Why is qualitative research like Fawlty Towers?

By | 4th December 2016

At the risk of sounding opportunist, I thought I would post my own tribute to the genius of the late Andrew Sachs. This is a chapter that was originally commissioned for a conference in 1989, organized by Australian colleagues. Phil Strong had been invited but could not get out of various commitments and generously suggested me as a replacement. The event was intended to explain qualitative methods and their potential to Australian funders and sponsors in the field of health care. I used the experience of viewing Fawlty Towers as a way to explore what qualitative research involved and what it could achieve.

This conference was remarkable in many ways. Our hosts had come up with a business class fare – but QANTAS had overbooked and ‘Dr’ Robert Dingwall got upgraded to First, which was mostly occupied by a branch of the Bahraini Royal Family as far as the Gulf and then just by me and the Italian delegate to the Canberra talks on chemical weapons as far as Singapore. It really is a different world at the front of a 747!  We were booked into a country hotel just outside Ballarat, which had a Real Tennis court. This is the original form of tennis as played by Henry VIII of England, etc. David Silverman is a member of the MCC, which is one of the few other places where this historic game can be played. He had never used that court but was prevailed upon to book a lesson with the hotel professional and show us all what it looked like…

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