Archive for the ‘women’ Category
Amanda Wrigley has contributed another account of an OU play. This Macbeth was made in 1977 as ‘a shortened version concentrating on the main characters and line of action’ as the OU notes put it. Information as to the scenes cut or telescoped was provided in the printed students’ ‘Supplementary Material’. The notes for viewers explain about how the actors sought to achieve particular effects. Highlighting that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth kiss twice, briefly, the ‘television notes’ explain: ‘we tried to convey that they loved each other securely and maturely, not obsessively’. Although there is a large cast for some scenes mostly there was a simple set for this production and often a black background. Perhaps this was due to budgetary constraints, or for artistic reasons or in order to foreground the plot and the words. Unlike the OU’s Oedipus this play foregrounded that it was made for television. When the witches gather round a cauldron there are close ups of images overlaid on the bubbling liquid. This may owe something to Roman Polanski’s 1971 film Macbeth in which the Thane of Cawdor gazes into the witches’ cauldron and sees a montage of images. In the film Francesca Annis played Lady Macbeth. In the OU’s version it was Ann Bell. During a scene between Macbeth, Banquo and King Duncan when Duncan announces that his elder son Malcolm is to be the Prince of Cumberland the camera cuts to him, and then to a petulant-looking Macbeth, who later speaks directly to camera. Towards the end a sword fight is shown in slow motion. The medium was being used to convey the text in ways that the author (c1564-1616) may have found difficult to envisage. (more…)
Are you female? Do you have memories of watching OU programmes? If so then Warwick and the OU would like to hear from you. Please send us your recollections, and pass then onto Warwick as well. Rachel Moseley of the University of Warwick is working on a project on the history of television for women in Britain. Others involved are Dr Helen Wheatley (University of Warwick), Dr Helen Wood (De Montfort University, Leicester); Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Dr. Mary Irwin (University of Warwick; Doctoral Researcher: Ms. Hazel Collie (De Montfort University). The project brings together archival and audience research methods in order to map this untold history and explore women viewers’ memories of the television that has been addressed to them. On the project see here.
The seventies were a time when nostalgia became marketed with large sales of Small is Beautiful (1973) and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (1977). In The heritage industry: Britain in a climate of decline (Methuen, London, 1987) Hewison claimed that half of Britain’s museums had been founded since 1971. It was also a period when, to some, it appeared as if the state and society were under threat. In 1976 the government was forced to request a$3.9 billion loan (the largest ever made by that institution) from the IMF. The titles of some of the books published in the period reflect a sense of disruption: Is Britain Dying?, Britain against itself (two American studies), Britain’s Economic Problem, The Breakup of Britain, Policing the Crisis, The End of Britain. There was another perceived threat as well. Men’s status appeared to be undermined by equal opportunities legislation (notably the Equal Pay Act 1970) and more women were attending universities. Perhaps this is why the theme of the inevitability of male entrapment was a source of humour within popular situation comedies of the period including The Likely Lads and Rising Damp. In another tale of men fated to struggle, Steptoe and Son (a sixties TV series revived between 1970 and 1974) although Albert had a far larger role that Laius and there was no Jocasta in Oil Drum Lane and Harold Steptoe did not actually kill his father Albert, he did threaten him in many episodes. On the stages of the UK there was a rise in radical theatre. Both Gay Sweatshop and Monstrous Regiment were formed in 1975. Perhaps more directly related to the original tale, challenging interpretations of classic plays were being promoted, such as Dennis Potter’s critique of suburban life Schmoedipus which was broadcast as a ‘Play for Today’ in 1974 and repeated by the BBC in 1975. (more…)
A report on the OU’s women students in The Times in 1984 included an interview with Jan Hobbs, who left school at 16, received her OU degree while aged in her mid-40s and by this point was studying for her Honours. The reporter notes that while Jan said that she was happy, the garden is ‘a confusion of weeds and piles of unmatched socks sit jumbled in a chair’.
A summer school counsellor recalled how he talking with a woman who said ‘Well you know what? My husband rang me up and he was up to his neck in it with the kids and I can’t believe I laughed’. She then said ‘And I don’t miss my Mr Sheen a bit’. I am grateful to the Society for Research into Higher Education for the funding which enabled this interview with Tony Whittaker by Ronald Macintyre, 4th January 2012, to occur.
Perhaps you too have snubbed Mr Sheen? If you have ever left socks to sort themselves, exerted will power over wool power, in order to get on with your studies, tell us about it.
This is no more than you would expect, given the significant role women have played in the OU’s history - amongst its founders, as staff members at all levels and as a significant proportion of the student body.
This blog has already looked at the role of Jennie Lee, the minister tasked with making the OU a reality and who left such a stamp on its institutional formation. Some other significant women in the University’s history are covered in an article on Platform today. And of course, some would argue that the OU has played a role in the struggle for women’s equality, but has been denigrated as a ‘housewives’ university’. A previous blogpost looked at some of these issues.
Depression, claimed Victoria Wood is ‘when you eat dry Weetabix and watch Open University programmes’ (quoted in Jane Mace, ‘Television and metaphors of literacy’, Studies in the education of adults, 24, 2 October 1992, p172). While this put-down might reflect both the familiarity of the OU’s prgramming and the ways in which it may have alienated women, the issue of women’s engagement with the OU was one of concern to many. (more…)