Wednesday 14 October 2009

Ugandan Affairs

The art of headline writing lives in this wonderfully schizophrenic tabloid story from Uganda. One can't help but feel the paper's lurid homophobia may be covering deeper tendencies...tongue in cheek or perhaps between cheeks?

Sunday 11 October 2009


The BBC's defence of Radio 1 Newsbeat's kid-glove handling of BNP spokespeople is unravelling. Roy Greenslade's criticisms of the corporation's journalistic failure appear to have been vindicated and now there is worse . I do wonder why the BBC is bending over quite so cravenly to the BNP? I am all in favour of the party being featured on BBC programmes like putting Griffin on QuestionTime. The BNP's lack of ideas and pointless hatreds collapse under fairly modest challenge. The criticism of Newsbeat is that there was no hard questioning, challenge or it seems basic research.

In a small way I experienced the BBC's jitters a few months ago. Asked for my views on a Radio 4 website I decided to contribute to a debate about protestors pelting Nick Griffin with eggs. I simply wrote that this was a time honoured British tradition for dealing with the pompous and unpopular. Of all people, Nick Griffin -- who constantly says that his party is the home of British heritage -- should understand this. My comment was moderated out straight away. Opinions like this clearly have no place on a BBC website. When I complained about the moderator's action I was warned that I was in contravention of the BBC website guidelines and if I persisted could be banned from any future much for the BBC and free speech.

Friends in the North

I have just spent the weekend in the north east of England – beautiful weather and lots of fun in all respects. A highlight for me was seeing the Trinity Square multi-story car park in Gateshead made famous of course by its central role in Get Carter. Sadly dilapidated and slated for demolition by Tesco this monstrous structure has an eerie beauty. When the film was made it was still representative of “space age” modernity. Now it’s an unloved icon in the midst of a city centre desperate to regenerate itself. I wonder how far into the future we will have to go before we fall back in love with 60s and 70s brutalist concrete? Too long probably, or at least long enough for it all to have been dynamited or succumbed to concrete cancer.

I don’t use the term icon lightly. On the whole I am with Jonathan Meades on this exhausted word. But here I think it is right. Everyone will talk about the car park and show it to you with a semi-detached pride. There is a “Get Carter Butchers” in one the nearby down-at-heel retail parades. Taxi drivers jump at the chance to talk about memories of the location filming even if they are probably too young to really remember it. I think it will leave a hole when it’s blown up. It may be the hole of a healed scab or a lanced boil but something will have gone.

I would like to see a rehabilitation into something useful and worthy of local and national pride. A museum and interpretation centre for British Gangsterism is the top canddate right now – perhaps not top of Heritage Lottery Fund priorities.