Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Human Bonds

james bond Pan book covers

So I’m on the underground yesterday, reading the new hardback I’d bought the day before. Then this burn-out walks on and I have that feeling – I know he’s going to sit next to me. He’s very tall, lanky, drug thin. His fingernails are dirty. The driver has to warn passengers to stay clear of the closing doors. The burn-out calls them “fucking idiots” in the expected loud cockney voice. I shift rightwards in my seat, hope he isn’t going to smell too bad (which he doesn’t as far as my hopeless sense of smell can tell), carry on reading.

“Is that the new Bond novel?” he asks me gently, having glanced down at the page I was on. The book only came out the day before. The open page had few clues as to what it was.

“Yes, it is.”

“Do you think the film they’re making of it will be good?”

“I think it’s based on a different story.”

“So is that written by Fleming?”

What do I take from the unexpected exchange? You can’t judge the book by the cover I guess is the obvious one we (certainly I) can’t be reminded of often enough. You can tell the price (but not the value). What I most took away was the Simple Pleasure that I had enjoyed the conversation and contact and there was real warmth in those human bonds.

The new Bond book is entitled ‘Devil May Care’ and has been written by Sebastian Faulks (of ‘Birdsong’ fame) in the style of Fleming. I’ve only ever read a couple of Bond books, but remember really enjoying ‘Casino Royale’ (the first Bond novel) for the surprising brutality of the man I had only encountered through the movies. The publication of a new Bond book felt like a bit of an event (I was one when Fleming died) so I bought a copy of this in advance on-line through Hatchards website and picked it up on the day of publication on the way to a meeting at BAFTA with Rob Bevan of XPT- we were working on the forthcoming website for 4IP, the new Channel 4-led fund for public service interactive media, announced at Next on 4 back in March and coming on-stream over the summer. Hatchards in Piccadilly – a book shop dating back to 1797 as it says on its rich green bags the colour of Bond’s customised Bentley with its Arnott supercharger – is one of London’s great treasures. It makes me feel guilty every time I buy from Amazon and I try to make amends by pulling by whenever I’m at the Academy at 195 Piccadilly and picking up a signed volume.

After having a satisfying creative session with Rob, my old collaborator from MindGym, I hooked up with Ivo Gormley of ThinkPublic to talk about his forthcoming documentary about the internet and democracy. We walked back Channel4wards through St James’s and St James’s’ Park where I had the pleasure of demoing Big Art Mob in its mobile incarnation [WAP site] to him in a small alley where we found a superb bas relief of Anthony and Cleopatra, which looks like it may once have adorned a theatre in the area but is now built into a wall opposite an old public house, and on a remixed sculpture which seems to have once lost its head in the park. Ivo’s dad, Antony, who he closely resembles, is one of the most popular artists on Big Art Mob, third only to Henry Moore and Banksy. I wonder what the ‘burn-out’ thinks about public art? what his favourites around the city are? Something to talk about next time…

Bond is back

Fear and Sex

Daily Mail

An oldie but goldie that came to mind when first reflecting on this subject on SP4:

Q: What comes between Fear and Sex?

A: Funf

One for the cunning linguists.

So the subject is Fear. From day-to-day personal development to the realm of global politics it’s a big driver – and very destructive.

I thought it would be interesting to try this experiment – take a newspaper at random (in this case the copy of the Daily Mail for Wed 21 May I was given getting on the plane to Glasgow that afternoon) and analyse it in terms of how big a role Fear plays in its headlines. I reckoned Fear’s main rival would be Sex.
I worked my way through the first 25 pages [the news pages] recording every headline without exception (they all fitted into either the Fear or Sex category). From page 26 to the Sports pages at the end I kept just a selection (though still the majority). Here’s the results:


