The Beiderbecke Affair

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The Beiderbecke Affair
Beiderbecke Affair.jpg
Genre Comedy drama
Written by Alan Plater
Directed by David Reynolds &
Frank W. Smith
Starring James Bolam
Barbara Flynn
Terence Rigby
Danny Schiller
Dudley Sutton
Dominic Jephcott
Keith Smith
Keith Marsh
Theme music composer Frankie Trumbauer and Chauncey Morehouse
Opening theme “Cryin' All Day”
Country of origin UK
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Executive producer(s) David Cunliffe
Producer(s) Anne W. Gibbons
Original channel ITV (Yorkshire Television)
Picture format Film PAL (576i)
Original release 6 January 1985 – 10 February 1985
Followed by The Beiderbecke Tapes
Related shows Get Lost!

The Beiderbecke Affair is a television series produced in the United Kingdom by ITV during 1985, written by the prolific Alan Plater, whose lengthy credits to British Television since the 1960s included the preceding 4 part mini series Get Lost! for ITV in 1981. The Beiderbecke Affair has a similar style to Get Lost!, where Neville Keaton (Alun Armstrong) and Judy Threadgold (Bridget Turner) played in an ensemble cast. Although The Beiderbecke Affair was intended as a sequel to Get Lost!, Alun Armstrong proved to be unavailable and the premise was reworked. It is the first part of The Beiderbecke Trilogy with the two sequel series being The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) and The Beiderbecke Connection (1988).


The plot is initially unclear, moving from one seemingly unrelated event to another, all of which are eventually shown to be interconnected. However, the clever interplay between the characters is the main interest here. It is a character-led drama following the lives of the leading characters, and how they interact, rather than following the classic story structure.

Geordie Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) teaches woodwork, enjoys football and likes to listen to jazz. Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn) is interested in neither football nor jazz but teaches English and wants to help save the planet, standing in a local election as "your Conservation candidate". After Jill left her husband, her colleague Trevor began giving her lifts to school and from there a relationship blossomed. They have an easy-going relationship where half the words seem to be left unspoken but the viewer is never in any doubt as to the subtext.

Clayton Grange Flats, Moor Grange, Leeds used as 'The Multistorey Block of Flats' in the Beiderbecke affair, taken in June 2008, 24 years after filming

Trevor tries to buy some jazz records from a "dazzlingly beautiful platinum blonde" who calls at the door raising funds for the local Cubs’ football team. When the wrong records are delivered, a hunt begins that draws the pair into unforeseen intrigue. Thrown in to the mix are Sgt Hobson (Dominic Jephcott), a suspicious yet seemingly incompetent graduate police detective, and a pair of local black economy tradesmen, "Big Al" (Terence Rigby) and "Little Norm" (Danny Schiller), who agree to help "average-sized" Jill and Trevor with their school supplies problems. There are elements of political and social commentary, whilst bureaucracy (within the Police and Local Government) and the educational system are frequent targets of ridicule.

Setting the scene for the sequels, the series ends with Jill and Trevor 'running away to the Hills' (Almscliffe Crag, North Rigton). Unlike subsequent episodes the series ends with this scene and Big Al and Little Norm listening to the radio at their allotment, where the viewer hears from this that a local senior police officer has been suspended and a business man and councillor have been arrested. It is later revealed in the Beiderbecke Tapes that Mr McAllister and Councillor McAllister were imprisoned.

It all unravels to a soundtrack of jazz music in the style of Bix Beiderbecke performed by Frank Ricotti with Kenny Baker as featured cornet soloist. Extensive use is made of leitmotifs for the various characters.


