Andre Singer explains why the Disappearing World programme stopped in 1977

I moved from Disappearing World, having been a researcher on Disappearing World to being a director on local programmes, to being then a director on World in Action, because at that time, then there was a lull in what was happening on Disappearing World. Then I went back to work for Brian on Disappearing World, and was able to make my own films.

Was that lull round about the time when the programme stopped in 1977?


And why did it stop?

Yes, it was exactly then. That’s why I was on World in Action. Instead of just as a tryout, I was kept on it for two years. So, I made seven or eight World in Action’s during that time. I mean I quite enjoyed my time at World in Action, but it was not what I was geared to do by Forman and co. I was meant to be doing Disappearing World, but it was stopped because of a dispute over… I had a major dispute at the end, I think it was over taking PAs (production assistants) on location. I think it was David Plowright who pulled the rug at that time, and said, “We’re not having that kind of blackmail,” and so on, and it stopped.

Okay, that’s interesting. Because I suppose given the conditions, you probably would have wanted a small crew, but actually that might not have been…

It was the very strong ACTT years, you’ll probably remember. In fact, I was deputy shop steward in London at that time. And it was almost a rota system with people going on location, and we often had inappropriate crews, and was spending money simply for the sake of having to have an extra person. I now just don’t want to confuse the two reasons, because when I left, there was another dispute at the end. That was in ‘82. There was one dispute in ’77, and then there was another one later.

The one that I fell in was also on that same thing, which was with Leslie. I’d set up a trilogy of films in China, and Leslie made one in a commune in the Northeast. I made another one on the Kazakhs in Western China, and I have a third film in Hunan. That was going to be made by another World in Action veteran who died about five years ago, Mike Beckham. That one was stopped because the local people had set up transport and the PA’s insisted that they had to have a PA. There was absolutely nothing for PA to do because transport was being organised locally, language was a translator locally. There was no hotel booking. There was no liaison. All they could do was take notes for the director and that’s when David Plowright really lost his rag and said, “I’m not having this.” He stopped that film. Leslie then spun his out to be two films instead of one, so we still had a trilogy going out on air. Then that was the end of Disappearing World, at that time.

Leave a Reply