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Apple

Melvyn Bragg - Class & Culture

Not sure where to put this as its not exactly a book thing, but its definately not chat, and its not a tv adaptation of a book either.  Considering the things which have been discussed recently on the board about education and everything I think this ties in quite nicely with most of what has been said in those discussions.

Has anyone seen them, the first episode is still available on BBC iplayer till next Friday (16th March 2012) and the second episode is up there as well to watch. Here are links to both episodes if anyone is interested.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/epis...g_on_Class_and_Culture_Episode_1/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/epis...g_on_Class_and_Culture_Episode_2/

The first episode deals with Edwardian Britain up to 1945 where the differences in class was at its most stark.  It not only talks about literature of the time and different authors but also other cultural factors in the different parts of society, ie music, art, television & radio etc.

Has anyone watched it?
Sandraseahorse

I watched the second in the series and found it interesting but it covered such a wide field that I became irritated by the sweeping generalisations. I think each programme should have been followed by a studio discussion in which Bragg defended some of the claims he made in the programme.
TheRejectAmidHair

Hello Sandra,

Being currently retricted to the television in my hotel room here in Hyderabad, I didn't see this at all. What sort of claim was Bragg making?

The interaction of class and culture is a very broad theme, and there is much to be said on the topic; but it is also a topic on which it is easy to be controversial, and inflame tempers.
Apple

Hi Himadri
I have posted up links to the BBC iplayer where these programmes being shown in my opening post if you want to take a look I am assuming that you should be able to access it. The first episode is only available until Friday 16th though, so depending on how long you are away and if you can access it its there.

I thought it was really interesting as well and as I say ties in with the whole education thing we have been discussing, but I thought he made a few sweeping statements which were a bit general, the one which stuck out for me was saying that poet -Betjemen was a snob and the evidence he put up was one bloody poem! Which I thought was a bit unfair, I don't know much about poets and poetry and for all I know he could have been a snob but I think he should have provided more evidence to back up his claim. It reminded me of the argument I had with you that time over you making sweeping general statements about if a writer could be considered incompetent based on one passage of writing.

He also went on a bit about his working class background and upbringing almost as if because he now considers himself middle class he was apologising for bettering himself. I could have been way off the mark, but that was the impression I got anyway.
Sandraseahorse

I agree with the points Apple has made.

One example of sweeping generalisation was in an article Bragg wrote in the "Telegraph" about the series, just before the series went out in which he said the Attlee government had considered  abolishing the public schools.  Bragg thought this would be a good thing as he claimed an entirely state education system would have produced more in the way of scientists and designers and the country would have become more prosperous.
Interesting point.

However,  a cursory google of  the background of a few modern British inventors reveals:
Frank Whittle - privately educated
Alan Turing - Sherbourne
James  Dyson - private boarding school

I accept this is hardly a definitive counter-argument but at least I have produced a few facts, which is more than Bragg did.  

There were a lot of comments  like this which I would have liked to have seen Bragg defend and expand in a discussion programme afterwards.
TheRejectAmidHair

Thanks, both, for that. And incidentally, I fully stand by the comments I had made about that writer in question being incompetent.
Evie

Melvyn Bragg has made it clear that this is his personal view, and I think that's good - I much prefer a personal view than someone trying to be entirely objective (not possible).  I don't think your three cases, Sandra, undermine his statement at all, though I agree that these generalisations need backing up.  For me, he is someone I respect enough to take his generalisations seriously - not to accept them uncritically, but to be interested enough to think further for myself.  

We know from In Our Time and some of his South Bank stuff and other series he has done that he is intensely curious and very widely read, and does a lot of further reading and research, so I accept that his generalisations stem from this - not excusing the lack of evidence, just that he is someone, as I say, whose opinions and whose seriousness of mind interest me, and I would happily do further research myself to flesh out some of his comments.  Good TV should instigate further thought, rather than filling in all the facts and details.

