Clare in the Community

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Clare in the Community
Genre Sitcom
Running time 28 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Creator(s) Harry Venning
Writer(s) Harry Venning,
David Ramsden
Producer(s) Katie Tyrell (series 1-8, Es)
Alexandra Smith (series 9)
Air dates since 26 November 2004
No. of series 9
No. of episodes 55

Clare in the Community is a British comic strip in The Guardian newspaper, written by Harry Venning. The title is a play on words relating to care in the community. The strip has been successfully adapted for radio on BBC Radio 4, starring Sally Phillips as Clare.[1]

Clare is a social worker with all the right jargon who likes to sort out other people's problems while ignoring her own. She is white, middle class and heterosexual - but doesn't like to be reminded of it. She is a control freak but both her personal and professional lives are out of control.

TV pilot[edit]

In 2002 ITV commissioned a sitcom based on Harry Venning's comic strip. Two episodes were commissioned and a pilot episode, written by Harry Venning and David Ramsden and starring Julia Sawalha in the title role, was produced by Tiger Aspect. The pilot wasn't picked up for a full series and has never been broadcast.

Radio series[edit]

In 2004 a radio sitcom, co-written by David Ramsden and produced by Katie Tyrrell, was made for BBC Radio 4, starring Sally Phillips as Clare. Repeats have also been broadcast on BBC7 (now Radio 4 Extra). Series 1 to 5 have been released on CD by BBC Audio. Series 6 was broadcast in 2010. Series 7 was recorded in August & September 2011, with broadcast scheduled from 23 September to 28 October.

The first series won the Bronze Comedy Award at the 2005 Sony Radio Awards

The series occasionally 'breaks the fourth wall', with references to (for instance) a comic strip in the Guardian's social-work supplement which (the somewhat humourless) Clare doesn't understand, or an old schoolmate of Brian's named Richard Lumsden who wanted to be an actor but was never heard of again. The series regularly makes references to other comedies, such as Clare mimicking the catchphrase of Mrs. Doyle from Father Ted and Brian imitating Tony Hancock from The Blood Donor episode.

Clare often brings home her work problems which is just one of the main reasons why her and Brian's relationship struggles. They often attend couples-counselling classes. Clare not only wears the trousers in their relationship but her self-centred neglect of Brian stresses him out he often talks to his disconcerting friend Simon about her.

Clare's fellow social workers are often involved in her storylines. These include the rich yet unhygienic Ray; Megan, Clare's Scottish mother-of-one former student; and team leader Libby. Helen, the laziest of the workers, is played by two actresses during the series; in series 6 Libby replaces the previous team leader, Irene, a black lesbian.

Although having a son clare leaves her child duties primarily to Nali and husband Brian. Despite their child however both continue to argue and have problems in their relationship. In series 9 clare leaves Brian only to return to him in the series finale after her love interest has shown little knowledge of remembering who she is.

Simon Elmes called it "an instant hit, capturing the PC tone of our times".[2] The Stage reviewed series 8 positively, praising the first episode as "a brilliant opener", and after the series finale calling it "the best comedy on radio" and Phillips "the mistress of comic timing".[3][4]


Character Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 Season 8 Season 9
Clare Barker
Sally Phillips
Megan Whardby
Nina Conti
Helen Golightly
Gemma Craven
Liza Tarbuck
Brian Harris
Alex Lowe
Ray Bishop
Richard Lumsden
Ellen Thomas
Simon Burrows
Andrew Wincott
Philip Pope
Andrew Wincott
Nali "Ramsbottom" Jakovlivicz
Nina Conti
Libby McKenzie
Sarah Kendall


Series one[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
1 1 "Babysitter" 26 November 2004 (2004-11-26)
Clare is tricked into looking after Helen's difficult teenage son, but after an awkward start they become friends.
2 2 "Adoption" 3 December 2004 (2004-12-03)
A couple moves into the flat above, and Clare and Brian are kept awake by noisy sex.
3 3 "Glad to be Ray" 10 December 2004 (2004-12-10)
Clare feels that Ray is too insular and wonders why she has never been invited to his flat. She drops round uninvited when an opportunity arises.
4 4 "Last Words" 17 December 2004 (2004-12-17)
Clare uses the funeral of one of her clients, a cantankerous old woman, as a reason to take the afternoon off. Simon asks Megan out, but Brian's intervention ensures their first date is also their last.
5 5 "Combat Zone" 24 December 2004 (2004-12-24)
Clare and Brian get stranded in a rough part of town when their car runs out of petrol.
6 6 "Stage Fright" 31 December 2004 (2004-12-31)
Brian writes a play for his school drama club: the study of a misunderstood man in a relationship with a cold, unreasonable woman.

