Victoria O'Keefe was best known as Ruth's daughter Jane in the BBC docudrama,
Threads. Regarded by many as the greatest fictional nuclear
vision ever committed to film, the story charts the fall of Sheffield during the Cold War
of the 80's. We begin with Ruth Beckett announcing her pregnancy to Jimmy Kemp - but as
the two begin to plan their future, fighting escalates in the Middle East. With the
Soviet Union marching into Iran, members of NATO are left with no choice but to
intervene, leading to hostilities between the superpowers.
Days later, as news reaches
the West, general panic leads the public to abandon homes for the safety of the
countryside. Rioting and lawlessness ensues in what is left of a broken Sheffield. The
first warhead arrives - exploding high above the North Sea, the electromagnetic pulse
knocking out most communication and power. Exchanges between countries continue. In
total, 210 megatons fall upon the United Kingdom - 3000 worldwide.
We see the aftermath of such devastation days, weeks and finally years later - Ruth and
daughter Jane are working in the fields - a near-futile attempt to plant crops for an
almost destroyed civilization. Ruth collapses in the field and later dies nearby. Jane is
untouched by this, unaware of the emotional connection that would have existed between
her and mother, once upon a time.
These are by far the most harrowing scenes of the film, more so than the actual nuclear
strike. There's a shred of hope for the future, the possibility that survivors will bring
to order a chaos never before witnessed by mankind. As days progress further it becomes
apparent that Jane is now also pregnant, the final scene of the film leaving the debate
wide open as to whether there will be a future at all.
I have known of Threads since the original broadcast. It has
stayed with me through the years, always reminding me of that frightened timeframe. I
used to hear the sirens being tested in this town, I recall the nightmares that many of
us lived with. However, all the doom and gloom has since subsided, the Cold War has
ended. I firmly believe it was films like this, The Day After
and Testament that gripped us all thoroughly, assisting in
the realisation of the sheer horror such weapons would bring to the world. I will forever
remember the images of Jane and Ruth as they struggled to restore a defeated world.
In Nanny, Victoria played Nicola Brooke. As a World War II
evacuee she is forced to live with the head of a billeting council - a choice based on
Nicola's gift of piano playing. When it becomes apparent that the instrument is none
other than a trumpet, the head loses patience and finally confiscates it. A
self-proclaimed manipulator of people, Nicola finds a way to publicly humiliate her
unsavoury foster mother. Eventually, Nanny Barbara steps in and offers to take Nicola to
another home - a place where she is truly cared for. The Duke and Duchess of Broughton
welcome her musical talent with open arms.
In memory of Victoria (27th Mar 1969), Sharon Louise Hickling (17th Jan 1971), Jade
Nicole Hickling (15th May 1989) and Paul Hollis (29th Dec 1967) - who died in a car
accident, April 1990.