So far I have only seen half of one programme, though (the last half of the second programme), despite having intended to catch up with the series on iPlayer.
Apple

Evie is right that he said it was "his view" he said about class that "everyone has an opinion on it and this is mine".  I thought the first episode was very good as it was more historically based going from Edwardian Britain through  the two world wars to 1945. He wasn't as general in this episode.

But the second episode, was different, he started talking about the grammer school he went to and that how it changed and how he got in was with a scholarship or something, and then he said that it was now a comprehensive school.  He then went on to say that the post war years obliterated the need for class distinction and the centuries old regime but the public schools held on to it.

He went on about the rise of the middle classes and growth of suburbia a Betjemen poem was read "Middlesex" it was called, and that was when he said that Betjemen was popular with the middle classes but he could be snobbish in his observations of the lower classes and then in the next breath he was talking about Nancy Mitford and something she wrote called you and non you vocabulary, and I felt he was almost trying to link things which didn't naturally link together.  He went back to Betjemen saying he was a different voice to T S Elliot and was joined by Philip Larkin, he said they admired each other and it cut to Philip Larkin saying what you wrote about was based on what sort of person you were and how you were brought up (not his exact words) Melvyn Bragg then came in saying Larkins work was more gloomy but more accepting of the modern world, whereas Betjemens was prejudiced against the modern which tipped into snobbery,  he was talking to some bloke (some aristocrat who did not use his title or something) who disagreed saying there was a snobbery but also an underlying sympathy in Betjemens work. The evidence for all this was a line he wrote something about friendly bombs on Slough which he said was not only distainful but also a bit off considering it was written in 1937 when war was threatening.

The other bit about literature which attracted my attention was when he said there was an explosion against the upper class arrogance and genteel middle class by a group of authors and he mentioned Kingsley Amis and John Bray (?) I think that was the name, the books were Lucky Jim and Room at the top, but he said it was a cultural revolt not political.

He made a big thing about the middle class not wanting the working class to better themselves and rise up the ladder and he was talking about private clubs and things, so make of it what you will, I just thought the way he was talking he was apologising for the fact he had worked his way up to this middle class who in his opinion acted like this.

I am looking forward to next weeks episode though as that is looking at the rise in celebrity and the new rich and also at the opposite end what he called the underclass, and how the class system has changed and what its like now.

I am enjoying it though, despite the fact I thought he was a bit general but I wasn't irritated by it, I just noticed it and thought a couple of times that was a bit of a sweeping statement to make, especially about that poet bloke, I mean to label someone and their work snobby on the strength that they were popular with the middle class and offer only one line about bloody bombs being dropped on Slough as your evidence was a bit much but thats just my opinion.
MikeAlx

John Braine it was who wrote "Room at the Top". There was a fashion for working-class writers in the late 50s and early 60s, the so-called "Angry Young Men", with a distinctive style which came to be called "kitchen sink drama". However, it went out of fashion quite quickly. Not that Kingsley Amis ever quite fitted that mould - more typical of the phenomenon were people like Alan Sillitoe and John Osbourne.

I'm sure I read somewhere that the thing about "we should've scrapped the public schools" was a quote from an elderly member of the House of Lords rather than from Bragg himself - but as I haven't seen the programme yet I stand to be corrected!
Apple

MikeAlx wrote:
John Braine it was who wrote "Room at the Top". There was a fashion for working-class writers in the late 50s and early 60s, the so-called "Angry Young Men", with a distinctive style which came to be called "kitchen sink drama". However, it went out of fashion quite quickly. Not that Kingsley Amis ever quite fitted that mould - more typical of the phenomenon were people like Alan Sillitoe and John Osbourne.

I'm sure I read somewhere that the thing about "we should've scrapped the public schools" was a quote from an elderly member of the House of Lords rather than from Bragg himself - but as I haven't seen the programme yet I stand to be corrected!
Thanks for correcting me there, I was going on memory of what I had seen and thought he had said Bray.

