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Elswick Street: Scene of the TV series Bread
Format Comedy
Created by Carla Lane
Starring Jean Boht
Peter Howitt
Nick Conway
Opening theme David Mackay
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 74
Location(s) Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC One
Original run 1 May 1986 (1986-05-01) – 3 November 1991 (1991-11-03)

Bread is a British television sitcom, written by Carla Lane, produced by the BBC and screened on BBC1 from 1 May 1986 to 3 November 1991.

The series focused on the devoutly-Catholic and extended Boswell family of Liverpool, in the district of Dingle, led by its matriarch Nellie (Jean Boht) through a number of ups and downs as they tried to make their way through life in Thatcher's Britain with no visible means of support. The street shown at the start of each programme is Elswick Street.

Nellie's feckless and estranged husband, Freddie (Ronald Forfar), left her for another woman known as 'Lilo Lil' (Eileen Pollock). Her children Joey, Jack, Adrian, Aveline and Billy continued to live in the family home in Kelsall Street and contributed money to the central family fund, largely through benefit fraud and the sale of stolen goods.


  • Joey (Peter Howitt until series 5; Graham Bickley up to series 7) was the eldest and wisest of the offspring, dressed in smart leather clothing, using the earliest (that is, enormous) mobile phone and drove a classic Jaguar, despite having no obvious source of income. He contributed large sums to the family kitty and was often his mother's spokesman. He had an on/off relationship with a woman named Roxy (Joanna Phillips-Lane) of whom his mother disapproved because Roxy had a child and had broken Joey's heart in the past.At the end of the show, it shows Joey having a go at Nellie about him and Roxy as man and wife, determining he had gotten married in Scotland, just like Adrian and Irenee
  • Jack (Victor McGuire) was arguably the hardest-working and most likable of the five; he had no aspirations to have a glamorous job but just wanted to make a reasonable living. Mainly, he dealt in anything that would fit into the battered van he drove. He left the family home to visit the USA in series 4 (McGuire took a break from the show) and came back wiser but still not rich. He had little luck with women until the elder Leonora Campbell (Deborah Grant) moved in further down Kelsall Street and the two had a relationship; his mother disapproved of due to the age gap. At the end of the show, Jack is taking a shower, when Leonora walks in and tells him she's pregnant.
  • Adrian (Jonathon Morris)was baptised James and called Jimmy as a child but decided the name was too common and changed it. He was the artistic, idealistic one of the family and continually pointed out that he was the only one with a proper, honest job (in an estate agency). He became a published poet and artist and also worked as a model, but his successes were tempered by his extraordinary inferiority complex, especially around women. He had a relationship with a nymphomaniac called Carmen who broke his heart. He frequently emphasised his panicky outlook on life with the phrase "Hanging by a thread!". Eventually, he found happiness with a woman called Irenee (Sharon Byatt), whom he married in Scotland just like Joey.
  • Aveline (Gilly Coman until series 5; Melanie Hill up to series 7) was the only daughter and was therefore overprotected by her mother and brothers,who vetted all her boyfriends and made her wear a whistle around her neck at all times in case of attack. She had aspired to be a model and had a bit of success, but she temporarily gave up her ambitions when she married Oswald (Giles Watling). Oswald was a local Protestant vicar, which stirred up his new mother-in-law's religious prejudices, but his new brothers-in-law liked him. After the birth of their first daughter, Tracy Ursula, Aveline became pregnant again, but had problems in the late stages of the pregnancy, but didn't lose the baby.
  • Billy (Nick Conway) was the youngest and daftest of the quintet. He had a variety of jobs, including running his own sandwich-delivery business. Despite his youth and immaturity, he was the first Boswell to marry, leave home, and reproduce, thanks to a fiery on/off relationship with the astute and cynical Julie (Caroline Milmoe until series 2; Hilary Crowson thereafter) who lived across the road. Billy moved in with Julie and they had daughter Francesca, but the proximity to his mother's home made it tough for him to escape her apron strings; Julie regularly kicked him out. Billy drove a Volkswagen Beetle which frequently emitted loud bangs from the exhaust system. At the end of the show, it shows Billy and his girlfriend,Connie being madly in love, but Connie insisted, unlike the other Boswell Brothers, she does not want to get married,to Billy's disagree.
