Alice: A Fight for Life – Now Online! 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



It is now more than 25 years since the transmission of a TV documentary which, overnight, revolutionized the British dialogue on asbestos. Alice: A Fight for Life was broadcast during prime viewing time on national television on July 20, 1982. The 90 minute documentary graphically illustrated the deadly repercussions of Alice Jefferson's short-term employment at the Cape asbestos factory in Acre Mill, Yorkshire. Watching this wraith-like 47 year-old woman tell her story, it was obvious that she was drawing on finite emotional and physical resources in order to bear witness to what had been done to her and her family. Weeks after the final images of the documentary had been filmed, Alice Jefferson died of mesothelioma, leaving her husband Tom and her children Paul (15) and Patsy (5) to forever mourn her loss.1

In a paper published in 2010, Dr. Geoffrey Tweedale wrote:

“The documentary's impact was far reaching. As Wilf Penney, the asbestos industry's PR man, put it: 'Until the Alice film the various programmes on asbestos made since 1975 had little lasting impact on either the public or the industry… [but Alice] was a different kettle of fish. It was a highly personalised, very emotional, tragic record of one person's suffering. It was two years in the making and was, to put it mildly, a blockbuster.' It hit Turner & Newall's share price and triggered public outage around the country.”2

The impact of “Alice” reached across national borders. According to Spanish academic A. Menéndez-Navarro:

“In 1984, Spanish State Television (TVE) included the film within the debate series La Ventana Electrónica, which offered documentaries produced by other TV companies that had achieved a certain degree of recognition. Among other distinctions, AliceA Fight for Life was awarded The Broadcasting Press Guild Award (1983).”3

With the advent of the internet, it has now become possible to view edited clips from this documentary online. The links listed below are to extracts from some of the interviews conducted with Alice during the making of this program:

Cape Asbestos legacy – "Alice Fight For Life" Alice Jefferson interview edits:

YouTube video (Part 1 of 2)
YouTube video (Part 2 of 2)

Clips from "Alice" regarding the T&N asbestos factory in the Spodden Valley, UK:

YouTube video (Part 1 of 2)
YouTube video (Part 2 of 2)

Cyril Smith defends killer asbestos:

YouTube video

October 29, 2010


1 Tweedale G. Alice: A Fight For Life – The Legacy. British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 67, Summer 2007.

2 Tweedale G. Straws in the wind: the local and regional roots of an occupational disease epidemic. Business in the North West - Manchester Region History Review. Volume 21, 2010.

3 Menéndez-Navarro A. Alice A Fight for Life (1982) and the Public Perception of the Occupational Risks of Asbestos. J Med Mov 3 (2007): 49-56



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