All To Play For by Heather Peace

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All To Play For by Heather Peace

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Written by a former BBC 'insider' this book has a real smack of authenticity and a great story too. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 314 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Legend Press
ISBN: 978-1908248138

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Back in August 1985 at the time of the Edinburgh Festival a group of people met in what could have been difficult circumstances. They were arrested for causing a disturbance despite the fact that they weren't really involved in the fracas and it was all a misunderstanding. Little did they know that in the following decade they would all be involved - one way and another - in producing drama for the BBC as it went through one of the toughest periods in its history. The tale is told - mainly - by Rhiannon, but we hear the stories of Nicky, Maggie, Jill, Jonathan and Chris. Names will change, but they'll all wander the circular corridors of power in Langford Place.

Back in 1985 they were all naive and still had their integrity. Well, let's not quibble about the affair between one of the group and the married producer of the show she was with. Nicky was the youngest and he was worried about news of his arrest getting back to his Dad who was a policeman. At the other end of the age scale was Chris - already with the BBC and he was the one who organised everyone's release without charge. The men in this story are superb characterisations, each coming off the page fully formed and growing before your eyes.

The women are not quite so clear and on occasions I did have to stop and work out who was who, but don't worry about this. All To Play For might be the story of a group of people, but the protagonist is the BBC - Auntie herself - and in particular the drama department. We catch it at a moment when it had a history of producing great series, costume dramas and single programmes - but without all that much on the horizon which would maintain its place in the world of television. Times were going to have to change.

Just occasionally I felt that I was being lectured about how programmes were made, about how the BBC worked and normally I would hate this, but it was gold dust. If all the quotes on the cover are anything to go by (and there's no reason to think that they're not) this is very, very close to the truth - not just about the way drama is produced but about the internal politics of the BBC. It's a cross between reading a brilliant exposé and eaves-dropping on conversations which you know you shouldn't hear but knowing that you're not going to walk away.

The stories of the group are great too with plenty of twists and a few things worked out in rather unexpected ways. I wasn't quite certain what to expect when I started reading but I was grateful for a couple of cold, wet, winter afternoons when I had the excuse to sit and be entertained - and to learn something too.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For a non-fictional look at the working of the BBC we can recommend Inside Story by Greg Dyke.

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