Sunday, 8 November 2015


This is a rehash of a previous post but as Desmond McCarthy and Johnny Byrne's BBC Wednesday Play, Season Of The Witch, first broadcast 7 January 1970, is available (for now) on YouTube it's worth flagging up again.

Made in the summer of ’69, Season of the Witch stars Julie Driscoll in her debut acting performance as Mel, who runs away from London, her parents, and her job and heads to Brighton. There she meets various “beats” (interestingly there are plenty of references to beats and beatniks – no one is a freak or hippie) and they mooch about doing very little.

Mel takes tips on scavenging for food (get a skinny dog and plead with the butcher for meat) and sleeps on the beach before hitch hiking to Cornwall, traipsing back to London for a demo, getting arrested, and hanging out with drifters Jake (Paul Nicholas) and Shaun (Robert Powell). 

With plentiful location shots, unscripted segments of dialogue, a few state-of-kids-today moments mixed with real-life interviews and footage (greasy bespectacled longhairs arguing half cocked political idealism and watching drug education films at a youth drop-in centre, filmed in a Ken Loach docudrama style), Season of the Witch is as much sympathetic coming of age documentary as it is "Beat Girl On The Road". As such, it’s aged well, it attitude at least. Da yoof may not say “scenes” and “pads” anymore but the spirit and searching for a sense of belonging can’t be much different.

Julie Driscoll is a far better singer than actress - and isn't helped by having to deliver some clumsy dialogue - she's good to watch. The best line comes from Mel’s Dad (Glynn Edwards), who in a long rant about drugs, coffee shops, long-haired layabouts and the state of young people wanting to look conspicuous says “I saw one of ‘em the other day wearing a cowboy hat. In ‘arrow. There ain’t any cowboys in ‘arrow”. Director Desmond McCarthy has since explained all the lines in that monologue were taken from a real Panorama documentary. He's also confirmed the sign in a B&B window of “We reserve the right to refuse beatniks and other undesirables” was also genuine. 

A soundtrack by Brian Auger and the Trinity and a bit of Blind Faith in Hyde Park adds to the enjoyable. And despite the title it's mercifully Donovan-free.


  1. Saw it at the BFI a couple of years ago and it is well worth watching. One of the things that struck me was how down at heel Notting Hill Gate was at the time. No wonder those large and possibly cheap to rent faded properties were popular with the Ladbroke Grove set (Pretty Things, Pink Fairies et al). Jules is wonderful in the film as she make the journey from wage slavery to liberation.

  2. Hi Steve, Yes, that's where I saw it too.