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What Was Bristol Like in the 1960s? ACH Smith

Festival of Ideas
ACH Smith

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Playwright and writer ACH Smith looks at Bristol in the 1960s and The Newcomers, the TV series he featured in.

In April 2022, Bristol Ideas showed The Newcomers, a BBC series from 1964. It is centred around the lives of Alison Kennedy, who came to Bristol as a student, and Anthony Smith (who later took the pen name ACH Smith), who came to work on a newspaper. They met by chance, married, and Bristol became their home and where they started their family. The series also featured many others from Bristol at the time, including Tom Stoppard, Peter Nichols and Charles Wood. Most of all, it featured the city of Bristol.

The Newcomers is a unique view of the city in the early 1960s at a time of national and international social, cultural, political, and economic change. It was brilliantly filmed and edited by John Boorman who was working at the time for BBC West. Three years later he made Point Blank, starting his long career in Hollywood. You can read Smith’s introduction to the The Newcomers here.

Following the screening, Smith was interviewed by Andrew Kelly from Bristol Ideas. In the interview, they talked about his and his family’s reflections on the film nearly 60 years on; working with John Boorman; BBC West at the time; the Western Daily Press arts pages; Val Lorraine and the support she gave Tom Stoppard in his early career; Peter O’Toole and a journey round Bristol in a Mini; sixties Bristol; Deadly Serious Smith, the follow-up film ten years on; making a living as a writer; and Smith’s latest novel, Only the Dance.

ACH Smith’s Only the Dance is published by Tangent Books. WordSmith: A Memoir is published by Redcliffe Press.

ACH Smith

ACH Smith has written over 20 plays and screenplays, including Up the Feeder, Down the Mouth and Walking The Chains. He worked for 12 years for the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre and toured Iran in the early 1970s with Peter Brook and Ted Hughes to write a book about their experimental play, Orghast. He has also published a dozen novels, poetry, and several non-fiction books, including a memoir, WordSmith (Redcliffe Press, 2012). He has been Cilcennin Fellow in Drama, University of Bristol; writer-in-residence at the University of Texas; and director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. He has written and presented some 200 programmes for HTV and BBC.

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