Allen Hammond (b.1894): Purpose and Audience

Tomorrow Couldn’t Be Worse originally aired on Granada Television. Its intention was to create a platform that celebrated and emphasized the working-class experience. Viewers might have thought it as somewhat jarring- a rare representation of a demographic that 1960s television lacked:

ITV maybe faced a dichotomy presenting the two sides of the story in exploiting the working class experience for monetary gain, becoming a platform to elevate the less represented in 1960’s Britain. It’s clear in the transcript that John Berger’s interview style encourages Hammond to express himself freely, without his recollections becoming sanitized:

Granada: The New Platform for the Working Class.

“When ITV was launched in the middle of the 1950s, Reith [BBC Founder] compared it to the arrival on these shores of smallpox, the bubonic plague and the black death. At this new commercial network […] someone came up with the idea of making programmes for the people that actually bought the televisions: the working class” (3)

“so that we used to see a man come in with a long moustache and  we sort of knew it was my father and when he was going away, he used to always want to kiss us goodbye. And that was the time I used to get under the chair or anywhere. Out in the road. Anywhere. So’s he wouldn’t kiss. I hated that moustache. Especially as he was a man who used to drink a lot” (1)

The dynamic of the interview subverts many of the proverbial pitfalls of the memoir. Berger invites Hammond to go straight into the talking points that are important, especially since Allen is lacking broadcasting experience- the focus is clearly to be honest. Gagnier discussed this; as she notes that the working-class author may try to express themselves as ‘a significant agent worthy of the regard of others.’(2)

Berger elicits many accurate and honest responses from Hammond, though the questions would have been agreed upon previously: ‘So tell me again when and where you were born?’. Hammond from the outset is clearly comfortable with describing such personal stories. Though it’s worthy to note, that numerous repetitions of ‘sort of’ persist- which could be attributed to nervous fillers if not just colloquial speech:

‘Sort of, there was a mission, sort of religious community. They used to collect old clothes and they used to take them round. Although there was another method […] the police in Liverpool used to give needy cases what they used to call ‘doe’s clothes’.’ (1)

Allen seems cognizant that whoever is listening may not be aware of his descriptions. He often refers to organizations in addition to inner city dynamics that seem to be long extinct even in 1963. So educating the audience may be a purpose of Tomorrow Couldn’t Be Worse– as Berger’s questions progress with consistent subject changes. This allows Allen to talk freely, and emphasize his experience as most important. Especially as in written memoirs: ‘Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birthdate but rather with an apology for their authors’ ordinariness’ (2)

The show encourages the interviewee to be rid of these cultural nuances, Hammond is never apologetic about his history- Allen not only educates the audience but seems to entertain with amazing recollections that might have gripped a television audience.

Berger continues to change topics with follow up questions, such as:

“What was your father?”

“What about money?”

“Was the meat very fat or lean?” (1)

The specificity of the questions forces Allen to remain on topic, compensating with a fast line of questioning that almost prods Allen into admitting how exactly worse his childhood was in contrast with the current audience of 1963- ‘Just soup and a piece of bread. That was dinner?’ (1) The abruptness of the questioning can sometimes be surprising, as it allows for the information to be rolled out quickly for a tightly formatted television show, which probably had restrictions in its allocated time schedule.

Tomorrow Couldn’t be Worse removes the amateur author’s ego, prioritising education and insight into Liverpool’s working-class life. The show catered to an audience who could also relate with the hardships Allen describes, in addition to being entertained by his stories.  

Citations:

1-Hammond, Allen, Programme number:P404/4. Transmission; 26 August 1963. Granada Television. Typescript, 15 foolscap sheets, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895

2-Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3828397 

3-Collins, Michael- Televisions Class Struggle: The Independent, 2005, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/televisions-class-struggle-297547.html

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