He never mentioned Alan Silitoe or John Osbourne at all only the two I said previously and its interesting that you say it went out of fashion very quickly because the way he was talking about it it seemed to me he made it out to be not like that at all, from what he said it sounded like it was a change which stayed and was built on.

Just out of interest, I didn't see the newspaper article he wrote about private schools, so cannot comment on what Sandra said but from the things he said in about private schools in the programme hanging on to the class system you got the distinct impression he didn't think a lot of them, that and the tone he told us that the school he went to was now a comprehensive, almost like its a comprehensive now isn't that brilliant, but as we all know grammer schools which were good schools in the past are not necessarilystill good schools now.  Not that I am saying the school he went to is crap now, but do you get what I am trying to say, how he put it across was a bit narrow in my opinion, but I could have read more into it and been wrong in what I thought but thats just the way it came across to me.
Evie

I think Melvyn Bragg is also expecting a certain level of knowledge in his viewers; his comment about Betjeman is not anything new, and while he may have only used one line as an example, it stands for a wider understanding of Betjeman, one of the most famous British poets of the 20th century, about whom much as been said, including about his attitude to class.  I don't think Melvyn sees it as his remit to fill in all the facts and details - he is interpreting, not giving information.
Sandraseahorse

I'm old enough to remember Betjemen being appointed Poet Laureate and there was a widespread  feeling that he was "the people's poet."  He connected with people in a way that his immediate predecessor didn't.

I accept that the series is Bragg's personal view but if the BBC is  going to allow someone three hours to put forward his views then I feel it should allow some air time to critics of some of the points raised.

Nitpicking aside, at least this is interesting and not another damn reality show or cop series.
Apple

Well sorry for not having that "certain level of knowledge" but I did say in my opening post I didn't know much about poets and that for all I knew Betjeman could be a snob, and all I am learning from this programme was that he was only popular with the middle classes in the 50's but looked down on anyone not in the middle class, and which I think anyone else who does not have an in depth knowledge of him will also get from this.

But I still say he should have provided more evidence to back up his claim, whether or not it was widely known and regardless of whether or not you think the viewer should know more about what he is talking about than he does, and excuse me but a programme broadcast at a fairly peak time (9pm) about a subject such as this which has been publicised fairly widely as general viewing should contain the facts and details or at the very least more than one line of a poem as evidence and reasoning behind such comments, even though it is meant to be his take on it, if only to provide a balanced viewpoint.

But apart from all that I am enjoying it and as I said before am particularly looking forward to this weeks episode.
Evie

I wasn't saying anything about you not having enough knowledge - just that the programme isn't about telling us all the details, but rather it's an interpretation of a theme, and as I said in my earlier post, anything I feel needs backing up is up to me to go and investigate further.  He's doing something more interesting than that.  I'm trying to discuss the programme, not get into a personal argument.  And I didn't say anything about the viewer knowing more than he does - quite the opposite, in fact, my first post was about enjoying Melvyn's programmes because he is so knowledgeable and well read, and he inspires me to think further about the things he says.

I don't think the time is relevant - we need programmes that go beyond the basic facts sometimes - all I'm saying is that it's a programme where he is interpreting history and offering ideas, rather than telling us about something.
TheRejectAmidHair

If every programme on serious matters were to assume that the viewer had no background knowledge at all, then every programme would have to start off at a very basic level. And so much time would be spent merely on supplying basic information that there wouldn't be time to get on to more interesting matters.

As I understand it, this series of programmes is not intended with the primary purpose of imparting information, but, rather, to present a personal view, a polemic. And this being so, it is not unreasonable for Bragg to assume some background knowledge on the part of the viewer. After all, the arguments relating to Betjeman's alleged snobbery are rather well-known amongst those with an interest in literature, and rehearsing them all over again would have been, for many such viewers, merely tedious. If this means this programme isn't for everyone, then I don't see any objection to that: not every programme is intended for everyone. Most programmes on television, after all, are not intended for me. So what?

