Catch up with the Seven Up kids: They once dreamed of being astronauts and jockeys, so where are they now, fifty years on
15:21 GMT, 8 May 2012
For decades, millions have followed the lives of the Seven Up kids – 14 children who were plucked from different walks in life to take part in a documentary on their hopes for the future growing up in 1960s Britain.
The show was originally intended to be a one-off, but after the cameras returned to check-up on the protgs at the age of 14, updates at seven yearly intervals then became routine. Now the time has come again to see what has become of the participants, who are now aged 56.
The latest documentary, to be shown in three parts on ITV1 from May 14, will show where the children are now, nearly 50 years after they were first aired to the public as fresh-faced school pupils who wanted to be astronauts, jockeys or missionaries.
Reunited decades on: Seven Up participants, clockwise from top left, Sue, John, Jackie, Bruce, Neil, Lynn, Nick, Tony, Symon and Paul
As they were: The group pose when the third documentary, 21 Up was filmed
The idea for the programme was inspired by the Jesuit saying: 'Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man.' And for at least some of the children involved, their lives have panned out as they thought it would.
Jackie Bassett, one of the girls picked from London's East End to represent the working classes, admitted to The Guardian, 'I've turned out pretty much as expected'.
Married at 24, she was divorced by her thirties, after which she faced single parenthood when she had a son, Charlie (the identity of his father she has never revealed). She went on to have a new relationship with partner Ian, with whom she had two more sons but they also separated.
When I grow up: Charles Furneaux, left, went on to make documentaries of his own
Girls on film: Friends Jackie, Lynn and Susan at age seven, left, and 14, have been followed by the cameras throughout their lives and have remained friends
Meanwhile, Bruce Bladen, who was a
pupil at a prestigious boarding school when the show first aired in
1964, has not deviated too far from the environs of his youth as he is
now a maths teacher at a respected private school in Hertfordshire. Aged seven, he said he wanted to become a missionary and he achieved his dream in sorts when he taught in Bangladesh after graduating from Oxford.
of the Seven Up subjects, Symon Basterfield, who was in a care home
from a young age, said he felt he and the other children were expected
to fit the mould of their backgrounds, when they were first filmed.
'I've turned out pretty much as I expected': Jackie Bassett has left the East End for Scotland and was a single mum who says she's had a good life
'We (the children in care) were supposed to have aspirations to what we wanted in life, but the boys from wealthy backgrounds were encouraged to say their lives were plotted and planned. It was all hopes and dreams for us, but their lives were mapped out.'
Symon's life began turbulently, he never knew his father and as a child of a mixed race relationship, he was often exposed to prejudice. He married and had five children but was divorced by his thirties and badly affected by the loss of his mother, who died when he was 35. This meant he didn't take part in the documentary 35 Up. 'It's a period I don't want to talk about,' he said.
Giving back: Symon was in care when the show first aired and is now a foster parent himself
He has since gone on to remarry and have another child and now works as freight handler. He and his second wife are foster parents at their home near Heathrow and have cared for more than 60 vulnerable children over the years.
Like Symon, the life of Neil Hughes has taken turns that could never have been predicted. When he first featured appeared on television as a bright seven-year-old at his suburban school in Liverpool, he endearingly said: 'When I grow up I want to be an astronaut but if I can’t I think I’ll be a coach driver.'
Later documentaries showed Neil had failed in his dreams to reach Oxford University and by his early twenties, he had dropped out of Aberdeen University and lived in a squat. Throughout his 30s, he struggled to earn a living and spent time homeless or on council estates in Scotland. However, he has since turned his life around and became a district councillor in Cumbria before standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Carlisle in the 2010 general election, where he finished third.
Varied life: Aged seven, left, Tony Walker said he wanted to be a jockey. He achieved his dream before becoming a taxi driver
Meanwhile, other participants did achieve their dreams. Tony Walker, who came from London's East End, did manage to become a jockey, albeit briefly, and raced against Lester Piggott before becoming a taxi driver. And Charles Furneaux, one of three boys followed from a Kensington prep school, went on to make documentaries of his own, most successfully as a producer of 'Touching the Void'.
For Michael Apted, who began as a researcher on the documentary and went on to become director, the unpredictable nature of the participants lives is what has made the Up series an important social experiment as well as unmissable viewing over the decades.
Ups and downs: Neil Hughes had dreams of becoming an astronaut. He was a university drop out and homeless before turning his life around and running as an MP
fearful when you go back that bad things have happened,' he told The
Guardian about what it is like catching up with the Up members at seven
year intervals. 'That's the documentarian's curse. You want good things
to happen to everybody, but you also want good stories.'
He adds that while some of the children involved have opted out in taking part in various stages of the documentary over the years, the majority have remained involved and have become like a family.
School life: We first saw Bruce at prep school with hopes of becoming a missionary. He went to Oxford and taught in Bangladesh and now teaches maths at a private school in Hertfordshire
'Some of us are close, some of us aren't close. Some of them like me, some of them don't. A family is a very good image of what this is, because we have been together for almost 50 years now.'
They have also been fortunate that accident or illness has not yet claimed the lives of those involved.
'When we lose somebody it'll make the others think very hard about doing it again,' admits the show's producer Claire Lewis. 'I don't know what effect that would have on us and on them. It's very hard watching yourself grow old on screen.'
56 Up is a three-part documentary that begins on ITV1 on May 14
See how it all began by watching the video of the first Seven Up…
And here's how we last saw them, in 49 Up…