Jeremy Sandford

Playwright, screenwriter

Jeremy Sandford, the playwright and screenwriter whose 1967 teleplay “Cathy Come Home” drew attention to homelessness in Britain, died May 12 in London. He was 72.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

The son of a printer, Sandford attended Eton College and Oxford University, then began writing radio plays.

During the 1950s and early ’60s, he made short documentaries for BBC radio, including one that looked at the overworked, poorly paid staff at London’s swanky Savoy Hotel.

The BBC TV production of “Cathy Come Home,” directed by Ken Loach, told of an impoverished couple who become homeless. The social workers they meet are shown as unfeeling and unhelpful, and they remove the children from their distraught mother.

The film sparked a national debate about homelessness and resulted in some local authorities discontinuing their policy of separating poor families. The play and the ensuing debate led to the creation of the British charity organization, Shelter.

Sandford’s 1971 play “Edna, the Inebriate Woman,” a companion piece to “Cathy Come Home,” followed the progress of a vagrant through the hostels of London.

Inspired by his Anglo-Irish grandmother, who was a member of the Gypsy Lore Society, he also campaigned for the rights of British Gypsies and edited their occasional newsletter, Romano Drom. In 1973, he published “Gypsies,” a collection of firsthand accounts of Romany life.

He is survived by his first wife, three sons from that marriage, and his second wife, Philippa.

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