The first programme in the series, as described here, sounds interesting, and is really just the sort of thing we need more of on television. I'll certainly try to catch up on it once I get back to UK.
Apple

Evie wrote:
Quote:
I wasn't saying anything about you not having enough knowledge - just that the programme isn't about telling us all the details, but rather it's an interpretation of a theme, and as I said in my earlier post, anything I feel needs backing up is up to me to go and investigate further.  He's doing something more interesting than that.  I'm trying to discuss the programme, not get into a personal argument.

I know you weren't and I'm not getting into a personal argument either, you said
Quote:
I think Melvyn Bragg is also expecting a certain level of knowledge in his viewers; his comment about Betjeman is not anything new
and I was pointing out that I personally don't have that level of of knowledge and therefore I thought it was a bit rough that saying this bloke is snobby and only giving one line of a poem he wrote as backing up evidience of this, and that if you have an opinion on something you should be able to reasonably back that opinion with facts, especially in a programme which is aimed at a prime time audience.  The first episode was more historical I thought and more fact based, with evidence to back up what he was saying and as I said in my previous post it seemed to change in the second episode, into him being more general and so for me I thought it was not unreasonable for him to produce more evidence than he did in the second episode.

Also have to say I am a little confused about Himadri's comment that not all television is intended for everyone, so what are you saying? that just because someone doesn't have an in depth knowledge of something which comes up in a programme, that programme is not for them and they should not even consider attempting to watch it, let alone have an opinion on it there are many programmes which I have watched which I know nothing about but by watching them I have learnt from them and gone on to research more into the subjects I am ignorant on, I started watching this for the historical aspect to it, as I thought it would be interesting and as I was watching it I saw the potential for a discussion as I thought it linked in with the stuff already talked about, which is why I posted it up in the first place
TheRejectAmidHair

Sandraseahorse wrote:
I accept that the series is Bragg's personal view but if the BBC is  going to allow someone three hours to put forward his views then I feel it should allow some air time to critics of some of the points raised.


Yes, it would certainly be interesting to have an old-fashioned studio discussion afterwards to debate with Melvyn the points he had made in the series. I doubt we'll get it, though!
Apple

The final episode is on tonight so am really looking forward to that.

Just going back to what Himadri said though, as I said in my previous post I was a bit confused with what Himadri said that not all television is intended for everyone, I would like you to enlarge on that comment a bit as, as I said before, the way I read it and what took it to mean was that just because someone doesn't have an in depth knowledge of something which comes up in a programme, that programme is not for them and they should not even consider attempting to watch it, let alone have an opinion on it. Is that what you meant?

Finally I also agree with what Sandra said:
Quote:
I accept that the series is Bragg's personal view but if the BBC is  going to allow someone three hours to put forward his views then I feel it should allow some air time to critics of some of the points raised.
That is basically what I was saying that there should be a balanced view if he is allowed to share his opinion with the world on prime time telly then he should be able to back that up with some corroborating evidence or allow a differing point of view to make their case, and in the case of Betjemen being a snob - getting some aristocrat to say briefly that there was an underlying sympathy in his work but generally agreeing with Melvyn Bragg does not constitute a differing opinion.

I will say though I quite like the idea of having a separate programme afterwards to discuss the programme, and debate the different sides rather than just having a one sided view, Himadri said "an old fashioned studio discussion" so I take it from that this actually happened in the past?
TheRejectAmidHair

Apple wrote:
Just going back to what Himadri said though, as I said in my previous post I was a bit confused with what Himadri said that not all television is intended for everyone, I would like you to enlarge on that comment a bit as, as I said before, the way I read it and what took it to mean was that just because someone doesn't have an in depth knowledge of something which comes up in a programme, that programme is not for them and they should not even consider attempting to watch it, let alone have an opinion on it. Is that what you meant?


There can be factual programmes that are aimed at viewers with little or no prior knowledge on the subject at hand. These programmes can convey much information that is useful for the neophyte, but there would be very little scope for communicating much beyond the basic. There should certainly, however, be room for such programmes.

