The Bagman

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THE BAGMAN or The Impromptu of Muswell Hill by John Arden / BBC Radio

Delia produced electronic music and effects for the BBC's 1970 production of The Bagman or The Impromptu of Muswell Hill, a radio play by John Arden, directed by Martin Esslin. The presenter for a repeat broadcast says: "In it, in the form of a dream, some of the problems facing a socially conscious playwright in our time are described."

The play is one hour and 28 minutes in length and is described as a "Witty Fable" and a "modern version of Molière's Versailles Impromptu"[1].

John Arden has a dream in which he meets an old woman who sells him a canvas bag, "A pig in a poke", he then finds himself transported to a dystopian land where the people are starving while the rich live in idleness and squalor.[2]

A note in her papers says that The Bagman was entered by the BBC for the Italia Prize 1970 and that she was scheduled to receive 20% of the prize money if the play should win.[3]

The Radiophonic Database credits it to Delia and Malcolm Clarke,[4] and the Performing Rights Society's list of works by Delia Ann Derbyshire has:

Title: Bagman
Writer(s): Derbyshire Delia Ann, Clarke Malcolm John (SNR), Arden John (FR) 
Publisher: BBC Worldwide Music
Work number: 1652496T 
Type: 00/90 [?]
Creation date: 1 January 1984

Its tape's catalogue entry is dated February 1970.[4]


Phantoms of Darkness - Spectrogram.jpg


The moments with Delian music and effects are:

  • 00:26-01:34 Opening theme

The Bagman - 1. Opening Theme - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 03:04-04:26 Dreaming in Highgate Wood

The Bagman - 2. Dreaming in Highgate Wood - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 50:28-51:07 Dreaming at the Ministers

The Bagman - 3. Dreaming at the Ministers - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:14:50-56 Vocal fanfare

The Bagman - 4. Vocal Fanfare - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:15:20-57 Percussive Phantoms

The Bagman - 5. Percussive Phantoms - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:23:51-24:25 The Little People

The Bagman - 6. The Little People - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:25:12-13 Huge Steel-Shod Foot

The Bagman - 7. Huge Steel-Shod Foot - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:26:17-27:14 The Gypsy Woman

The Bagman - 8. The Gypsy Woman - Spectrogram.jpg

  • 1:27:35-28:25 Closing theme

The Bagman - 9. Closing Theme - Spectrogram.jpg


  • First broadcast on Radio 3 in March 1970.[5]
  • Broadcast as "The Monday Play" on BBC Radio 4 on 31st January 1977.
  • In the BBC Sound Archive on tape TRW 7163.[4]
  • In 1976, Dreaming in Highgate Wood was renamed Phantoms of Darkness[6] and issued on record.


  1. John Arden's entry at
  2.'s entry for The Bagman
  3. DD141636: Memo dated 8th July 1970 from A. Parotte to Delia about division of the prize money should The Bagman win the Italia Prize 1970 and DD141601, her reply.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Tape Library List's entry for TRW 7163.
  5. Yael Zarhy-Levo, The Making of Theatrical Reputations: Studies from the Modern London Theatre (University of Iowa Press, 2008), p.148 on Google Books.
  6. DD073025: List of Delia's tracks renamed for issue on Out Of This World.