In 1997/98 I wrote a script called Sober. Sober was the tale of two friends – one was a hard working young father; the other was a right wing bigot. Both were in their early twenties and from Leeds. The script followed the two as they ‘wet the baby’s head’ on a drinking binge in Leeds. The drinking binge involved political discussion and discussions of race and immigration.
The script was very funny in an offensive sort of way – one person who read it said “You needed to keep reading it because it was so honest about racism and you couldn’t believe some of the things that were said.”
Mick Sparrow was the right wing bigot character – Mick was quick witted, funny and very racist. He was also loyal to his friends and had other good traits. He was a little Englander, a working class Tory (the worst kind).
Sober got me an agent (Jago Irwin) and it won The Guardian’s Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize (I got £5,000). Director Justin Chadwick wanted to make the film with producer Barnie Reisz and Jackie Glanville. We put together a little offering and producers Andrew Macdonald and Duncan Kenworthy who then had a deal with Universal (I think) picked up the script and we got called to a few meetings.
Emmerdale read the script and put me on the writing team of the soap. I made a lot of money writing it for a while.
Then 9/11 happened. It seemed at the time that Mick Sparrow – with his view on Muslims was right. The script was dropped from production and nobody wanted to touch it again. A script that was anti-racism was dropped, and I felt at the time that it was dropped because suddenly everyone was scared.
Over the years here in the UK I’ve seen more and more Mick Sparrows appearing, at work, in the pub, on TV and in politics (Mick is like Farage at 21 – but funnier). Yesterday the UK voted to turn its back on Europe in a vote mainly decided over immigration. It was a very sad day (Mick wouldn’t have thought so.)
I’m actually glad that the script never got made. While politically I’m to the left, I worry that a character like Mick Sparrow would have found an all too ready audience in the UK public (people who would have agreed with every word he said). I don’t want a script that I’ve written taken up by little Englanders.
The vote will also have an impact on the already knackered UK film industry due to the EU partnerships and funding that’s received.
We don’t know what the future holds; we do know that we’ve just cut ties with our closest neighbours and allies in all things. Mick Sparrow would say that ‘I told you, people don’t want these cunts in our country – we voted to leave. I was fucking right all along.’ (Fuck off Mick, fuck off please…)
Matthew Cooper has written for most of the UK soaps, including writing episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. Matthew was winner of the Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal TV Society nominated as a television writer. He’s been a script consultant and script writer for hire for over 20 years. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on email@example.com