Paradise Lost, BBC2

Stephanie Ferguson’s Viewpoint
Yorkshire Evening Post
10 March 1979

IT COULD have been down-town Harlem or even the Brazil Carnival, but it wasn’t. The opening shots of urban decay and the smiling faces that live among it took us nearer home to Chapeltown, Leeds, in “City” (BBC-2), the first of six programmes on life in our towns.

 “Paradise Lost” was not the usual warts and all probe into the red light and twilight zones. Instead we saw the Tiger Bay of Leeds through the eyes of its youngest residents, the pupils of Harehills Middle School and in particular Orlando Weeks.

Ironically or appropriately, if you prefer, the school dance group was staging “Paradise Lost” right there in what many would regard as environmental hell on earth.

As dedicated teacher Nadine Senior spoke of the fallen angels descending to the Inferno, Keith Massey’s camera, hungry for imagery, shot to the tangles of barbed wire, the racked and broken windows, the pile of rubble that are facts of life anywhere off Chapeltown Road.

But somehow the programme’s message via the School and Milton by way of John Travolta, got tangled along the way. Were we to take it that because they lived in a rundown part of town, many from disadvantaged families, that the kids were all no-hopers? Or could it be that their enthusiasm for school fired by their teacher would help them rise above their background?

Orlando, who played the lead in the school’s pulsating production spoke of joining the Navy or the R.A.F. but doubted if he could get enough “O” levels. His parents wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer. From his small face, full of enthusiasm and hope, the camera cut to his brother Desmond (18) and out of work, whiling away his days with the resigned defeat of the long standing unemployed.

Will future paradise for the children of Chapeltown be lost? I hope not. There’s too much promise to be allowed to fall by the wayside.

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