Trevor and Jill in the opening scene of the first episode
Episode Opening
Big Al, Trevor and Jill in the church crypt/warehouse
  • "What I don't understand is this..." - Trevor orders some jazz records which fail to turn up while Jill begins her campaign to stand for the council. Sgt Hobson becomes suspicious of the activities of Trevor, Jill, Big Al, Little Norm and later Big Al's 'sister' (the platinum blonde).
  • "Can anybody join in?" - After attending a local football match in order to track down his missing records, Trevor agrees to referee. The match is abandoned after the police led by Sgt Hobson raid the pitch following crowd trouble. Trevor and Big Al meet to resolve the problem with the records.
  • "We call it the White Economy" - Mysterious events aimed at intimidating Jill and Trevor begin to unfold, yet there is no indication who is doing this. Jill's election meeting is sabotaged, meanwhile a former girlfriend of Trevor's 'Helen of Tadcaster' turns up unannounced at the election meeting. Meanwhile Big Al's warehouse is subjected to a police raid.
  • "Um...I know what you're thinking" - Trevor uncovers the cause of the events going on, after abducting Harry, but the motives for such still remain a mystery. Meanwhile Jill and Helen have a meal and the two toss a coin over who gets Trevor, Helen winning.
  • "That was a very funny evening" - The motives behind the recent events become clearer after the reasons behind Helen's appearance start to be realised. Meanwhile Jill contacts the town planning department and Trevor goes to dinner at Helen's.
  • "We are on the brink of a new era, if only..." - Trevor, Jill, Big Al, Little Norm, Mr Pitt and Sgt Hobson begin to gather evidence of corruption amongst local businesses, the town planning department and the local police. Jill loses the election, while Jill's and Trevor's houses are raided in an attempt to recover the evidence. Sgt Hobson presents the file to the chief constable and DCI Forest is sacked while Councillor McAllister and Mr McAllister are arrested by Sgt Hobson.


  • Trevor Chaplin - James Bolam Chaplin is a laid back, slightly eccentric woodwork teacher, based on Mr Keaton from Get Lost! Chaplin is in a relationship with Jill Swinburne.
  • Jill Swinburne - Barbara Flynn Swinburne is a committed environmentalist and social campaigner, and also an English teacher. Unlike her other half, she is educated and well spoken. The name Swinburne was inherited from her ex-husband. Swinburne was inspired by the character, Mrs Threadgold from Get Lost!, but had her own character - being somewhat better humoured then Threadgold.
  • Big Al - Terence Rigby Big Al is a somewhat neurotic and particularly eccentric wheeler-dealer, made recently unemployed from the building industry. He is the dominant half of his family run enterprise.
  • Little Norm - Danny Schiller Little Norm is the submissive partner in the family run business with his brother Big Al.
  • Janey - Sue Jenkins Simply known to Trevor as that 'dazzlingly beautiful platinum blonde', Janey sells him some records in aid of the Cubs football team, an event which leads to the unfolding events.
  • Sgt Hobson - Dominic Jephcott Sgt Hobson is a young enthusiastic graduate police officer. Despite being well spoken and knowledgeable about police procedure, he is completely incompetent at his job, and spends most of his hours investigating hypothetical crimes, using his notes for his next thesis.
  • Chief Superintendent Forrest - Colin Blakely Forrest is a plain speaking and effective police superintendent. Forrest is jaded by the job and is utterly corrupt. Forrest was based on a character from Get Lost!, who like Forrest was disparaging towards his counterpart, however unlike Forrest he was neurotic and somewhat detached from reality.
  • Mr Carter - Dudley Sutton Mr Carter is a jaded history teacher, who is an ally of Jill and Trevor.
  • Mr Wheeler - Keith Smith Mr Wheeler is the school headteacher, who is a petty, neurotic jobsworth. Loathed by the pupils and staff alike, Wheeler is usually oblivious to the contempt in which he is held.
  • Harry - Keith Marsh Harry is a retired bookie's runner and would-be supergrass. He is apparently a harmless pensioner seen walking around with his dog Jason.
  • Helen McAllister (Helen of Tadcaster) - Alison Skilbeck Helen is the somewhat needy ex-fiancée of Trevor Chaplin. Helen's father is a successful local businessman, involved in corruption with the local council and police. He uses Helen to get to know Trevor, whose friends he sees as acting in a manner which is counterproductive to the equilibrium he sees necessary to balance his business.
  • Mr McAllister - James Grout Helen's father, an affluent and less than legitimate businessman.
  • Reverend Booth - Ian Bleasdale The Reverend Booth is the local Vicar. Booth is laid back, jaded with his occupation and somewhat lax in the application of Church policy. He provides a cellar for Big Al to conduct his business from.
  • Mr Pitt (Pitt the Planner) - Robert Longdon Mr Pitt is the head of the local town planning department. He is a meek jobsworth but he becomes concerned about the corruption in the local area. It is revealed later in the series that he is a jazz fan.

