Priestley’s finest hour part 2: Let the People Sing

As promised in a previous post, over the next few weeks I will be discussing Priestley’s Postscript broadcasts and some of his World War II writings. I will try to stick to the Postscript broadcast schedule, starting with his first Postscript on 5 June.

Cover of Let the people sing

Cover of Let the people sing

Meanwhile, a look back at a novel published just as the war was beginning, in September 1939.  Let the People Sing was serialised by the BBC before its publication in book form.  Priestley explained in his Author’s Note that there was a special reason for his agreeing to the BBC’s commission, when he had never allowed such serialisation before: “I agreed to let the BBC have a novel, partly because I felt we might be at war in the autumn … and that broadcasting would then be extremely valuable to the public”.  He read the first broadcast himself, “on Sunday, the Third of September, the very day war was declared”.  Priestley already understood the value of radio.

BBC Archive: front cover of Radio Times 3-9 September 1939, advertising Priestley reading the novel, with picture of him at the microphone.

Let the People Sing contained many of the elements that had delighted the public in Priestley’s Good Companions in 1929.  It offered escapism at a dark time (the start of the Depression in GCs, the coming of war for LTPS).  It is comic, lighthearted and benevolent in tone.  Three diverse entertainers meet by chance (one a music hall comedian), and campaign to save Dunbury Market Hall for local music lovers, rather than United Plastics, who want to use it as a showroom for their products. The title became a popular catchphrase, and the novel was filmed in 1942 with Alastair Sim as Professor Kronak, the Czech professor who delights in etymology.

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