Until 1968 plays that had the potential to create immoral or anti-government feelings were banned by the Lord Chamberlain's office or ordered to be edited.
The V&A exhibition includes original manuscripts with notes on what needs to be changed and letters from Lord Chamberlain explaining why the edits are required.
In the exhibition there are several pieces including a manuscript about the play Saved by Edward Bond. The play tells the story of a group of young people living in poverty and includes a scene in which a baby is stoned to death.
When the Royal Court Theatre submitted the play to the censor, over 50 amendments were requested. Bond refused to cut two key scenes, stating 'it was either the censor or me -- and it was going to be the censor'. As a result, the play was banned.
Before the act was passed, playwrights got around the law by staging banned plays in members clubs which meant they could not be persecuted since it was private venue. The continued success of this strategy and the reluctance to prosecute made a
mockery of the Lord Chamberlain's powers and reflected the increasingly relaxed attitudes of the public towards 'shocking' material.
The first night after the Act was introduced, the rock musical Hair opened on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End. It featured drugs, anti-war messages and brief nudity, ushering in a new age of British theatre.
From 1967 until 1973 Oz was the irreverent colour supplement of the London underground press.
In June 1971 the editors (Jim Anderson, Felix Dennis and Richard Neville) went on trial at the Old Bailey for, among other things, conspiring to corrupt the morals of young children and other young persons by producing an obscene
article , sending said article through the mail, and publishing obscene articles for gain.
Had they been on trial for obscenity alone, the maximum penalty would have been a fine of £ 100 or 6 months imprisonment. However, the use of an (archaic) conspiracy charge meant that there was no limit
on the fine or sentence that could be imposed.
Production notebooks belonging to Samuel Beckett, letters written by JB Priestley from the First World War front line and an uncensored version of Joe Orton's Loot are among the items made available to view online for the first time by the
More than 100 artefacts from the British Library's theatre archive have been digitised as part of Discovering Literature: 20th Century , which brings together the work and creative processes of some of the last century's greatest playwrights.
Fourteen dramatists and 17 key works are explored through high-resolution images of playscripts, production photography, reviews, posters and programmes.
Other highlights include a manuscript of Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey together with the censor's notes in 1958, criticising the play for its portrayal of a gay character.
Channel 4 experiment with onscreen warning of adult films
1st September 2017
In 1986 Channel 4 experimented with the idea of identifying adult films with an onscreen "Red Triangle" symbol (actually a bit of a misnomer - it was a white triangle with red edging). The official C4 term was Special
The experiment was never continued possibly because of the ensuing notoriety.
The films shown were
19/09/86 Themroc (1972, "Invented Language")
03/10/86 Pastoral Hide-and-See (1974, Japanese)
10/10/86 Throw Away Your Books; Let's Go Into the Streets (1971, Japanese, TV Version)
17/10/86 Identification of a Woman (1982, Italian/French)
24/10/86 Pixote (1981, Brazilian)
31/10/86 The Clinic (1982, Australian)
14/11/86 Montenegro, or: Pigs and Pearls (1981, Swedish/British, with a Yugoslavian director!)
Eurotrash was a fun loving Channel 4 magazine programme that presented sexy and funny stories from around Europe. It gained a cult following when it first aired in the 1990s. The show, which was presented by actor Antoine de Caunes and
fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, became a hit with ratings of between two and three million at its height
But New Labour arch censorship villain Jack Straw was apparently not amused. Seemingly he was 'appalled' when he walked in on his son watching the show that he secretly lobbied for it to be axed from the airwaves.
Straw is said to have doggedly pushed Channel 4's then head of nations and regions, Stuart Cosgrove, to get the show removed from the schedule.
Cosgrove, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland about politicians trying to influence the media, said:
I had a situation with a particular politician who was Jack Straw, the former Labour Minister, when I was at Channel 4.
He was adamant that he wanted Eurotrash to be taken out of the Channel Four schedule because he had gone home and found his young teenage son laughing at a sketch about Lady Godiva, it was that kind of bizarre, but he was fairly dogged about it.
Of course we kind of brushed it off or whatever.
But there is no question that there are politicians that assume they have got the power to kind of influence and push and test at the edges or whatever. And that goes on daily.