Series two[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
7 1 "Past Caring" 4 November 2005 (2005-11-04)
Clare meets an old acquaintance; Clare's workmates go out for Brian's birthday meal.
8 2 "Relax" 11 November 2005 (2005-11-11)
Clare and Brian try to go on holiday.
9 3 "Meet the Press" 18 November 2005 (2005-11-18)
Clare is delighted to be asked to do an interview for Woman's Hour; Brian has trouble with an unscrupulous pupil.
10 4 "Brian Come Home" 25 November 2005 (2005-11-25)
Brian storms out after an argument and moves in with Simon.
11 5 "Mean Streets" 2 December 2005 (2005-12-02)
Clare and her workmates help count homeless people, but it becomes competitive; Megan prepares to give birth.
12 6 "Doolah's Choice" 9 December 2005 (2005-12-09)
Simon and Helen get married; Megan gives birth.

Series three[edit]

At the start of the series, Clare and Brian have 'removed themselves from the property chain' and are staying at Simon's flat. Megan's daughter Brenda is now almost a year old.

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
13 1 "Letter from America" 18 December 2006 (2006-12-18)
Clare has a pen friendship with a death row prisoner in the US. He learns all about her relationship and work life. Guest appearance by Roy Hudd.
14 2 "Merry Christmas Mrs Lawrence" 25 December 2006 (2006-12-25)
On Christmas Day, Clare pensively visits her granddad's grave, then goes to fetch her granny from an old people's home en route to Christmas dinner with her parents. Guest appearances by Phil Davis and Brigit Forsyth.
15 3 "Brenda's Birthday" 1 January 2007 (2007-01-01)
Megan's old friend Gordon comes to help celebrate Brenda's first birthday.
16 4 "We Need to Talk About Brian" 8 January 2007 (2007-01-08)
Brian's diary from his student days turns up during a round of 'de-cluttering.' Although he had already met Clare, there are numerous references to his "Dark Lady". Is he hiding something?
17 5 "The Redcap" 15 January 2007 (2007-01-15)
Will a former military police officer be tough enough for social work?
18 6 "Clare's Last Stand" 22 January 2007 (2007-01-22)
Clare and the day-centre team are due for a relaxing day at a conference--until Clare's arch-enemy Peggy reappears with a challenge that Clare can't pass up.

Series four[edit]

Irene has been promoted to team leader which causes resentment between her and Clare. Brian and Clare make frequent trips to couples-counselling and have also been trying for a baby.

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
19 1 "Mother of All Mothers" 16 January 2008 (2008-01-16)
Clare and Brian are trying for a baby, but Clare's mother arrives instead of happier news.
20 2 "A Game of Two Slavs" 23 January 2008 (2008-01-23)
A relationship counsellor suggests that Clare and Brian take each other out to some events to share their interests.
21 3 "And The Winner Is" 30 January 2008 (2008-01-30)
Clare wins the 'Social Worker of the Year' award... in her dreams.
22 4 "Carry On up the Amazon" 6 February 2008 (2008-02-06)
Helen's son is supposed to be travelling during his gap year. So why does Clare find him living in a squat?
23 5 "My Funny Valentine" 13 February 2008 (2008-02-13)
Brian is amazed that Clare has not only remembered Valentine's Day, but even booked a restaurant...but she hasn't.
24 6 "The Long Goodbye" 20 February 2008 (2008-02-20)
Brian has a life-changing experience when a bullet grazes his head.

Series five[edit]

Clare and Brian now have a son, Thomas--and a full-and-total-time nanny for him, the east-European Nali (also played by Nina Conti.

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
25 1 "Name Calling" 18 February 2009 (2009-02-18)
Clare and her colleagues give a leaving present to their longest-serving workmate.
26 2 "Too Cool For School" 25 February 2009 (2009-02-25)
Clare meets a group of new friends in the pub and bores Brian and her co-workers with how cool they are; Clare and Megan visit a young girl who has been off school.
27 3 "Girls on Film" 4 March 2009 (2009-03-04)
Clare has a new student social-worker to take under her wing; the Sparrowhawk Family Centre has the documentary-makers in.
28 4 "It's Good to Talk" 11 March 2009 (2009-03-11)
An old university friend of Clare's gets in touch to say something important.
29 5 "Garden Party" 18 March 2009 (2009-03-18)
Clare arranges a petition to save the Sparrowhawk Family Centre, and throws a garden party to get to know her new neighbours.
30 6 "The 1864 Mining Disaster" 25 March 2009 (2009-03-25)
A firebrand MP comes to the Sparrowhawk Family Centre's fundraiser and Ray brings his guitar hoping to entertain.

Series six[edit]

Clare's position at the Family Centre is now challenged by Irene's replacement, Libby, "an Aussie and a lesbo--and proud of both" (Sarah Kendall); and Brian harbours erotic fantasies about Nali.

