BAND OF GOLD. 1995-1997. CREATED AND WRITTEN BY KAY MELLOR. PRODUCED BY GRANADA TELEVISION.
STARRING GERALDINE JAMES, CATHY TYSON, BARBARA DIXON, SAMANTHA MORTON, RACHEL DAVIES, LENA HEADEY, FIONA ALLEN, TONY DOYLE, DAVID SCHOFIELD, RAY STEVENSON AND RICHARD MOORE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I absolutely love this drama series about a group of sex workers who live and work in Bradford’s red-light district. They work a particular patch known as ‘the Lane,’ or, more correctly, they work ‘on t’ lane,’ if you can do the accent, and God help you if you’re a young ‘un who tries to ‘work t’ lane’ without the permission of Rose, an older prostitute who’s in charge of t’ lane, see?
Rose, brilliantly played by Geraldine James, is the original tart with a heart. She’s had a hard life, has poor Rose, but she still manages to be kind and compassionate towards her fellow sex workers. She makes numerous attempts to better herself and ‘get off t’ lane’ by going to college, starting up a cleaning company with her mates on t’ lane and taking a job as a local outreach worker, with varying results.
The biggest tragedy of Rose’s life is that she gave away her baby twenty-odd years ago, and she’s never stopped wanting that baby back. She goes in search of her child, who’s now a young woman, and when she finds her is gobsmacked to find that the apple, in this case, hasn’t fallen very far from the tree. Will Rose dare to make herself known to the emotionally damaged and dangerous S&M specialist her little girl has grown up to be…?
Gobby Carol, played by Cathy Tyson, is a terrific character. She works t’lane so that her beloved daughter Emma doesn’t have to go without, and she’s had to learn to be as hard as nails to survive as a black single mum sex worker in Bradford, not a particularly rich city to begin with.
Her illicit affair with DCI Newall, the copper in charge of investigating the murder of Carol’s hooker friend Gina, is a bit sick and twisted. I like the guy, but does he actually give a genuine toss about Carol or is he only sleeping with her because he has a self-confessed thing for sex with black women? It’s hard to tell. (Gina’s mum Joyce and abusive ex-husband Steve have sex together after Gina’s death, by the way, they’re such a lovely pair!)
Carol’s other admirer is sausage-maker ‘Curly,’ terrifically played by Richard Moore who was Jarvis Skelton in EMMERDALE from 2000-2005. Curly has a stocking fetish, and pays Carol a generous sum of money to simply ‘walk’ for him, up and down and round t’ living-room wi’ stockings and high heels on. Well, it beats walking up and down t’ bloody lane in all weathers, I suppose…!
Anita Braithwaite, played by Scottish chanteuse Barbara Dickson, is an hilarious character. Talk about loose lips sink ships. She’s the biggest gossip going. For God’s sake don’t tell her your secrets, because she’s got a gob on her like the Mersey tunnel, that one. You just ask Rose or Carol.
Anita’s the mistress of rich but dodgy (is there any other kind?) married businessman George Ferguson (Irish actor Tony Doyle, sadly deceased since 2000), who treats her shabbily, and she lets the prozzies from t’ lane use her flat for indoor sex with their punters. It’s safer than going off in a car with a total stranger, innit?
That was the modus operandi of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who, only a decade-and-a-half earlier, had been terrorising both prostitutes and non-prostitutes for real in the Leeds-Bradford area. He cruised the area in his car looking for victims and was interviewed several times by police and cleared, before eventually being properly nabbed in 1981.
When poor little prostitute Tracy, the saddest of all the sex workers, gets bashed on the head by an unknown assailant and left for dead in a patch of waste-ground, there won’t be many viewers who won’t immediately think of Peter Sutcliffe and his reign of terror from the mid-Seventies to 1981.
Peter Sutcliffe is not mentioned in the script, as far as I know, but he casts a shadow over it nonetheless. I wonder if he was allowed to watch BAND OF GOLD in t’ nick, and if he was sexually excited by it. Ted Bundy got a thrill from examining crime scene/victim photos, after all. Shudder. What a slimy thought.
Superbly played by Samantha Morton, Tracy, as I said, is the saddest of all the hookers who work t’ lane. She’s only fifteen, and she ran away from her luxurious home because she couldn’t take her father’s sexual abuse any longer. On drugs and taken advantage of by every man who buys her services, she doesn’t even seem to care what happens to her.
Carol and Rose have gumption and a bit of get-up-and-go in them. They want to better themselves and they’re trying to do it, even if their efforts sometimes go tits-up. But Tracy is a tragic figure. She’d rather someone physically hurt her, just so that she can feel something and know she’s alive. And look who she goes to looking for love! Someone as damaged and emotionally fragile as herself, but dangerous with it…
The first two series of BAND OF GOLD are top-notch. The third series, or spin-off if you like, GOLD, is as batty and incomprehensible as the last days of BROOKSIDE. I do really like the transsexual prostitute Sherrie, who’s only working t’ lane to save up the money for her final sex-change operation.
When Sherrie is brutally raped by a man in very high places, the show deftly details the difficulties inherent in charging a rich white older man with the rape of a young black transsexual prostitute. I mean, who are the cops gonna believe? Exactly. Nicely handled, BAND OF GOLD.
Popular actress Sue Cleaver, better known as Eileen Grimshaw from CORONATION STREET, has a small recurring role in the series as the barmaid in the boozer where all the girls and pimps from t’ lane gather for a bevvy. In 2000, she coincidentally plays a copper in the mini-series THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER. There’s that Yorkshire Ripper connection we were talking about earlier again…
By the way, check out Carol in that dreadful multi-coloured Versace outfit that no doubt costs a small fortune. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, right? Common is as common does, lol. Or maybe it would be more apt to say that you can take the girl out of the estate…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.