The Undiscovered Peter Cook
16th November 2016. BBC 4 10pm
Following the death of Britain's greatest satirist in 1995, Peter Cook's widow Lin locked the door of his Hampstead house, and refused all access to the media. Until this year, when she invited her friend Victor Lewis-Smith and a BBC crew inside,
to make a documentary about the man she knew and loved, with unprecedented access to Peter's private recordings, diaries, letters, photographs, and much more.
The result is a fascinating and unique hour of television, that includes Peter performing hitherto unknown comedy sketches, rediscovered interviews, and long-lost footage of Peter performing with his comedy partner Dudley Moore, as well as with
Peter Sellers and David Attenborough. There are multiple extracts from Peter's home videos, as well as Lin's first televised interview. A major find is The Dead Sea Tapes , an LP recorded by Peter and Dudley in 1963, but never released
(due to concerns about blasphemy laws), and long thought lost. Also included are rediscovered classic sketches from Not Only But Also , reconstructed in the edit suite after mute film clips were retrieved from Australia, and reunited with
the original audio tracks.
There is also unique footage from Peter's memorial service, with contributions from Dudley, Barry Humphries, and David Frost. Fans of Peter's work will be delighted by the rediscovered comedy gems (most of which have either never been broadcast,
or have remained unseen since their initial transmission some fifty years ago), while Lin reveals the tender and loving private side of a man better known for his acerbic public persona.
The Undiscovered Peter Cook features a 70-second piece of dialogue between Cook and his comedy co-conspirator Dudley Moore that uses the word 'cunt' 12 times and 'fuck' 15 times. It's rapid-fire vulgarity and is, almost certainly, the
most profanity riddled rant ever broadcast on British TV.
Because of its potential to offend it's only being shown after the express approval of the BBC's head of television Charlotte Moore.And the corporation insists it's the right decision:
This goes out well past the watershed in a 10pm slot with a very strong language warning, on a channel whose viewers are very familiar with its content, said a spokesperson. Peter Cook's unique brand of satire is well known to comedy fans who
would be accustomed to the strongest language from his Derek and Clive sketches with Dudley Moore.
The audio clip is carefully extracted from a 23-minute long sketch called The Horn on the pair's 1978 Derek and Clive spoken-word album Ad Nauseam , whose release marked the end of Cook and Moore's already combustible relationship.
And, it's fair to say, despite the 'cunts' it's probably one of the tamest bits (a film of the recording was banned in Britain for more than a decade).
The album track it's taken from, opens with Cook, as Clive, describing being sexually aroused by the sight of a dead Pope lying in state. The line delivered immediately after the 70-second extract used in the documentary also contains the word
Sade's once unpublishable novel has now joined the ranks of Penguin's Classics for the first time, and its author will take his place alongside the great figures of world literature -- many of whom would no doubt turn in their graves at the
news that their club now counted Sade among its members.
Recent censorship history
Translations published by the Olympia Press in Paris were banned from the UK throughout the 1950s. In the wake of the Lady Chatterley's Lover trial in 1960 , a test case for the Obscene Publications Act passed a year before, more publishing
houses were emboldened to publish Sade.
But all this came to a halt with the Moors murders trial of 1966, and with the revelation that Ian Brady had owned a paperback Corgi edition of Sade's Justine . Brady's taste in books was widely reported in the tabloid press, and fired the
public imagination. Commentator George Steiner alluded to the high probability that Brady's reading of Justine was a significant factor in the case. It did not seem to matter that the copy of Justine that Brady owned had only
appeared in print after he had committed all but one of his murders.
A ban on the publication and importation of Sade's works swiftly followed the trial and remained in effect for more than 20 years. When a British publisher, Arrow Books, finally tested the ban by reprinting Sade's major novels in the late 1980s
and early 90s, Ann Winterton MP led calls for the DPP to act, condemning Juliette as filth of a particularly ugly and dangerous kind .
It is hard to imagine a work of fiction prompting calls for prosecution in Britain today. The written word no longer seems to frighten people in the same way any more. The fear that novels used to inspire has shifted instead to more recent -- and
visual -- forms of fiction and fantasy such as video games, horror movies, and internet pornography.
The first lesbian kiss on British television is to be shown again for the first time in more than forty years, after a tape of the BBC play, Girl , was unearthed in a forgotten archive.
Girl, a BBC Two drama about lesbian love in the army, made headlines in 1974 after Alison Steadman and Myra Frances were shown locked in a passionate embrace.
Unfortunately the recording quality was not good, but the BBC has now digitised the film, and will make it available for download via the BBC Store.
