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Obituary: Rodney Bewes

Rodney Bewes

Rodney Bewes, who has died aged 79, found fame as the aspirational Bob in the BBC sitcom The Likely Lads.

Teaming Bewes with fellow actor, James Bolam, it regularly drew audiences of more than 20 million.

Despite the success of a sequel, the two fell out in spectacular style – effectively ending the chance of the series being continued.

It turned out to be the peak of Bewes’s career and he later found himself reduced to playing a series of less distinguished roles.

Rodney Bewes was born in Bingley, Yorkshire, on 27 November 1937.

His family later moved to Luton in Bedfordshire where his schooling was often interrupted by ill-health.

He answered a newspaper letter from a BBC producer asking for children to appear in the Corporation’s Children’s Hour.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption He appeared alongside his friend Tom Courtenay in Billy Liar

By the age of 14 he had appeared in a number of BBC TV productions including a role as Joe in a 1952 adaptation of The Pickwick Papers. He also secured a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s preparatory school.

“All the kids were posh and they were the children of actors in the West End of London and I’m just this boy from Bingley, near Bradford, and broad Yorkshire,” he later recalled.

After completing his National Service in the RAF he returned to Rada. He financed his studies by washing up in hotels at night, something that caused him to fall asleep during the day which culminated in him being asked to leave the Academy.

He managed to secure some small stage roles, as well as parts in TV productions including Dixon of Dock Green, Emergency Ward 10 and Z Cars.

Aspirational

He made his film debut in 1962 in Prize of Arms, a yarn about a gang which attempts to rob an army payroll convoy. The film is notable for early performances by a number of later well-known actors including Tom Bell, Jack May, Michael Ripper and Fulton Mackay.

A year later he secured the role of Arthur Crabtree in Billy Liar, alongside his friend, Tom Courtenay.

It was the age of British cinema’s so-called ‘new wave’ when filmmakers were turning their attention to gritty working-class dramas and desperate for actors with regional accents.

Image caption There was a brief spell as straight man for Basil Brush

Despite Bewes hailing from Yorkshire, rather than Tyneside, he was cast as Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads, a sitcom conceived by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.

His aspirational character was in direct contrast to that of his friend, Terry Collier, the workshy, cynical figure played by James Bolam. Much of the comedy revolved around Bob’s attempts to become middle-class in the face of constant derision from Terry.

The final series ended in 1966 and Bewes played a number of TV parts and was also in films including Man in a Suitcase, Spring and Port Wine and a star-studded musical version of Alice in Wonderland in which he played the Knave of Hearts.

He spent a year as ‘Mr Rodney’ who was one of a series of stooges for the puppet, Basil Brush, before creating and starring in the ITV sitcom, Dear Mother… Love Albert. It showcased his skills as a scriptwriter and proved to be popular with audiences.

Incensed

In 1973 he teamed up with James Bolam again for Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, a sequel to the original series.

The series saw Bolam’s character Terry return from his time away in the army to discover that Bewes’s Bob has bought his own house, secured a managerial job and is engaged to the boss‘s daughter.

Off stage the pair enjoyed a warm relationship. “We were great friends,” said Bewes. “When my babies were born, his was the first house I went to.”

In 1975 there was a film spin-off which proved to be the last time the pair worked together. Bolam was famous for guarding his privacy and was furious when Bewes let slip to a newspaper that Bolam’s wife, the actress Susan Jameson, was pregnant.

Image caption Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads was even more successful than the original series

After a fraught phone call the two did not speak to each other again. Bolam was so incensed that he refused to appear on an edition of This Is Your Life, which featured his former acting partner.

“It’s this actor’s ego thing: he thinks he is important,” Bewes once said. “Actors aren’t important. I’m not important; I have fun. I think Jimmy takes himself very seriously as an actor.”

Bewes’ acting career never again scaled the heights of Likely Lads. There were bit parts in the films Jabberwocky and The Wildcats of St Trinians and he was able to use his abilities as a serious actor in a 1980 TV adaptation of the Restoration play, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

Props

Earlier in his career he had appeared in productions of She Stoops to Conquer and there was a role in a 1984 production of George Gascoigne’s play Big in Brazil at the Old Vic Theatre in London, with Prunella Scales and Timothy West.