There can also be factual programmes that aspire to presenting more than merely basic information; and, given that a television programme cannot cover any area of complexity as exhaustively as can a book, such programmes must inevitably assume some prior level of knowledge and of understanding on part of the viewer. Such programmes are unlikely to be good introductions to the subject for those ignorant of it, but, unless we are to insist that all factual programmes must remain merely on basic levels and not aspire  further, there should be room for these programmes also.

As for opinion, anyone is entitled to hold any sort of opinion on any matter at all: that has never been at issue. The value of the opinion is, however, another  matter, for, inevitably, an opinion that is based on knowledge and understanding and on clarity of thought is bound to carry far greater weight than an opinion that is based upon none of these things. Indeed, when an opinion is based on these three things, it becomes more than merely an opinion: it becomes a considered judgement.

I, for instance, know next to nothing about horticulture. That does not prevent me from having opinions on how best to grow different types of flowers, but I see no reason why my opinions on this matter should carry much weight, or, indeed, any weight at all. And neither do I see any reason to insist that all programmes on gardening should be aimed at people like me, rather to those who already have some knowledge on the matter.
chris-l

I haven't managed to watch any of these programmes, which is a pity, because I find myself fascinated the English class system. Much of my fascination springs from the huge potential for humour inherent in the whole thing, and it is this aspect that has been pretty much absent from the discussion so far. This may well be the fault of Melvyn Bragg: although I have huge respect for his work on TV and radio, he is not someone who ever comes across as having a highly developed sense of humour.

Both of the writers who have been quoted so far, John Betjeman and Nancy Mitford were great exponents of the comic genre. Nancy Mitford's essay on U and Non-U language (the U stands for 'Upperclass') was first published as an article in 'Encounter' in 1955 and then as a part of a book 'Noblesse Oblige' the following year. It looked at the differences in language usage between the upper and middle classes, with the uppers tending to stick to older terms, while the middles adopted newer vocabulary. For instance the former used 'lavatory' where the latter preferred 'toilet' - both terms are of course euphemistic, but one had been in use for rather longer. It was with some justice pointed out at the time that the other group that used much the same vocabulary as the upper classes was the working class who had not by and large had not thought that they needed to adopt modern polite usage but had stuck with the language of earlier generations. The concept of U and Non-U was put forward in a fairly tongue-in-cheek way, but it did capture the public imagination and newspapers were full of absurd examples and 'How U are you?' type quizzes.

I am not sure which was the only Betjeman poem put forward as an example of Betjeman's snobbishness. It sounds from the discussion as if it may have been 'Slough'. This does indeed open with the line 'Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!', but it is never an attack upon the people of Slough, only upon what Betjeman perceived as monstrously ugly development. The second line is 'It isn't fit for humans now', so what he is actually asking for is better housing and environment, not for the destruction of the sorts of people who might be supposed to live in Slough.

Another poem of Betjeman's which I think must have been inspired by Nancy Mitford's essay is 'How to Get on in Society', which pokes gentle fun at the sort of genteel language adopted by (some) people who aspire to what they see as a higher position in society - the Hyacinth Buckets of their day. So, the deperate housewife of the time complains 'You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes/ And I must have things daintily served' - serviettes was another of the linguistic markers identified by Mitford, the U word being napkins! This is affectionate teasing of rather pretentious individuals used to comic effect.

The class system has been used by many writers as a source of humour. Mr Pooter is funny because he tries so desperately to present himself as belonging higher up the social ladder than his circumstances permit. Much of the humour in the Jeeves and Wooster derives from the fact that the plebian Jeeves is intelligent, resourceful, cultured and possessed of much good taste and judgement. Wooster has none of these qualities, but instead he has money and connections.