Steadman said she had been quite nervous about taking the part. She recalled:
I thought my mum would be a bit embarrassed by comments from neighbours, but they took it well.
The film will form part of a collection chronicling gay milestones on the BBC, released to coincide with London's Pride festival. The Prejudice and Pride Collection is available on bbcstore.com from Thursday 16th June.
The first interracial kiss broadcast on British television has been uncovered by the British Film Institute.
It featured on You in Your Small Corner , a Granada Play of the Week , broadcast in June 1962.
The drama was an adaptation of a play by Jamaican-born Barry Reckord that had been performed at the Royal Court and explored issues of mixed race and class.
Marcus Prince, the BFI's TV programmer who discovered the historic kiss while researching an event, said: I was astounded ... it was so explicit really. I looked at the date and realised its significance.
The accolade of the first interracial kiss had previously been attributed to an episode of Emergency Ward 10 broadcast in 1964, between characters Joan Hooley and John White.
A kiss between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain James T Kirk in a 1968 episode of Star Trek was the first shown in the US and is also often cited as the first shown British television .
The kiss will be shown to a Race and Romance on TV panel at the BFI on 24 November.
The War Game is a 1965 UK war Sci-Fi drama by Peter Watkins.
Starring Michael Aspel, Peter Graham and Kathy Staff.
The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city. Although it won an Oscar for Best Documentary, it is fiction. It was intended as an hour-long program to air on
BBC 1, but it was deemed too intense and violent to broadcast. It went to theatrical distribution as a feature film instead. Low-budget and shot on location, it strives for and achieves convincing and unflinching realism.
A Scots academic has uncovered previously secret government files which show how the BBC collaborated with Whitehall officials in the 1960s to ban a controversial film about a nuclear attack on Britain.
BBC drama documentary The War Game , which showed scenes of radiation sickness, firestorms and widespread panic following a nuclear attack on Britain, was infamously pulled from broadcast at the 11th hour in 1965. The corporation insisted
it was its own decision to implement the ban as the footage was too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting .
However the move has been mired in controversy ever since, as it was known the drama had been viewed by Whitehall officials in the weeks beforehand. Now fifty years on, John Cook, professor of media at Glasgow Caledonian University, has uncovered
previously secret Cabinet Office files which show how civil servants influenced the banning of the film.
Sir Norman Brook, who was chair of the BBC Board of Governors at the time had written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Burke Trend to alert him to the film ahead of its planned broadcast. Cook said one key memo he uncovered revealed Brook and Trend
subsequently had a meeting with then director of the BBC Sir Hugh Carleton Greene. He said:
In the memo Sir Hugh Carleton Greene said if it was decided by the government the film should not be shown, then the BBC would put out a press release saying they had taken the decision independently. It is pretty clear.
The War Game was not screened by the BBC until twenty years later, in July 1985. The film's director Watkins left Britain to work abroad in protest following the ban.
These findings will be discussed as part of a BBC Radio 4 programme The War Game Files, which will be broadcast on Saturday 6th June at 8pm.
Margaret Thatcher considered banning sex toys using an anti-pornography law as part of a public decency morality drive in the 1980s.
Documents released by the National Archives reveal that the former prime minister was persuaded to consider a change in the law by the anti-obscenity campaigner Mary Whitehouse, whom she met on two occasions.
Leon Brittan, seemingly well versed about depravity law, and the home secretary at the time, wrote to Thatcher noting that there was a strong case to be made for banning sex toys under obscenity laws.
In September 1986 he wrote claiming that:
Some of the items in circulation are most objectionable, including some which can cause physical injury.
He felt that sex toys could fall within the scope of the deprave and corrupt test of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act.
Thatcher asked Brittan to prepare a new test, which could set a new bar for what could be considered to offend good taste or public decency. But Brittan felt that taste was too imprecise a concept for the courts to be able to arbitrate on and the
plan was abandoned.
Use and Abuse of Books takes the form of an exhibition displaying and discussing some of the material from book publisher Savoy's vast and often controversial archive, focussing on graphic novels and comics, including the infamous Lord Horror
(1989) accredited to David Britton and co-authored by Michael Butterworth.
The novel is based on a historical personage Lord Haw-Haw, aka William Joyce, British fascist and radio announcer hanged in 1946 for his infamous Germany Calling broadcasts. Warping him from Haw-Haw to Horror, the novel, with its
exaggerated depiction of British collusion, views the rabble-rouser DJ through a glass darkly, catapulting the narrative into exuberance, extravagance and excess.