In the same year he also appeared in a Doctor Who story entitled Resurrection of the Daleks. It was one of his last significant appearances on the small screen.

He had some stage success with his one-man shows, Three Men in a Boat and Diary of a Nobody, which he toured for more than a decade. He won a Stella Artois Prize for the former at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival.

Image caption His role in Resurrection of the Daleks was one of his last TV appearances

His wife, the designer Daphne Black, whom he married in 1973, acted as his helper, setting up the stage and the props for his various performances.

Bewes never gave up on the idea of a revival of The Likely Lads, feeling that the characters were still relevant 40 years on.

“Instead of being the Likely Lads, we’d have been the Unlikeliest Granddads, he said. “We would have been sitting on a park bench in a pair of grubby grey anoraks, feeding the pigeons and grumping about youngsters.”

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Grenfell tragedy: Councils plan £380m fire safety spend

GrenfellImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fire safety measures councils have started implementing range from the removal of cladding and installation of fire doors

Councils across the capital will be spending a total of about £383m to make social housing safer following the Grenfell fire, research by BBC Radio London has found.

About half of London‘s boroughs have asked for financial help, which the government has not yet agreed to.

Of 33 London boroughs contacted following the disaster in June, 26 responded with estimated costings.

Four boroughs said it was too early to know how much they would be spending.

Two councils had no council housing to implement additional fire safety measures to.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – the council where the Grenfell Tower stood – did not respond to BBC Radio London’s research request.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Firefighters were called to Grenfell Tower at 00:54 BST on 14 June

Ahead of Wednesday’s budget, some councillors in London are calling on the government to make good on its promise in the days that followed the Grenfell fire to help councils with fire safety measures.

Measures councils have started implementing range from the removal of cladding and installation of fire doors and smoke alarms, to 24-hour security patrols on some blocks.

Other costs include removing people from their homes and temporarily re-housing them for safety reasons.

Ten councils are planning to put in sprinklers, with a further 11 considering installing sprinklers in council housing blocks.


Four highest planned spends

  • Southwark £162m (£62m spent so far, £100m estimated if sprinklers retrofitted)
  • Wandsworth £30m (Sprinklers and cladding)
  • City of London £25m (Fire compliant doors, sprinklers and fire alarms)
  • Hammersmith & Fulham £20m (Fire safety plus scheme)

Croydon has already started the process of installing sprinklers in 25 blocks over 10 storeys high at a cost of £10m.

However, Wandsworth has even bigger plans – to retrofit sprinklers in all 99 of its council blocks – which along with removing cladding, will cost it about £30m.

Wandsworth has faced criticism from some leaseholders over being required to contribute towards the cost.

So far eight councils have told BBC Radio London they would look at charging leaseholders for fire safety works while six would not.

Malcolm Grimston, an independent councillor in Wandsworth, said it was the government rather than the council or local people who should foot the bill.

Mr Grimston said: “It seems to me entirely unfair that that amount of money is coming out of the repair fund.

“We have a big problem with damp in our council flats. There are many of them that haven’t had kitchens replaced for 30 or 40 years.

“This is a vast amount of money which could do an enormous amount of good and it seems to me only fair that rather than the tenants having to pay that, that money should come from general taxation.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The final death toll from the fire was confirmed as 71 by the authorities in November

Conservative run Wandsworth council said it had been in discussion with the government about funding but had not asked for any money.

Some 15 councils, including Labour-run Croydon, Lambeth, Newham and Southwark, have written to the government asking for money but said they had not been offered any funds.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to set aside up to £1bn to fit sprinklers in all council blocks.

Labour-run Tower Hamlets said it cannot afford sprinklers and it wants the government to use Wednesday’s budget to meet a promise made by Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid following the Grenfell fire in June, when he said he would do “whatever it takes” to make high-rise buildings safe.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said “councils should contact the DCLG to discuss their position if they have any concerns about funding fire safety works”.