I have never been able to take the whole thing at all seriously: I learned at an early age that, depending upon which facts I chose to emphasise, I could legitimately present myself as coming from anything between 'the labouring classes' and 'minor gentry'. Once I realised that, I ceased to worry about the whole business. 'My sort of people' are people who share my values and interests in life: I am far more interested in what people have become than in mere accidents of birth.
Apple

chris-l wrote:
I haven't managed to watch any of these programmes, which is a pity, because I find myself fascinated the English class system. Much of my fascination springs from the huge potential for humour inherent in the whole thing, and it is this aspect that has been pretty much absent from the discussion so far. This may well be the fault of Melvyn Bragg: although I have huge respect for his work on TV and radio, he is not someone who ever comes across as having a highly developed sense of humour.

Both of the writers who have been quoted so far, John Betjeman and Nancy Mitford were great exponents of the comic genre. Nancy Mitford's essay on U and Non-U language (the U stands for 'Upperclass') was first published as an article in 'Encounter' in 1955 and then as a part of a book 'Noblesse Oblige' the following year. It looked at the differences in language usage between the upper and middle classes, with the uppers tending to stick to older terms, while the middles adopted newer vocabulary. For instance the former used 'lavatory' where the latter preferred 'toilet' - both terms are of course euphemistic, but one had been in use for rather longer. It was with some justice pointed out at the time that the other group that used much the same vocabulary as the upper classes was the working class who had not by and large had not thought that they needed to adopt modern polite usage but had stuck with the language of earlier generations. The concept of U and Non-U was put forward in a fairly tongue-in-cheek way, but it did capture the public imagination and newspapers were full of absurd examples and 'How U are you?' type quizzes.

I am not sure which was the only Betjeman poem put forward as an example of Betjeman's snobbishness. It sounds from the discussion as if it may have been 'Slough'. This does indeed open with the line 'Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!', but it is never an attack upon the people of Slough, only upon what Betjeman perceived as monstrously ugly development. The second line is 'It isn't fit for humans now', so what he is actually asking for is better housing and environment, not for the destruction of the sorts of people who might be supposed to live in Slough.

Another poem of Betjeman's which I think must have been inspired by Nancy Mitford's essay is 'How to Get on in Society', which pokes gentle fun at the sort of genteel language adopted by (some) people who aspire to what they see as a higher position in society - the Hyacinth Buckets of their day. So, the deperate housewife of the time complains 'You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes/ And I must have things daintily served' - serviettes was another of the linguistic markers identified by Mitford, the U word being napkins! This is affectionate teasing of rather pretentious individuals used to comic effect.

The class system has been used by many writers as a source of humour. Mr Pooter is funny because he tries so desperately to present himself as belonging higher up the social ladder than his circumstances permit. Much of the humour in the Jeeves and Wooster derives from the fact that the plebian Jeeves is intelligent, resourceful, cultured and possessed of much good taste and judgement. Wooster has none of these qualities, but instead he has money and connections.

I have never been able to take the whole thing at all seriously: I learned at an early age that, depending upon which facts I chose to emphasise, I could legitimately present myself as coming from anything between 'the labouring classes' and 'minor gentry'. Once I realised that, I ceased to worry about the whole business. 'My sort of people' are people who share my values and interests in life: I am far more interested in what people have become than in mere accidents of birth.
Thank you for your take on this, Chris I was actually quite interested in what you said, especially about that poem as it was only that first line which was quoted, that is come friendly bombs and fall on Slough and he then said when it was written and  jumped on it as being and I quote directly from the programme  
Quote:
...not only distainful but unthinking at a time when war beckoned and Spain had already been bombed..."
and from that it cut to him talking to the aristocrat where he basically said Betjeman was a snob and this guy said no and that there was sympathy in his work, but it was never enlightened upon as to what that sympathy was.

There was no indication that anything put forward was done tongue in cheek.  I have to say I agree with you there was no evidence of humour throughout the programmme apart from a slightly humourous self deprecating comment he made at the beginning of the first episode where he called himself a class mongrel and that people like him were in the house of lords now. I also agree about the amount of humour in the subject and not being able to take "the class system" too seriously when anyone talks about it my mind automatically goes to the Blackadder series especially Blackadder goes forth where you had Baldrick who had no idea why he was there, gradually going up the social ladder with Blackadder himself, then George and Capt Darling and finally General Melchett.