Throughout their existence Savoy have been targeted by censors, frequently raided by the police and have been taken to court for publishing obscene material, notably in their fight-back by having the bigoted speech of a Manchester ex-chief
of police reiterated by a similarly named character in one Lord Horror story, events that in April 1993 led to Britton's imprisonment. The criticisms of and objections to publications such as Lord Horror congeal around the question of whether
depicting and describing horrific acts is justified in satire, with Judge Gerrard Humphries arguing in 1992 that Lord Horror:
Is a glorification of racism and violence. It contains pictures that will be repulsive to right-thinking people, and could be read---and possibly gloated over---by people who enjoy viciousness and violence
Michael Moorcock countered that the book :
Is in a tradition of lampoon, of exaggeration. Its purpose is to show up social evils, and the evils within ourselves. The book tries to identify the ways of thinking that led to the Holocaust, and could yet lead to another one
A sex manual for teenagers that was banned in 1969 has just been republished. The Little Red School Book by Soren Hansen, has hit shelves for the first time since its 1969 ban.
According to The Guardian, when the book was published first time round:
Margaret Thatcher was said to have been very worried by it, The Pope denounced it as sacrilegious, and morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse successfully campaigned to have it prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act.
The Little Red School Book, whose title alludes to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book , gives straight-talking sex advice that's largely still relevant to teenagers today:
If anybody tells you it's harmful to masturbate, they're lying. If anybody tells you you mustn't do it too much, they're lying too, because you can't do it too much. Ask them how often you ought to do it. They'll usually shut up then.
The new version of the book contains only one change from the original, the 2014 update no longer encourages teens to stave off boredom at school by reading pornographic magazines under your desk .
The book was also banned in New Zealand, France, Italy, and Queensland Australia.
A psychopathic murderer character in a play had his age raised by censors as gay sex was considered too shocking at the time, new research reveals.
Gay British playwright Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane , which first premiered in 1964, was forcibly changed by the Lord Chamberlain's Office.
Emma Parker, a professor from the University of Leicester, came across several letters when she was researching for the 50th edition of the play.
Orton wrote in his letters he wanted the main character Sloane, a psychopath, to be 17 in first edition. He was made into a 20-year-old man in the later editions, making Sloane's sexual encounters with two siblings less provoking.
In Orton's letters, he also stated the Lord Chamberlain's Office had forced him to change words like shit and bugger in the play. Orton was told the actors playing Kath and Sloane were expressly forbidden to simulate copulation.
Dr Parker's new edition of Entertaining Mr Sloane will be launched at the University of Leicester's Bookshop on Tuesday 6 May at 12 pm.
The opening of Northern Ireland's first sex shop in the early 1980s caused such a stir that officials considered reviewing 125-year-old obscenity laws.
The store opened in east Belfast in 1982, with pickets from Christian groups telling the owners of Mr Dirty Books they were unwelcome on the Castlereagh Road.
Newly released state papers reveal that privately, civil servants and officials were so shocked by its opening that they looked at updating the law on the sale of pornography, and enlisted legal advice.
Michael Palin says that everyone brought a different perspective to the writing. John and Graham were quite angry. Eric was very witty and funny and verbal, Terry and I were a little bit more surreal and whimsical, he says. There were
no rules. You could put in what you wanted to. An important factor in its success, he says, was the artistic freedom they were allowed by the BBC. The thing about Python was our determination to control our own material. We weren't easy to
In the third series, though, Palin says, the BBC started making some fairly ridiculous censorship decisions . A battle over one particular sketch saw all six Pythons in a heated argument with the head of comedy. We fought them for the
right to say 'masturbation', he says.
Did they say it? It was cut out. We recorded it. It was the man in the Summarise Proust Competition whose hobbies were strangling animals, golf and masturbating. They just cut the word, so you had: My hobbies are strangling animals, golf...
short pause, huge laugh... So what was so funny about golf?
DH Lawrence was an infamous victim of the censor as his sexually explicit novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in Britain until 1960. Now a new edition of Lawrence's poems, many rendered unreadable by the censor's pen, will reveal
him as a brilliant war poet whose work attacking British imperialism during the first world war was barred from publication.
His poems took aim at politicians, the brutality of the first world war and English repression. But censorship and sloppy editing rendered them virtually meaningless, to the extent that the full extent of his poetic talent has been overlooked.