“Building owners are responsible for ensuring their buildings are fire safe and we expect them to fund fire safety measures,” the spokesperson added.

Hampstead fire: Woman dies in fire at block of flats

Fire at the block of flatsImage copyright Rupert Barnes
Image caption The fire damaged part of the first, second and third floors of the building

A woman has died in a fire at a block of flats in north London.

About 60 firefighters tackled the blaze that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday at the four-storey building in Daleham Garden, Hampstead.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said about 20 people fled the building before crews arrived but one woman who was rescued died at the scene.

The cause of the fire, which took about three hours to get under control, is under investigation.

Image copyright LFB
Image caption The fire took about three hours to get under control

Crews in eight fire engines, along with an aerial appliance, attended the scene after the alarm was raised just before 02:00 BST.

LFB said fire had damaged part of the first, second and third floors of the building.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area as there are a number of road closures.

‘Outsourced’ workers seek better deal in landmark case

Catering workerImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Outsourced workers are are often low paid staff, such as caterers and security guards

A group of 75 workers, including porters and receptionists, are going to tribunal to gain more rights at work.

As outsourced employees, they are supplied to the University of London by a facilities company, but do not receive the same benefits as those employed directly.

The university does not accept they should be a “joint employer”, which would allow for better entitlements.

The case could affect around 3.3 million outsourced workers in the UK.

Many big organisations pay facilities companies to provide workers who are often low paid, such as cleaners or security guards. This allows them them to control the way people work, determining their pay and conditions, whilst avoiding many of the legal responsibilities of being an employer.

Making ends meet

Henry Chango Lopez is an outsourced worker at the heart of the campaign, which could become a game changing legal challenge for millions of people around the country.

He works as a porter at the university, but is employed by the business services company Cordant, and has two jobs to make ends meet.

“I start my day at 4am,” he said. “I travel from Hertfordshire to Southwark in London to do two hours cleaning work.

“Then I go straight to my main job as a porter at the University of London, where I work from 8am to 3pm.”

Image caption Mr Lopez wants the University of London to accept “joint employer” status

Mr Lopez is part of the group, which also includes security guards and post-room staff, seeking a tribunal ruling that the university is recognised, along with Cordant, as their “joint employer”.

The concept has existed in various forms for decades in the US. It allows outsourced or franchise employees in some circumstances to legally compel client companies or franchisors to enter into collective bargaining agreements. However, it has to be shown that these companies have sufficient “control” over the employees.

If established in the UK, unions could collectively bargain the pay, terms and conditions of outsourced workers with the “joint employer” – the employer that chooses to outsource. That employer may find it difficult to then justify inferior terms and conditions for its outsourced workers.

The workers are being supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

Its general secretary, Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, said: “For all intents and purposes, the outsourced workers at the University of London work for the university. It is the entity which essentially decides what their pay and terms and conditions are going to be.

“So, unless the workers can negotiate directly with the university, they can’t really negotiate at all over their pay and terms and conditions.”

‘Enormous’ impact

UK law has never recognised the concept of “joint employers” for the purpose of negotiating workers’ terms and conditions.

Specialist employment lawyer Daphne Romney QC said that if it did, “it would be enormous”.

She added: “There would be about 3.3 million outsourced employees whose terms and conditions would improve because they would be on the same terms and conditions as the people they work alongside everyday but who are directly employed.

“And for the employers, of course, there would also be an impact because it would be more expensive to improve those terms and conditions.”

Mr Lopez said his life would “change massively” if the principle was recognised, stopping him having to work two jobs and seeing a big improvement to his pension.

But the university does not agree it is responsible.

In a statement, the University of London told the BBC: “The university does not employ any of these workers and does not accept that the relevant legislation recognises the concept of joint employment.

“We have therefore not agreed to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain‘s request for recognition.”

Bradford among UK’s most fertile places

BRADFORD has been named one of the most fertile places in the UK, according to new statistics.

