only ever respond 'I wish.'

I am also frequently urged to shout from the rooftops that mine is nothing to do with the recent series which nicked the name, and which my lorry driving friends don't rate much at all for authenticity.

The BBC did actually pay me for a second series of the original, but cancelled it just before it went into production, on the grounds of cost. I'm not a believer in conspiracies, but I suspect that was not the full story. A couple of high-ups in the the BBC indicated later that it was felt to be 'too demotic.' Lorry drivers, they learned to their apparent distaste in the first series, were working class individuals, many of whom were not exactly conformists in normal societal terms.

They swore. They smoked. They drank. They did not respect the law. They were authentic!

Worst of all apparently, some of them were even sexist, and did not always treat their women right. A more sensible writer would probably have glossed over that. Friends, I ain't that writer.

Never mind, you can now watch it for nowt. Quite lucky for me, really, because I never actually got to see one of the episodes. 

Slightly weirder though, is another thing that pops into my inbox every few days. Apparently anybody in the world can now download my novel My Mate Shofiq for free. Good in one way, because a few more people might get to read it. Like Kath's series, it just gets more topical.

It's also up for sale on Amazon at a ridiculous £2.90. So how come you can download it free? Search me, brother.

However, Shakespeare doesn't get paid any more either. So what the hell…

See - you CAN pay for it...


Dennis Hamley said…
Great post, Jan. Here's a possible exam question. 'Compare and contrast the Kindertransport with present-day treatment of asylum seekers. What does it tell us about human progress?'
Jan Needle said…
possibly, i fear Dennis, that behind every faceless bureaucracy hides a heartless politician. tear away the mask.
Dennis Hamley said…
You took the words right out of my mouth, Jan.
glitter noir said…
Well done, Jan. Keep on truckin'!
Lydia Bennet said…
Good for you Jan! thanks for the freebies info, such very different freebies too!

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