Monday 24 November 2014

On the Move

Genre: Adult Education
Channel: BBC1
Transmission: 12/10/1975 - 03/10/1976

On the Move Bob Hoskins

Literacy is an empowering skill and one that offers a whole new dimension of experiences. In 1972, a somewhat flawed and outdated literacy survey revealed that less than 1% of adults were completely illiterate. It worked out to roughly 330,000 adults or Wembley Stadium filled four times over; concern over these figures led to the launch of the Right to Read campaign. The BBC got involved in this public awareness program in 1975 with On the Move.

Alf (Bob Hoskins) is a removal man struggling to read and write, but between the laddish banter, he finds he can open up to his co-worker Bert (Donald Gee). Encouraged to face his anxieties, Alf begins to attend evening classes to combat his frustrating illiteracy. Every great TV show features a memorable vehicle and in this case Alf and Bert travel round in a black lorry with, uh, a big orange arrow on it. Interstitial segments feature Martin Shaw, Nigel Stock and Patricia Hayes performing literary exercises and anecdotes to inspire people to seek help.

Writing legend Barry Took weaved together the scripts for 50x ten-minute episodes which first aired between 1975 - 76 on BBC1's Sunday evening schedule. The titular theme tune to the show was by 70s pop-rockers The Dooleys and can be heard in full here. Repeats of On the Move continued until late 1978; two spin-off series continued the fight to improve literacy in Your Move and Write Away.

On the Move Patricia Hayes Martin Shaw

Featuring the late, great Bob Hoskins in one of his very first roles meant that On the Move was a show we couldn't pass on; after we found an episode on YouTube, we were delighted to discover that it was a charming little show far removed from the Open University's telly take on adult education.

Bob Hoskins inhabits the everyman role of Alf in enthralling fashion and relays the message that no one, no matter how manly, should shy away from seeking help. Many comments on the YouTube video pay testament to Bob's performance encouraging them to confront their literacy which is probably the greatest compliment Bob could have expected. Donald Gee is unable to match Bob's depth here, but most telly actors of the time (or even the present day) would struggle opposite such a marvel.

To our literate(ish) minds, we found the exercises presented fairly simple, but where else do you start? Simplicity is the key and learning from scratch the way forward. On the Move wasn't produced in order to solve literacy alone, but more to encourage people to seek help. George Auckland - future head of BBC adult education operations - remarks that it achieved this aim as "On the Monday after each episode, there would be queues around the block" to be found up and down the nation at literacy centres.

On the Move Bob Hoskins

From an amazing theme tune where you can almost taste the sunshine pouring out of it's harmonies, to Bob Hoskins' beguiling performance and topped off with a positive message, it's no surprise to learn that On the Move brought in 17 million viewers a week. Unfortunately, adult literacy still remains an issue, so perhaps it's time to instigate a similarly absorbing show.


  1. It was an entertaining show on many levels. Great theme tune too.

  2. There was a TV sketch show in the early 80s (I'm sure it was Not The 9 O'Clock News, but I could be wrong) that did a (what would be considered now as a cruel, and no doubt illegal) parody on this show, titled "On The Moov", which I found hilarious.