The Office for National Statistics recorded a rate of 2.21 children per mother in the district – making it seventh in the UK for fertility rates.

Barking and Dagenham in London topped the list with 2.47 children per mother. In second place was Forest Heath in Suffolk, with a rate of 2.31, followed in third place by Slough in Berkshire (2.29).

The City of London recorded the lowest fertility rate in 2016 (0.75).

The average for the whole of the country was 1.79, down from 1.92 in 2012.

Blackburn with Darwen was the highest ranking area in the North, with 2.25.

All four nations of the UK have seen the average rate fall in 2016, compared with figures in 2012.

The West Midlands and the East of England jointly recorded the highest rates of any region in England in 2016 (1.91).

Passengers asked to get involved with latest designs for £17m Forster Square station revamp

MEMBERS of the public will be asked how they would like a major £17m revamp of Bradford Forster Square station to look.

The station is in line for a complete transformation by 2021, under a project unveiled by transport bosses last year designed to coincide with new direct services to London.

‘Pods’ housing waiting rooms and other facilities would be built under the railway arches and a piece of scrubland next to the platforms would become a green ‘pocket park’.

The existing lift structure would be removed and new lifts would be set further back to open up views of the historic railway arches behind.

And whereas passengers currently struggle to buy a hot drink, the revamped station would have a new cafe and a shop.

Artists’ impressions of how the new station could look were first unveiled last year and now Bradford Council has released more detailed architectural drawings, with parts of the design further tweaked to create a grander entrance with a taller roof.

Part of the station is now also planned to have a green ‘living roof’.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said currently the structure housing the lift blocked the view of the original arches and protruded into the station.

“It’s not a great space,” he said.

By stripping this out, he said, they would create a more imposing open space to welcome people into the station and make more of a feature of the the original railway arches, which he said were “architecturally fantastic and quite under-valued”.

He said: “It will be quite a unique station, I think, because we will have these fantastic architectural qualities, linking in with our railway heritage, being brought back into use.”

And transport bosses will soon be heading out with these architects’ designs, asking passengers to chip in with their thoughts, such as whether the eye-catching new arched roofs should have Gothic-style points or Roman-style curves.

People will also be asked about what facilities they would like the station to have, such as whether the waiting rooms should be heated, what kind of bicycle storage should be offered, whether there should be two lifts instead of one and how the pocket park should be landscaped.

Tom Jones, senior transport planner at Bradford Council, said: “There are some key questions we want to ask, focusing mainly on facilities.

“We have got facilities we think are important and we want to run that by the public.”

The consultation sessions will be held at the station over a few days next month, with the exact dates still to be finalised.

The final designs would then be drawn up by next spring, around the same time as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is due to give the official go-ahead for full funding of the scheme from its £1bn West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund.

Building work could then begin by the end of 2018 and finish in 2020/21.

The rebuilding of the station comes as Virgin Trains East Coast prepares to start running services from Forster Square to London every two hours from 2019.

Transport bosses say this means passengers taking longer journeys will be waiting in the station for longer and will expect better facilities.

Cllr Ross-Shaw said: “At the moment, you just need to go for your service and you are in and out straight away.

“That isn’t ideal and the retail offer isn’t great.

“This is just a more modern, functional rail station.”

The new East Coast services from Forster Square will be in addition to the existing four trains a day which run from Bradford Interchange to London King’s Cross, operated by Grand Central.

London buses to be powered by coffee

Woman drinking coffee on busImage copyright Bio-bean
Image caption It is the first time a coffee-derived biofuel will be used on London‘s public transport system

Waste coffee grounds will be used to help power some of London‘s buses from Monday, it has been revealed.

A biofuel created by blending oil extracted from coffee waste with diesel is to be added to the public transport fuel supply.

Technology firm bio-bean says it has produced enough coffee oil to power one bus for a year.

Transport for London (TfL) has increasingly turned to using biofuels to reduce transport emissions.

Will buses be run on coffee in future?