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
31 1 "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire" 31 May 2010 (2010-05-31)
Clare deceives Libby about the closing date for the team-manager post; Brian obsesses about Nali.
32 2 "Luck of the Irish" 7 June 2010 (2010-06-07)
Clare is told that she has Irish ancestry and becomes enthusiastic for all aspects of her new-found cultural background.
33 3 "Some Others Do 'Ave 'Em" 14 June 2010 (2010-06-14)
Clare is back on the social-work frontline as a vomiting bug hits her colleagues, while Brian and Nali take baby Thomas out for the day and Helen attends a police liaison meeting. Guest appearances by Doreen Mantle and Rosemary Leach.
34 4 "Clare v God" 21 June 2010 (2010-06-21)
Clare takes an instant dislike to the Reverend Dish--a meddling do-gooder if ever there was one. But Megan quite likes him.
35 5 "In The Dog House" 28 June 2010 (2010-06-28)
A stray dog who comes home with Brian catches a burglar (guest appearance by Paterson Joseph), but the burglar is a match for even Clare in manipulativeness.
36 6 "The Crush" 5 July 2010 (2010-07-05)
Clare meets an attractive single father at an infants' music group. Surely she will be loyal to Brian?

Series seven[edit]

Brian is eventually forgiven for his infidelity with Nali's sister and Clare accepts his proposal of marriage, while Nali enters Conservative politics.

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
37 1 "The Prisoner" 23 September 2011 (2011-09-23)
In today's Big Society there are plenty of challenges out there for an involved, caring social worker. Or even Clare. The shock of Brian's infidelity still hasn't worn off, and Nali could be an even more serious inside threat than Clare realised...
38 2 "To Kill a Mocking Bird" 30 September 2011 (2011-09-30)
Clare ends her relationship with Brian and is surprised by her colleagues' reaction to the news.
39 3 "Rude Girl" 7 October 2011 (2011-10-07)
Clare feels that she may be out of touch with today's young people's language, while Brian's attempts at romantic gestures fail to impress.
40 4 "Debt of Honour" 14 October 2011 (2011-10-14)
Clare is being plagued by Brian's marriage proposals, her driving lessons lead to an unexpected encounter, and there is an unveiling of a piece of public art at the Sparrowhawk Family Centre.
41 5 "Heroes" 21 October 2011 (2011-10-21)
Clare meets Bradley Bigg, a pop star who made an impression on her as a teenager, Brian breaks some bad news to Nali, and Helen enthusiastically adopts the role of health and safety officer.
42 6 "Basic Attraction" 28 October 2011 (2011-10-28)
It's wedding day at last...once the stags and hens have had their fun, that is.

Series eight[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
43 1 "Hot Desk" 2 January 2013 (2013-01-02)
Clare and her colleagues have to move offices.
44 2 "On Expenses" 9 January 2013 (2013-01-09)
With society collapsing all around her, Clare is appalled to be stuck indoors bean-counting. Then the Sparrowhawk Family centre's expenses do not add up.
45 3 "Fifty Shades of Ray" 16 January 2013 (2013-01-16)
Clare and her colleagues are worried that Ray has a serious illness.
46 4 "Nanny State" 23 January 2013 (2013-01-23)
Clare meets her ex-nanny Nali in a cafe.
47 5 "The Scapegoat" 30 January 2013 (2013-01-30)
Clare plays along with the team's method of privately insulting clients--unaware that a client can hear her.
48 6 "The Parent Trap" 6 February 2013 (2013-02-06)
Ray believes he is a father and that the now-adult wants to meet him; Brian's mother (Hannah Gordon) visits...and stays...and stays...

Edinburgh special[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
49 1 "In Treatment" 27 August 2013 (2013-08-27)
Clare and Brian decide to try relationship counselling. Recorded in the BBC tent at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013.

Series nine[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
50 1 "Stand By Your Man" 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08)
Clare returns to work after mysteriously fleeing her honeymoon.
51 2 "In Blog We Trust" 15 January 2014 (2014-01-15)
Clare becomes convinced that Sparrowhawk Centre is the home of a blogger called `The Secret Social Worker'
52 3 "Away Day Wey Hey" 22 January 2014 (2014-01-22)
Clare and the rest of the Sparrowhawk team are forced to take part in a team-building away day, much to Clare's disapproval.
53 4 "Driven to Extremes" 29 January 2014 (2014-01-29)
Clare is facing a disciplinary tribunal after a seemingly straightforward job goes awry.
54 5 "Panic Room" 5 February 2014 (2014-02-05)
Clare is forced to confront an old phobia after a regular home visit takes an unusual turn. Fortunately, Helen is on hand to help.
55 6 "Come Dine With Me" 12 February 2014 (2014-02-12)
Clare finally finds time for romance, while Brian finds a cheap flat comes with unusual conditions and Nali has a memorable first day at her new job.

Christmas With...[edit]

No. Episode No. Title Original airdate
56 1 "Christmas With Clare Barker" 29 December 2014 (2014-12-29)
Part 4 of 6 "Christmas With..." seasonal comedy programmes. Other episodes involve Damien Trench (In and Out of the Kitchen) and Ed Reardon (Ed Reardon's Week).


  1. ^ Stoker, Gill (2004). "Clare in the Community". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Elmes, Simon (2009). And Now on Radio 4: A Celebration of the World's Best Radio Station. Random House. p. 132. 
  3. ^ Petty, Moira (4 January 2013). "Radio review: The Eustace Diamonds; The Reluctant Spy; Second Body; Clare in the Community". The Stage. 
  4. ^ Petty, Moira (18 February 2013). "Radio review". The Stage. 

External links[edit]