Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A report today about the planned retirement of analogue radio services highlighted the challenges it presents. This is an issue close to my heart as radio, particularly spoken word radio, remains one of the great joys in my life. The general public perception apparently is that they don't want or need any more radio channels and that the broadcast quality and reach of digital services is so patchy that the loss of analogues services would be unacceptable, a view incidentally which I share. Of course it wont stop the government ( of any colour) pushing ahead in the pigheaded way that they always do, but it is just another example of an occasion where new innovations that are foisted upon us are in many cases simply not as good as what they are replacing nor do they have any obvious advantage. My little transistor radio runs on batteries for weeks, but my DAB radio chews up power to the extent that you can forget about having a battery powered one. Even in a big metropolitan centre like the one that I live in the broadcast quality and reliability of the digital services is poor. You have to have the ariel up and taken together all of these things seem to go against the great advantage of radio – its portability. So it is with flat screen TVs. The quality of the picture is simply not as good as a CRT, and the power consumption is so much higher. But as a result of over promotion and relentless advertising many perfectly good CRT sets are ending up in landfill. One has to question how all this sits with the supposed desire of the governments – of all stripes – to push us to be more green. We are pressed to destroy perfectly good kit to replace it with new kit which is in many cases not as good, obviously costs in CO2 to produce the replacements and generally consumes more energy. This can also be said of the new low energy light bulbs. Of course they may use less power but it is negligible when you think how much more our TVs now consume and the DAB radios will. But most importantly they are not good sources of light – which surely should be the first consideration.

I guess I am just old fashioned but the “progress” we are all supposed to be “enjoying” just doesn't seem like progress to me, and runs counter to what is supposed to be our most pressing concerns – the environment.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Treasure Island

Apparently Andrew Motion – the former Poet Laureate – is to write a sequel to Treasure island. How fantastic. I, like many , love Robert Louis Stevenson's book and have read it any number of times, carrying with me many abiding images and characters from it. Blind Pew and the Black Spot, the Admiral Benbow pub, Ben Gunn and of course Long John Silver – the archetypal pirate. No doubt it will become a talking book in good time and whilst it is unlikely that it will be a TESCAPE book I feel sure it will be a fine piece of work, not least because Andrew Motion will certainly produce so me delightful material for reading.

Poets have that touch and it was interesting and encouraging to hear about the popularity of poetry programming on some overseas broadcasters on last nights Front Row on BBC Radio 4

Finally we hear the the Times and Sunday times will be charging for web access from summer. Who really cares? Terre are many better alternatives available on line, certainly more balanced and non Murdoch ones!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Boat Finally Docks

My compulsive viewing of the last few weeks came to an end on Tuesday when the Yesterday TV channel finished their run of When the Boat Comes In. For those who may not know this it is a BBC Drama series set mainly in the NE of England following primarily the fortunes of one Jack Ford, played by James Bolam, and the interwoven relationship he has with the Seaton family.

Created in the mid 70s and running to four series ending in 1981, it has all of the hall marks of classic TV of the era. Wobbly sets, dubious locations – so some windswept northern masquerading as Spanish beach by the addition of some potted palms - and truly hopeless special effects when viewed from an age of CGI. But these are ephemeral and what makes it such a continuing success is the quality of the material – the series was originated by and largely written by James Mitchell - and the outstanding cast.

Mitchell wrote much of the Callan series and contributed to many seminal British TV series. He also wrote novels as James Munro and his work is shot through with wit and life.

Bolam handles the part of Ford with great aplomb – as you would expect - using the many contradictions inherent in the character to form a compelling agent in storyline. IT would be easy to go on. The cast list includes many performers with exceptional dramatic skills and understanding of their craft. Edward Wilson for example who went on to do such highly regarded work at the NYT and the California Youth theatre. However the main point is that regardless of some of the failing of the set and production values, good quality material and exceptional performers will still produce compelling absorbing and lasting work. These are the values TESCAPE aims to uphold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh dear another one gone!

At the risk of this blog becoming an obituary column we have to say farewell to Harry Carpenter. Harry has been described as “one of the old school”, and I think that is meant affectionately rather than in any pejorative sense. He was without compare as a boxing commentator but was versatile and acted as anchor for more general sports programmes – notably Sportnsight.

He was, though, BBC trained in the days when the BBC could get it right. An interesting voice rather than a spectacular voice, but he used it to such good effect. Modulated and not prone to hyperbole or high volume outburst he was able to inject tension excitement and bring the viewer of listener into the event. Today's scruffy and unrestrained commentators – who seem to think that shouting and squeaking, as if on the terraces, makes for good commentary – would have learned a lot from Harry – know what I mean?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Farewell to Charlie

Such sad news that Charlie Gillett died this week. A tireless champion of world music I first became aware of him through his show on the BBC World Service. His short programme was always engaging and a window onto talent and joy expressed through music found all around the diverse world we live in.

But for my need to listen to spoken word keeping me tuned into the radio through the night I might never have heard it. It is a constant reminder that the usual channels and popular culture is very much a constraining path through life, so we should always try to investigate the new and less common routes. It is also a reminder of just how much craft and skill there is to be found away from the heavily promoted and over hyped.

Sorry to have to say goodbye Charlie but thanks for the ride – we wont forget you.