Red Under the Bed

The research that the Campaign has carried out into the trials of the Shrewsbury pickets has unearthed several features that showed the interference in the case by the Government.   The Campaign’s researcher, Eileen Turnbull, describes below how she tracked down the television programme,  Red Under the Bed,  and also secured the release of a Government file relating to its involvement in the making of the programme.

In 2012 I discovered details of a television programme Red Under the Bed whilst researching Government records about the Shrewsbury pickets’ case at the National Archives, Kew. The catalogue referred to a file described as “Woodrow Wyatt’s TV programme, ‘Red Under the Bed’” but when I obtained the full reference it stated, “Retained by Department under Section 3.4” This was a reference to the Public Records Act 1958 that allows the Government to retain any documents that it chooses, usually on the grounds of “national security.


On 1 August 2013 I made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the file to be released to the National Archives for public viewing. The Cabinet Office agreed that it would be prepared for release to Kew but did not give a date. I discovered that it was transferred to the National Archives on 2 October 2013 and went back to Kew and read it from cover to cover.


I immediately realised the significance of the file and sent a copy by email to the Campaign’s lawyers. They included it in a further submission to the CCRC.  I also sent copies to our parliamentary team including Tom Watson and David Anderson. They spoke about it in Parliament and Andy Burnham later raised the issues surrounding Red Under the Bed in a debate in Westminster Hall on 9 December 2015 that attracted significant media coverage.


I also began a search for a copy of the film. It had been made by Anglia TV for the ITV network. Anglia TV had been swallowed up by a succession of larger regional ITV companies in the 1990s but none of them had a copy nor the East Anglian Film Archive at the University of East Anglia. After several months I eventually tracked down a copy to the British Film Institute. They had it on 2” film and kindly transferred it into a digital format for me. I went to their London office with Campaign Chairperson, Harry Chadwick, on 25 September 2013 and we viewed the film and the studio discussion that had taken place afterwards.


The programme had been broadcast in several ITV regions on Tuesday 13 November 1973, the day that the prosecution completed its case against the first six pickets. It had been featured in the Radio & TV page of the local evening paper, the  Shropshire Star, that was likely to have been read by the jurors hearing the trial.


The programme was made and presented by a former Labour MP, Woodrow Wyatt and  featured footage of picketing during the building workers strike and other disputes. After the programme, a studio discussion was chaired by Richard Whiteley with a panel of four including Wyatt, Alan Fisher of NUPE, Barbara Castle MP and Geoffrey Johnson Smith MP.


The day after it was broadcast the pickets lawyers applied for Anglia TV and Woodrow Wyatt to be held in contempt of court but Judge Mais refused and the trial continued.