Deleted passages have now been restored and hundreds of punctuation errors removed for a major two-volume edition to be published on 28 March by Cambridge University Press..
The new volume's editor, Christopher Pollnitz, told the Observer that what was removed from the poems -- by state censors or publishers fearing government intervention -- was the ultimate censorship , because extensive and significant cuts
made the texts virtually unreadable.
Lines now restored identify places such as Salonika and Mesopotamia -- explosive references at the time, Pollnitz said:
While the war was continuing, the worst defeat the British suffered was in Mesopotamia ... General Townshend's charge up the Tigris towards Baghdad was one of the most costly and wasteful ventures, in lives and money, of the first world war.
One of Benjamin Britten's most famous operas was censored and branded obscene before it reached the stage, a new biography of the composer will reveal.
The original version of The Rape of Lucretia was branded obscene and was censored before it reached the stage.
Records from the Lord Chamberlain's Office, which had powers of censorship over theatrical productions at the time, reveal how the work caused 'outrage' with its sexually-suggestive language.
The opera, written in 1946 by Britten and the librettist Ronald Duncan, was originally inspired by a Shakespeare poem. It tells the classical tale of the rape of Lucretia, a Roman noblewoman, by Tarquinius, a prince -- leading to her suicide
and a popular uprising against the king.
Britten's original arrangement saw the Male Chorus singing:
He takes her hand
And places it upon his unsheathed sword ,
followed by the Female Chorus singing:
Thus wounding her with an equal lust
A wound only his sword can heal .
A theatre censor wrote:
I most certainly think we should draw the line at the somewhat transparent effort by the Chorus on page 5 of Act II to wrap up an ugly fact in pretty language. It is little better than the obscenities in Lady Chatterley's Lover.
The licence to perform The Rape of Lucretia was only granted subject to the removal of the offending lines. For the opera's first performance in July 1946, they were replaced with:
Tarquinius: Poised like a dart Lucretia : At the heart of woman Male Chorus: Man climbs towards his God Female Chorus: Then falls to his lonely hell
The findings appear in Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century by Paul Kildea which is set to be published on 3rd February next year to mark the composer's centenary.
The official history of the D notice system, the voluntary self-censorship arrangement between the media and Whitehall, has just been published - though, ironically, only after five chapters had been excised.
The history, written by Rear Admiral Nicholas Wilkinson, one of the more enlightened past secretaries of the Committee, provides telling insights into the relationships between editors and Britain's defence, security and intelligence
establishment. The voluntary nature of the D notice system - it has no legal status - meant that personal friendships were crucial. Some would say they still are.
Plans are afoot to publish the full history - including the past 12 years - as soon as Labour is out of power. Self-censorship acts in mysterious ways.
It began as a new counter-terrorism strategy aimed at silencing the apologists for terror and denying them the oxygen of publicity. That, at least, is how the prime minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher, and her home secretary, Douglas Hurd,
defended their decision, in October 1988, to introduce some of the most stringent controls imposed on the broadcast media since World War Two.
The broadcasting ban, or 'Restrictions' as they were officially known, extended to 11 republican and loyalist organisations believed to support terrorism, but many believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were the main targets.
Newspapers would be permitted to carry statements from those organisations, and television news programmes would be permitted to show images of spokesmen at press conferences, but their voices would have to be removed.
With 20 years' worth of hindsight, Douglas Hurd now says he accepts that the ban soon became enormously counter-productive. Not least because broadcasters quickly found a way to subvert the terms of the new law by having actors re-voice the words
spoken by Sinn Féin spokesmen.
When a similar ban had been introduced by the Republic of Ireland in 1971, the Irish government saw to it that their prohibition could not be circumvented by this kind of dubbing.
Unaccountably, when the British government introduced its restrictions, in the wake of a major atrocity, it left a legislative back door open which journalists soon used as a route to get their story out.
Satirists lampooned the ban, free speech campaigners across the world questioned the Thatcher government's commitment to democratic values, and even the reputation of the BBC, as a politically independent broadcaster, suffered.
Despite the legislations' loopholes and the reaction against it, Danny Morrison, Sinn Féin's former director of publicity, maintains that the ban, which remained in place for six years, seriously frustrated Sinn Féin's media
strategy at the time and ultimately harmed the party electorally.
The story has recently been retold in the BBC Radio Ulster programme, The War Of The Words, presented by William Crawley and produced by Owen McFadden.