Fathers not required (gender roles, redundancy)
IVF vote sidelines fathers
The girl crushed to death by a tree in freak bus crash (random death)
Pupils aged five get a spell in the sin bin (youth delinquency)
The prickly prince (decline of monarchy/social order)
Spend-it-all parents give their children a bad heir day (where money meets death) Party leaders at war on abortion (death before you’re even born)
10p tax debacle could still cost families £150 a year
With no friend, I really am a Solitary Man says Diamond (loneliness)
Let us strike say police (social disorder, crime)
Our editors have total freedom says Mail chief (lies, misinformation)
15 beers, 20 vicious punches… and 6 months in jail for England footballer
Soaring oil prices push diesel near £6 a gallon
The power bills stitch-up
Police car that killed girl of 16 ‘didn’t have blue lights or siren on’ (random death meets social disorder)
The micro-particles that could pose the same risk as asbestos
1M more Britons in just 3 years (immigration, foreigners)
We moved to escape the FEAR of crime
Beware scentists who insist they know best (science)
Sorry Fergie, I can’t stomach you or your porky pies (social disorder)
Where did all the real men go?
Why this horror makes me FEAR for the future of South Africa
Care home chief is jailed over death of Alzheimer’s patient (disease meets social disorder, distrust)
Suicide note in star’s pocket
Why do clever women fall for second-rate men?
Bosses ‘picked on’ registrar opposed to gay marriages
Tax payers will fund Sky ‘propaganda’ show
Labour’s pledge on farm cash in tatters
Milk float mobsters


Vicar’s war on ‘wicked’ Playboy (moral decline)
Gwyneth’s hitting the heights again
The real battle for Moscow (Wags)

Beyond p25

Bad parents are the villains of the age says Cameron
Crooked dentist put a dog on his list of patients
Heroic undercover soldier Robert Nairac was savagely tortured by the IRA
Exchange trip girl was killed jogging with iPod
Long-term care: a national disgrace
Insurers pocketing your pension
Don’t fall for this card trick
Fuming over BT cold call (anger)
Our care system? chaotic
So furious he’s lost for words
Will new stem cell research create monsters?
We work hard, but Britain doesn’t repay us
Yell cries out as £3.8bn debts pile on the pressure
House price crash could jeopardise Rock’s recovery
ICAP takes a dive
The mining prop begins to creak
Oil-rich Russian economy ready to takes off (money meets foreigners)
Shaw future in doubt
Make sure greed does not wreck 20Plenty
Horne is braced for long lay-off
It’s over for Faldo as he gives Open a miss (aging, mortality)
Essien won’t risk penalty pain
Why is it we can’t love Rooney?
Usmanov’s knives out for Gunners
Moscow’s hell, Michel
Guns, concrete and football’s new power base

What surprised me most was how little competition from Sex there was. Scary!

TV fakery travesty of a mockery of a sham

Undercover MosqueUndercover Mosque

Hot off the presses: A victory for Channel 4, decent journalism and free speech. This important, insightful film was commissioned by my colleague in C4 Commissioning, Kevin Sutcliffe.


The makers of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation Undercover Mosque have won a public apology and six figure libel settlement from West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service which falsely accused them of TV fakery.

At the High Court this morning [15 May 2008] West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised unreservedly for the comments which they have accepted were incorrect and unjustified. They have withdrawn the remarks and undertaken not to repeat them. They have said that they “were wrong to make these allegations… and now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity”.

Undercover Mosque included a number of excerpts from preachers and teachers uttering statements such as:

‘Allah created women deficient’

‘…it takes two witnesses of a woman to equal one witness of the man’

‘By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her (young girls) to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her’

‘take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain’

‘Whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to anything else – kill him in the Islamic state’.

West Midlands Police and the CPS have also agreed to pay substantial damages to the programme makers. The programme makers will be donating all of the damages to The Rory Peck Trust. The Rory Peck Trust exists to support freelance news gatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety. Established in 1995, the Trust provides financial assistance to freelancers in need, and to the families of those who are killed or seriously injured or suffering persecution as a result of their work. The Trust is totally independent and relies on its income from sponsorship, grants and donations.

The settlement followed the issue of libel proceedings by the programme makers in response to public statements made by West Midlands Police and the CPS about the investigative documentary (broadcast 15 January 2007) which exposed extremism in a number of British Mosques.

