Play for Today at 50

Beginning on BBC1 on Thursday 15 October 1970, and continuing until 1984, Play for Today was one of the most important series ever of British television drama. Running to over 300 individual plays and regularly commanding audiences of several millions, the series won a reputation for artistic experiment and contemporary relevance that attracted both critical acclaim and public controversy.

To mark the anniversary of the fiftieth anniversary of the series, the Play for Today at 50 conference, 14-15 October 2020, brought together a mix of television professionals and scholars to discuss the history of the series, its cultural legacy and the individual plays that were produced.  Co-organised by John Hill and John Wyver, the conference consisted of interviews with Peter Ansorge, Richard Eyre, Tara Prem and Ken Trodd as well as presentations by Vicky Ball, John Cook, Katie Crosson, Simon Farquhar, John Hill, Eleni Liarou, Tom May, Jonny Murray and John Wyver.

Click here for recordings of the proceedings of the conference.

A Special Issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television (Vol 19:2, 2022) on ‘Play for Today at 50’, edited by John Hill, has also been published. In addition to Hill’s contributions this volume includes a range of articles by Vicky Ball, Eleni Liarou, Tom May, Jonathan Murray and John Wyver on various aspects of Play for Today’s history. The Journal issue may be found here:

To coincide with the publication of the Special Issue, the Forgotten Television Drama website concluded our series of ‘Top Tens’, provided by a mix of academics and practitioners, now published as ‘The Top Twenty-One Plays for Today’. This may be found here: along with a series of posts on individual Plays for Today.

As part of her TECHNE-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the BFI and BBC, PhD researcher Katie Crosson also curated an overview of Play for Today for BBC Canvas: /playfortodayat50/. Her post for the BFI on Plays for Today by or about women may be found here.

John Hill also contributed to ‘Archive on 4 : Play for Today’ (Radio 4, 17 October 2020) and his post for the BFI on Play for Today and Northern Ireland may be found here.