“It’s Smita Lemn do you have a minute” Each time she called I was in a meeting but on the third time I finally spoke to the BBC Producer Smita Patel. “I know you’ve done a lot of work for radio four” said Smita. I noted to myself that by now she had done a little
research. Though I sensed something wrong with the call I couldn’t have expected what was to come. “we are not continuing the programme” she said “the programme is not happening”. Mrs Greenwood (the foster carer of thirty years ago) has accused me of lieing and the editor feels that this puts the BBC in a legally questionable position.
But as my friend and journalist at the Guardian said to me your story has been documented by the broadsheets in at least one article per year for the past twenty years. Nobody has ever been sued. Not only documented but investigated by the BBC for a documentary broadcast over ten years ago for which the foster parents were consulted. As the social worker said to me “lemn I am living proof as the legal guardian (the social worker is the legal guardian of a foster child) of what happened to you and I wrote my concerns into the files at the time. .
A little rudimentary research would have shown this. After a long and exhausting conversation with the editor where I tried my best to find the logic, the decision remained. “this is not the oprah winfrey show” said the editorat one point in the conversation. Wasn’t this The House I Grew Up In. Most children do not go into care for uncontested reasons. Is there not something wrong wth the reasoning behind this decision to shelve he programme on the basis of on persons word.
It is the logic I was looking for. I trailed through my correspondence to see if I had been untoward to Patel, if I had been unprofessional. But I could only find cordial comlpliant correspondance. In some way my foster mother had dived from the past snake like from
it’s lair and snapped at me. As she retracted a splash of venomous phlegm scored by neck. Liar. After the call I walked back into the artist in residence office and finished
a draft document at The Southbank. I took my bike out and left. I was in a daze that I might unbeknown to myself be dragged into a depression which would hold me beneath water for months to come.
As I passed The Queen Elizabeth Hall minutes from the residency the water sculptor, Appearing Rooms, sprayed upwards in a thousand streams. There’s a short video of it below. There were only two people inside it, a mother, holding a child by her chest. Gingerly they stepped from room to room.
The House I grew up in always had disappearing rooms. How to prove they were there in the first place. I have done it, in my plays, in documentary. The editorial team made a fundamental mistake in not getting up on their research and found themselves making a programme that did not fit their original remit. I had to find somewhere at least half private at Teh Southbank. I covered my face and wept until I was done. Then I wiped my eyes properly. I stood. I had a cigarette and let the sky pour in. I carried my bike up the steps onto waterloo Bridge, put my headphones on and biked home.