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The Crack Magazine

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Tastes of Honey (The Making of Shelagh Delaney and Cultural Revolution) by Selina Todd

I only noticed Selina Todd’s biography of Shelagh Delaney, Tastes of Honey (The making of Shelagh Delaney and a cultural revolution), was out in paperback because I’m the kind of nerdy ex bookseller who’s obsessed about such things - boxes of which I felt should immediately have been shipped to every girl’s high school in the country. An instant set text. A counter, for instance, to the list of work placement choices that were recently offered at one of the local schools. The choices: hairdressing, childcare, sport, retail…but what about writer, playwright, publisher, editor? The message: not for girls like you. Mirroring the sad fact contained within this biography that Shelagh Delaney, a working-class writer, was an outlier and that working-class women are still few and far between in theatre, television, and publishing; and even those who ‘make it’ make it under the terms set by middle class gatekeepers. “That Shelagh Delaney’s achievements have been overlooked is due to the condescending belief that a working-class woman only has only a limited amount to say”. But as Selina Todd shows she had plenty to say after the success of A Taste of Honey and continued to write successfully no matter what the critics implied - as if being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature or the screenwriter for the award-winning film Dancer in the Dark (her third major screenplay) wasn’t quite enough for a writer of a hit play over twenty years earlier. The last lines in this brilliant biography: “She continued to write, and in doing so to show that those often considered marginal to political debate and artistic endeavour - working class people, and especially women and children - are the majority of the human race. More, they are worth listening to. ‘I write as people speak’, said Shelagh. How dangerous. How inspiring”. Indeed.

Steven Long

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