  • Nellie and her children all took turns visiting and delivering meals to Grandad (Kenneth Waller) who lived next door in a house that used to belong to the Boswells. Grandad and the Boswells swapped houses so each could charge the other rent and then claim it back from the DHSS. It was never made clear whose father he actually was; even Nellie and Freddie called him Grandad. He was referred to by non-family members as Mr Boswell, therefore it could be assumed he was Freddie's father. However, in an episode from series 3, Grandad's name is revealed as William Thomas Duvall. Nellie once refers to Freddie as Grandad's only son-in-law, which would mean that Grandad was in fact her father and, in the companion book to the series, Mrs Boswell's Slice of Bread, her maiden name is confirmed as Duvall and she refers to Grandad as 'my father.' He was a cantankerous and obnoxious man at times, never appearing grateful for the way the family kept him, but they all doted on him and he was always willing to hand out serious advice. His wife, referred to by everyone as Granny, had long since died and Grandad mourned her although he had always reserved love for another woman (the never-seen Edie Mathieson).
  • Freddie's girlfriend, Lilo Lil (Eileen Pollock), was an Irish woman of a similar age to the Boswell parents, but with a more flamboyant sense of style and a self-confessed desire for passion in her relationships, which she claimed in her frequent confrontations with Nellie (who called her a "tart" to her face, and to others) was the main reason Freddie preferred her. That said, Freddy often tried to return to his wife before finding Lilo Lil too tempting. She was often heard to scream publicly: "I love you, Freddie Boswell!"
  • Derek (Peter Byrne) was a widower who befriended Nellie when he met her in a park and tried, unsuccessfully, to forge a relationship with her. Nellie was tempted by him but couldn't bring herself to have another relationship while she was still technically married. If he phoned her home while she had visitors (she told no one of his existence), she would say "Thank you!" in a comedically high-pitched voice and hang up.
  • Two local businessmen and small-time thugs and crooks were the monosyllabic Yizzel (Charles Lawson) and his partner who, despite being the brains and voice of the duo, was never named in dialogue and was therefore always credited as 'Yizzel's mate' (Simon Rouse). They ran a limousine company called Occasion Cars and were acquaintances of Joey.
  • Father Dooley (J. G. Devlin) was the local Catholic priest to whom Nellie—and, less regularly, other family members—-would go to confess or to seek advice.
  • Mongy was the family dog (short for "Mongrel"). He was usually seen in outdoor scenes shot on location, seldom in studio scenes (most notably series 2, episode 6, when he was recovering from an operation). He met his end when a storyline required him to be run over and killed, reuniting the Boswells in grief.
  • In series 4, Cousin Shifty (Bryan Murray) turned up after leaving prison and moved into Grandad's house while occupying Jack's seat at mealtimes. Initially this was to compensate for Jack's absence, but the character was retained after Jack's return. He was apparently Grandad's favourite grandchild (although he was referred to several times as Shifty Boswell, which would have made them unrelated), despite being a career criminal (hence the nickname). He combined dead-end jobs and failed business interests (including running a mobile green-grocery from the back of a hearse) with more petty crime. His ex-girlfriend Celia (Rita Tushingham) turned up briefly, before he began a relationship with Boswell nemesis/DHSS clerk Martina (Pamela Power), who had spent the previous series fending off attempts by various Boswell members to get more financial aid from the Government. This relationship with Shifty allowed Martina, a popular character, to be seen beyond her working environment.

Other elements

The show's title is a reference to the use of 'bread' as a slang term for money (Cockney Rhyming slang: Bread and Honey). A regular scenario in each episode was that of Nellie opening a cockerel-fashioned kitchen storage pot prior to the evening meal, into which the family would place money for their upkeep. The amount of money placed in the pot by each depended on how successful a day they'd had. The pot would be at the forefront of the screen at the end of each episode as the credits rolled.

Other frequently-seen scenarios included Nellie answering a cordless phone (a newfangled item in the mid-1980s) which she kept in the pocket of her pinny (she always said "Hello yes?" when answering); and the parking places outside the terraced house for the family's many vehicles being kept free by some illicitly-acquired police traffic cones.

One of the main reasons for the show's success was its use of soap opera-style cliffhangers. This meant that viewers had to tune in each week to see how the previous week's cliffhanger would be resolved. This also meant that each episode was not self-contained, but the plot unfolded as the series progressed. This was very unusual for a comedy at the time, but has been used to great effect by comedies since, for example in the NBC sitcom Friends.

The theme tune was sung by the cast members and was released on BBC Records but failed to make the UK singles chart. The theme was re-recorded for the 5th series of the show.

External links



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