Filming locations[edit]

Abbeydale Oval, in Kirkstall, Leeds. The house on the right featured as Jill's house.
East Leeds Family Learning Centre (former Foxwood School) in Seacroft, Leeds was used as 'San Quentin High' (picture taken June 2008). Demolition of the complex began in December 2009
St Marks Church in Woodhouse was the Parish Church of St Mathews in the Beiderbecke Affair. It was closed for over a decade but has been bought by Gateway Church and is being renovated
  • Jill's House - Abbeydale Oval, Kirkstall, Leeds
  • Trevor's House - 67 Clarendon Road, Woodhouse, Leeds
  • San Quentin High - Foxwood School, Seacroft, Leeds and Abbey Grange School, Leeds
  • The Alderman What's-His-Name Memorial Playing Fields - Butcher Hill Playing Fields, Abbey Grange, Leeds
  • The Multi-storey Block of Flats - Clayton Grange Flats, Moor Grange, Leeds
  • The Multi-storey Car Park - Woodhouse Lane Multi-storey Car Park, Leeds city centre
  • The location of exterior that Trevor drives round while Jill sees Mr Pitt at the Planning Department is Wakefield Town Hall but Mr Pitt's office is on Cookridge Street and is actually above where Revolution bar now is and the view from his window looks up Rossington Street (the old City of Leeds School is on the right, and the Merrion Centre can be seen at the top of the street).

The actual Leeds City Council planning offices are just over the road in The Leonardo Building which wasn't there at the time of filming back in 1984.

  • The Town Hall/Jill's meeting room and venue for the counting of the votes - Yeadon Town Hall, High Street, Yeadon[1]
  • The Hills - Armscliff Crag, North Rigton
  • The Level Crossing - Forest Lane Level Crossing, Starbeck, Harrogate
  • Grassed residential road near level crossing - Fairways Drive, Starbeck, Harrogate
  • The Parish Church of St Mathews (exterior) - St Mark's Church, Woodhouse, Leeds
  • The Parish Church of St Mathews (interior) - St Peter's Church, Stanley, Wakefield
  • The Police Station - Horsforth Police Station, Leeds.
  • The steep hill that cub scout walks up followed by Trevor is Carr Lane, Rawdon, LS19
  • The Parish church/cub scouts meeting hall is actually St. Peters Church, Rawdon on Town Street/Layton Road, Rawdon, LS19
  • The houses used as the setting for where Jill lived, which were new at the time of filming, were replaced with and older terrace house in Hill View avenue at its junction with Norfolk Gardens in Chapel Allerton for the setting in subsequent series.
  • The house that Jill and Trevor look for that they find is a demolished street is an area off Hartley Crescent/Glossop View, Woodhouse Moor, Leeds. This area is now a grassed space with some trees and benches at the top end.
  • The corner of Grange Avenue, on the way from Big Al's allotment, is the corner of Grange Avenue and Windmill Lane, Guiseley.
  • The telephone box that Trevor uses is at the junction of Parliament Road (now closed to traffic) and Hall Lane, near Armley Prison.

DVD Availability[edit]

All three series are available on DVD as individual boxed sets, and as a Collection DVD Set (the Beiderbecke Trilogy), with an additional 6 Disc Set, the Beiderbecke Trilogy 21st Anniversary Edition (containing the Beiderbecke Trilogy plus Get Lost!, CD Soundtrack, cast interviews and commemorative booklet as special features) released for Region 2.

The Beiderbecke Tapes was released in the US on 29 September 2009.


There are four books to do with the series. Alan Plater's first-ever book was a novelisation of The Beiderbecke Affair (Methuen, 1985) and then he originally wrote The Beiderbecke Tapes as a novel (Methuen, 1986) before dramatising it for ITV. Four years after the final serial aired, he novelised The Beiderbecke Connection scripts (Methuen, 1992). An omnibus edition The Beiderbecke Trilogy was released by Methuen in 1993.

In 2012, the British Film Institute published a book about the series in its range examining key television shows: BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair by William Gallagher (writer). The book is non-fiction but it includes a Beiderbecke short story, A Brief Encounter with Richard Wagner by Alan Plater. It was written for BBC Radio 4 in the 1990s and this is its first publication in print.

Accompanying the non-fiction book, the British Film Institute released an Author Video plus a series of official Beiderbecke Affair podcasts that include a video interview with William Gallagher and with Plater's wife, Shirley Rubinstein, plus audio commentaries by Gallagher for selected episodes of the Beiderbecke series.



  1. ^ Not, as previously said, Greenacre Hall Rawdon. The confusion comes from a poster on the wall to the right of the doors which is advertising services held at Greenacre Hall which is a totally different building and was not used in the filming for exterior or interior shots of which Yeadon Town Hall was. Yeadon Town Hall was also to feature in the Beiderbecke Tapes as the registrar's office which again with Mr Pitt.

External links[edit]