I particularly liked your comment
Quote:
I am far more interested in what people have become than in mere accidents of birth.
That was such a lovely thing to say and I just wish that there were more people out there who behave like that as unfortunately in my experience I have mainly met people who when confronted by people who are trying to better themselves or who dare to voice an opinion or raise points on issues act patronising, condescending and sneer at them.  But to be fair I also have to say I have also met a few of the good ones in my time.  Generally speaking (if its good enough for Melvyn Bragg to be general its good enough for me!! Wink ) in my experience, people who are well educated and can articulate their opinions well, automatically get listened to just because they are well educated and can articulate their opinions well, whereas someone who has not had the benefit of a good education and therefore cannot articulate themselves as well are dismissed but they can have equally valid opinions and points to make.

Finally, the links to the programmes are still valid Chris so I hope you get chance to grab a look at them before they disappear. I will hopefully get to watch the final part which I have sky+'d shortly!
Apple

Well I have watched the last part of the series tonight, and I have to say, this one was more political in its views, how various governments had caused shifts in the balance of class. How Margaret Thatcher totally decimated industry and destroyed entire towns and cities, and wiped many industries which had played a huge part in peoples lives out completely and as Alan Bleasdale said gave out the message that certain areas of society just did not matter.

I was interested to see Boys from the Blackstuff was commented on, considering that was the only thing we "studied" at school (in the loosest sense of the word!) he also spoke to the writer of Trainspotting, as the emergence of the "underclass" was touched on quite a bit in this episode.

There was quite a heavy comment on comedy and its part in the culture of society as a whole, and how the "underclass" are portayed in plays, comedy etc as a grotesque stereotype, eg Vicky Pollard in Little Britain and Shameless, rather than in the ways of the past with working class characters with the likes of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.  The term chav was explored and as well as the literal term of someone who lives on a council estate, a hoody or unmarried mum etc who the term is attached to certain celebrities ie. Katie Price who have worked their way up but don't have the "taste" and "classyness" of people who are born with money. He spoke as though its almost like the working class has disapeared now, there is the so called "underclass" then you jump to the now totally huge middle class which encompasses most of society and then the rich and celebrities in the new "superclass" which has taken over from the traditional upper class of the past.

It also explored the effect multi racial Britain had on culture with the emergence of two tone in the early 80's with the Specials, and rap music.

I felt it was still general in part but had a different feel again to it, the first one was historical and fact based, the second was very general and mainly Melvyn Braggs opinion, but this was as I said at the start more politically based.

Here is a link to watch the 3rd and final episode:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/epis...g_on_Class_and_Culture_Episode_3/
Green Jay

[quote="TheRejectAmidHair:28933"]
Apple wrote:

I, for instance, know next to nothing about horticulture. That does not prevent me from having opinions on how best to grow different types of flowers, but I see no reason why my opinions on this matter should carry much weight, or, indeed, any weight at all. And neither do I see any reason to insist that all programmes on gardening should be aimed at people like me, rather to those who already have some knowledge on the matter.


I've just found this discussion, and missed the programmes, all but a bit of the last one... However, just to add my tuppen'orth re programming and take up Himadri's example. I am in fact very interested in horticulture,  Very Happy and  a year or two back Gardener's World, a longstanding and possibly the only mainstream channel programme on gardening around, was criticised for dumbing down by much of its audience. It went back to basics in a big way, aiming all the information at entry level, in very short bites (all in a 30 minute show anyway). It dropped the more interesting strands, from plant families to visits to iconic gardens, or treated them so superficially it was frustratingly meaningless. Now, it became clear that there is an audience in this country which has lots of horticultural experience and knowledge, and although we all like to encourage newbies to gardening and pass on our love of flowers etc, the tone and content of this show had in fact patronised and bored a lot of its regular viewers.  So then in respsonse they got rid of that particular rather simplistic presenter and went back to a more mixed level of content. I'm trying not to labour the point, but it does show that for programming to be inclusive it must allow for viewers with little or no knowledge and those with much more.