In August last year, WMP and CPS issued a joint press release falsely claiming the programme had completely distorted the views of Muslim preachers and clerics featured in the programme by misleading editing.

Unusually, WMP and CPS also referred the programme to TV regulator Ofcom who rejected their complaints and stated “each and every quote was justified by the narrative of the programme and put fully in context” (see below).

Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head of Current Affairs at Channel 4 who oversees Dispatches, said: “This is a total vindication of the programme team in exposing extreme views being preached in mainstream British mosques. Channel 4 was fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject-matter but recognised that the programme’s findings were clearly a matter of important public interest. The authorities should be doing all they can to encourage investigations like this, not attempting to publicly rubbish them for reasons they have never properly explained. We will continue to produce undercover investigations of this nature.”

David Henshaw, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Hardcash Productions, who produced the documentary added: “This was a thorough and detailed one-hour documentary, made over nine months and at personal risk to the undercover reporter. The abhorrent and extreme comments made by fundamentalist preachers in the film speak for themselves. They later claimed they had been taken out of context – but no one has explained the correct context for arguing that women are ‘born deficient’, that homosexuals should be thrown off mountains, and that ten year old girls should be hit if they refuse to wear the hijab.”

Hardcash Productions are a leading independent television company who specialise in documentary making. They produced the multi-award-winning Beneath the Veil and an investigation into the post office, Third Class Post, for Channel 4’s Dispatches strand.

Julian Bellamy, Head of Channel 4, said: “When the West Midlands Police and CPS refused to withdraw their damaging remarks we had no option but to support this action. As Channel 4’s flagship current affairs programme, Dispatches has an outstanding reputation for brave and incisive journalism. It was clearly vital to us that an important piece of journalism and the reputation of its makers was not undermined by these unjustified allegations remaining unchallenged. Journalism of this kind has always been, and will continue to be, central to Channel 4’s purpose.”

A bit of the background:

Following broadcast West Midlands Police launched an investigation into some of the individuals featured in the programme. They sought a production order for untransmitted material with which Channel 4 complied.

In August 2007 ACC Anil Patani (Security and Cohesion) wrote to Channel 4 on behalf of the West Midlands Police who, together with the Crown Prosecution Service, simultaneously issued a press release alleging some comments in Undercover Mosque had been ‘Edited together to change their meaning’ and/or ‘Broadcast out of context’. The press release also stated that the programme might ‘undermine community cohesion.’

In November Ofcom dismissed all complaints against Undercover Mosque and rejected evidence supplied by the West Midlands Police to support their claim of misrepresentation through misleading editing. It concluded:

“Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. On the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts), Ofcom found that the broadcaster had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.”


Radio Radio

Neil Pearson

An article by Robin Parker in Broadcast this week about my The Radio Play’s The Thing commission, a project I’ve been working on for two years now and which is just concluding its production phase.

I conceived it as an experiment in what I called (back in 2006) ‘User Commissioned Content’, which was sloppy short-hand for ‘User-Generated Content where you give the User a few quid to help realise their vision’ (for some studio time, a special actor, whatever). As it turned out I was applying a TV/video paradigm to the Radio medium where the gap between writer and producer/director is much wider so I adapted the project on the fly, eventually bringing in professional directors from other disciplines (TV, experimental theatre, etc.) to produce the radio dramas professionally but with the freshness of never having worked in the Radio medium.

4Radio sounds off with dramas ahead of launch

  • Published: 07 May 2008 11:45
  • Author: Robin Parker

The first fiction commissions for Channel 4’s fledgling 4Radio venture are to debut online later this month when the broadcaster unveils four audio dramas.

The plays are all by new writers and will be directed by TV and theatre directors making their radio debuts. Neil Pearson and Hollyoaks actors Gerard McCarthy and Jennifer Biddall are among the cast.

The scripts were chosen from more than 1,000 submitted to an online competition launched last year off the back of C4 theatre talent search The Play’s the Thing.

