Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution by Todd, Selina

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ISBN 9781784740825 – CHATTO & WINDUS – TRADE – RANDOM HOUSE UK Hardback 256 pp – August 2019

Selina Todd is Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. She grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and was educated at Heaton Manor Comprehensive School and the Universities of Warwick and Sussex. She writes about class, inequality, working-class history, feminism and women’s lives in modern Britain. Her book The People- The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010 was a Sunday Times bestseller and was described by the Observer as ‘A book we badly need’. Based on the voices of working-class people themselves, it charted the history of ordinary workers, housewives, children and pensioners over the turbulent twentieth century.

The history she writes is one of anger and defiance, but ultimately of hope for a better future – one that we can build by knowing more about our past.

An expert, authoritative biography which brings Delaney’s work and times brilliantly to life and re-establishes her position at the heart of British cultural and social history.

SKU: UB-9781784740825 Category: Tag:


Ground-breaking, firebrand playwright who changed our cultural and social landscape and put working-class lives centre stage.

Throughout her life, Shelagh Delaney told the stories of unfamiliar lives- working-class women and men – often those peopling Britain’s northern towns and cities – living on the margins of what polite society deemed acceptable, but who chose their own way in the world.

She wrote her first and best-known play A Taste of Honey, set in her native Salford, at the age of nineteen. A story of slums, sex and race relations, it premiered in 1958 and caught Britain on the cusp of seismic social change. Thanks to the new welfare state, council housing, education and full employment, women were freed from the old straitjacket of domesticity and, as the sixties began to swing, were able to take unprecedented new risks in their lives. Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was proclaiming that people ‘had never had it so good’, but the violent reaction to Delaney’s play exposed a deeply polarised society. The established press condemned Honey as tasteless muck; others thought it groundbreaking in its faithful depiction of working-class life. Builders, labourers and office workers told the BBC that Honey was ‘about people like us, isn’t it? Real life.’

Though little known today, this is the inspiring story of how one woman shook up the establishment of the 1950s and 60s, and helped trigger a cultural revolution. Exploding old certainties about class, sex and taste, Delaney blazed a new path – and redefined what art could be.