ACTOR Ray Brooks will be coming to Bournemouth University to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home.
The event on Friday, November 25, has been organised with the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) and the Open Cinema Foundation. Brooks, who played Reg in Ken Loach’s seminal 1960s drama, will be leading a Q&A session after a screening of the television play.
It tells the story of a young couple who, despite having a positive start to family life, experience a life of poverty and unemployment when husband Reg is injured and loses his job. They squat in empty houses and stay in homeless shelters and, eventually, Cathy has her children taken away by social services.
The play led to a public outcry about the problem of homelessness.
This reaction was the catalyst for people up and down the country to come together and form housing associations in their communities, often in partnership with their local churches, to provide accommodation for homeless people. This included BCHA in 1968.
Peter Hoyle, chair of the board at BCHA, said the film inspired him to become involved with housing.
“When I left school I went into banking. However, I found that this particular career path was not really for me and I wanted to do something that was more directly of benefit to the community. I never forgot the impression that Cathy Come Home had made on me.
“My fiancée, now my wife, was working in the local Youth Employment Office at that time and saw Bournemouth council was advertising for a housing officer. I applied and was appointed.
Recalling his reaction when he first watched Cathy Come Home he said he was “struck by the gritty realism of the production”.
“I was shocked by the unfolding events affecting the family and the extremely upsetting ending,” he added.
Fifty years on, homelessness is still a big problem, according to Peter, with rough sleeping locally at the level that existed in the 1990s.
“Unfortunately, housing and homelessness is not now viewed as being a priority by government, and there is not the necessary funding available either to invest in new social or affordable housing or to maintain homelessness services at the former level. Consequently matters have definitely taken a backward step and homelessness is still a big problem.”