They were originally intended to be shared with OneWord before C4 pulled its funding from the station in December.

C4 now plans to use the web to launch the plays ahead of 4Radio‘s planned start at the end of this year and will also make them available as podcasts.

The 15-minute plays tackle heavyweight themes. Hospital doctor Andy Prendergast’s To the Broad Shore explores euthanasia; DA McIllroy’s The Interpreter features a confrontation between a Belfast police officer and a Chinese illegal immigrant; Stephen Todd’s Proud Songster looks at the impact of genocide in Rwanda; and Caroline Gilfillan’s The Colonel reflects on Chilean torture that took place in the 1970s.

All four are produced by Maud Hand of Maud Hand Productions and John Dryden of Goldhawk Productions. Hand has developed the project since January 2006. Dryden was invited latterly to come on board and is an experienced radio producer who has specialised in recording plays on location, most notably Radio 4’s The Cairo Trilogy, starring Omar Sharif.

The 4Radio plays are also made out of the studio in locations around London.

Directors lined up include Noreen Kershaw, the Life on Mars actress who has turned to directing Coronation Street and Shameless, and Andrew Foster, the New Zealand theatre director who developed cult comedy Flight of the Conchords for HBO and directed the feature film Eagle vs Shark.

C4 new media commissioner Adam Gee has championed the plays at C4, developing the project in his earlier role as head of 4Talent.

Also involved have been writer Annie Caulfield, Radio Academy director Trevor Dann and Shameless creator Paul Abbott.

“Having created some content for 4Radio, much of it linked to established C4 shows, this is our first experiment in making radio drama sound different,” said Gee.

Article reproduced courtesy of Robin Parker and Broadcast

Flying Away

dancing to blue beat

In these Twittering days of virtual community it’s refreshing from time to time to be reminded of how Simple it all is on one level.

Earlier this week I went to Brum for the memorial service of one of my best friends’ mum. Her body was being flown to Jamaica the next day to be buried beside her siblings.

Mrs G. was born in St Ann in the hills behind Ochi on the North coast in the mid 30s. She came to Britain in the 50s and became a district nurse. From the family stories it’s clear she engaged with enabling technology – she bought a car, passing her test with some trouble, using the machine to get her to family events in Manchester, Aylesbury, Leicester, wherever her family had landed.

I first met her when Nigel and I were at college together, a couple of years apart. The first time he brought me to meet his family Mrs G put on an old style Jamaican spread and I remember how lovely she was when she found out I don’t eat pork, fussing in the most maternal way despite my protestations that it was no problem at all. So my first encounter was all about the tradition and culture of home, caring, sharing food and welcoming friends.

In 1996 I met Mrs G again after she had retired back to Jamaica. She built a beautiful home in Ocho Rios. My strongest memories – the first hummingbird I ever saw (in her garden) and the young cousins razoring their hair in her front room to be cool for Nigel’s wedding. She built that house with her own energies and set off for Jamaica alone while her other half acclimatised himself to the idea back in Yorkshire (re-joining her a while later). So this second landmark in my memory was one of family gathering, coming home and strength of will.

The memorial service brought a big crowd to a declining Victorian church in Perry Bar, outside Birmingham. There were three other white faces in the crowd. So the hymns were lively and the sense of community strong, well turned out representatives of all the generations gathered, from the elderly brother-in-law with the handle-bar moustache to the nine year-old grand-daughter who read a poem with her daddy, my friend, at her shoulder, just as he stood at his younger brother’s shoulder, his arm around him, as his brother spoke eloquently and emotionally of the qualities of his determined, caring, fun-loving mother. (I like to picture her shaking a leg to a blue beat tune at some family gathering she got to in that hard-earned car. I dug out a couple of early 60s Jamaican (or as the sleevenotes say “from the British West Indies” “where the Queen’s English is spoken” – I kid you not) calypso records from my collection and gave them to Nigel as a reminder of his mum’s youth.) At the end of the day there’s no substitute for the real and the slow, the unmediated present and the human warmth, the simple pain and pleasure.

To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away

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