Biofuel made using waste products such as cooking oil and tallow from meat processing is already used in many of the capital’s 9,500 buses.

However, this is thought to be the first time a coffee-derived biofuel has been added to London’s public transport system.

Image copyright Bio-bean
Image caption About 55 million cups of coffee are drunk in the UK per day, the British Coffee Association says

Londoners create 200,000 tonnes of coffee waste a year, according to bio-bean.

The company takes the used grounds from coffee shops and instant coffee factories, and extracts oil from it in its factory.

This is then processed into a blended B20 biofuel.

Buses can be powered using the fuel without the need for modification.

Image copyright Bio-bean
Image caption More than two billion passenger trips are made on buses each year in London

The firm believes it would take just over 2.55 million cups of coffee to create the enough biofuel to run a London bus for a year once the oil has been blended with diesel.

Six-thousand litres of coffee oil have been produced so far.

“It’s a great example of what can be done when we start to reimagine waste as an untapped resource,” bio-bean founder Arthur Kay said.

Britain First deputy leader arrested

Deputy leader of Britain First, Jayda FransenImage copyright PA
Image caption Jayda Fransen has been arrested over a speech in Belfast in August

The deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First has been arrested in London by Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives.

Jayda Fransen, 31, is being brought to Belfast to be interviewed over a speech she gave in the city during the summer.

The speech was made at a “Northern Ireland Against Terrorism” rally at Belfast City Hall on 6 August.

Ms Fransen was arrested in the Bromley area on Saturday.

Probe after woman found dead in Muswell Hill house

Hill Road, Muswell HillImage copyright Google
Image caption The woman was found dead in a house on Hill Road, Muswell Hill

The death of a woman who was found in a house in north London is being treated as suspicious, police have said.

The woman, who is believed to be aged in her 50s, was discovered inside the property on Hill Road in Muswell Hill on Thursday evening.

Scotland Yard said they had visited the address after concerns were raised about the woman’s wellbeing.

A post-mortem examination will take place later and no arrests have been made, police said.

City centre lighting scheme beats London’s Oxford Street to be named best in the country

A SCHEME to illuminate a previously uninviting part of Bradford has beat London’s Oxford Street in a national contest.

St Blaise Square, next to Forster Square rail station, was named Outdoor Lighting Project of the Year at the Lux Awards – which recognises major lighting projects.

It was up against thought competition in its category – not only beating the London street, which has become a tourist attraction due to its Christmas lights, but also Nottingham’s Biocity and the Vicarage Gate House in the Kensington area of the capital.

The win means the square has been judged the best public realm lighting project in the country.

The judges cited the lighting for its ‘transformational’ quality providing a safe, clean and attractive environment while giving people a “warm and colourful welcoming experience.”

Last year a series of LED lights was installed in the series of 10 large railway archways in the square as part of a series of improvements to Bradford city centre.

Trees and a section of the large wall in the square are also lit up, and the lighting provides a backdrop to the 1997 sculpture called Fibre, which is in the centre of the square and is constructed from old railway lines and references fibre-optic cables.

The colours of the lights can be altered for different occasions, and have seen the arches bathed in claret and amber when Bradford City legend Bobby Campbell died last year and were recently purple to mark World Prematurity Day raising awareness of premature birth.

This weekend they will be will be white, red, yellow and black to mark the Women of the World Festival being held in the city centre, and next weekend they will be turned all white to mark international White Ribbon Day, which encourages men and boys to pledge not to commit violence against women.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Executive for Regeneration, Planning and Transport said: “The combination of the heritage arches and the innovative technology used makes the whole area a pleasant thoroughfare for our commuters and those visiting the city centre to shop and eat.

“I’m delighted that this project has been recognised in this way and I’d like to thank the staff for all their hard work.”

The lights are timed to come on at dusk, and go off after the last train leaves Forster Square.

The site was identified as needing a refurbishment as it offered a poor impression to those arriving in the city by train. The changes were funded through the City Centre Growth Scheme, and sixty four in-ground LEDs were installed in the arches, walls and a raised planter. New paving was also installed.