So much telly is extremely undemanding, with a formula which repeats the basic facts after every ad break - as if you can't remember anything for more than 12 minutes, or that it prefers to welcome viewers who've just tuned in more than risk irritating those who stuck with it. So I welcome something more challenging to the brain, even if some of it goes over my head. For example, I love many science programmes even though that is definitely not part of my formal education or my leisure reading.

There was a good, thought-provoking series on The Grammar School recently. It featured well known and unknown people for whom the grammar school had made a big difference in their life chances - once the schools opened up to any child who passed the 11+. There were some unlikely-looking successes. It was touching to see that a number of these people felt very emotional  at some point in describing their experience - the letter arriving, or the fact that the school inspired them to move on to the next phase of education which led to...whatever. I think what they were inwardly expressing was that without that single first chance, their lives would have been so different in every way. And so would other people's, as these folk often went on to make a difference to others in their own careers. Many said that their own parents had been denied similar chances, often leaving school at 14 for very basic jobs, and the parents were ecstatic and proud to see their children getting better opportunities.  What is heart-breaking is that before such social changes, working and lower class people were seen as having nothing to contribute in the way of intelligence and innovation, and so much human potential was squandered. In fact it would have been intolerably shocking to think that a labourer might have made an excellent surgeon, or a "shop girl" be capable of running a major business. Schools may not be great at the moment but at least we accept that, for example, a young black girl from Tower Hamlets could make a perfectly good lawyer.
Apple

I was just going to say Himadri wrote that not me, and I was just wondering why it says I wrote it.

I would also like to point out that I wasn't saying the programme should be dummed down, I think that point was actually assumed after Himadri and Evie posted, by their comments about the watcher having certain levels of intellegence and not all tv is meant for everyone etc, the point I was making which everyone (with the exception of Sandra) seems to have missed is that middle episode was bloody one sided, with general sweeping statements with no counter balance or evidence to back up the claims, which for a programme on at a fairly peak viewing time I felt should have been more rounded and he should at least have backed up those claims he made.  The other two programmes were much more fact based. Although I will say not everyone who lives on a council/housing association estate are like the fictional characters Vicky Pollard or Frank Gallagher!
Evie

I don't think we missed that point - I didn't, anyway - I replied to it, saying I didn't have a problem with it being his own point of view, and that I was happy to go and think about it all for myself, and look up things I didn't know.  I still think good television -and it may be peak time but it was BBC4 and for an adult audience - should raise questions at least as much as answer them, and polemic from someone informed and passionate is a stimulating way of presenting material for me.

The point about assuming a certain level of knowledge - or at least being able to assume that if people don't know what something is referring to they will accept the argument as a personal one and think about it for themselves - was meant to be in answer to your point.  I watch science programmes where things often go over my head, but I don't expect the presenter to explain them all to me - I watch on the understanding that I will be able to follow some arguments or processes and not others.

It's the difference between teaching school children and university students - at school there is a greater emphasis on making sure pupils are given the information they need (though always with the proviso that they need to think for themselves too), at university that sort of spoon-feeding goes out of the window and students are expected to do their own research if something doesn't make sense to them.  Some television programmes are presenting information on the basis that the viewer might know nothing or very little; others assume a certain level of knowledge - there needs to be both, otherwise, as I think Himadri said, we never get beyond the basic facts in the time available, and we need analysis, and motivation to do our own analysis, not just facts.  Well, some of us do, anyway - too much TV aims at a low level of knowledge, it's frustrating for those of us who want a bit more depth.
Apple

Evie wrote:
I don't think we missed that point - I didn't, anyway - I replied to it, saying I didn't have a problem with it being his own point of view, and that I was happy to go and think about it all for myself, and look up things I didn't know.  I still think good television -and it may be peak time but it was BBC4 and for an adult audience - should raise questions at least as much as answer them, and polemic from someone informed and passionate is a stimulating way of presenting material for me.

The point about assuming a certain level of knowledge - or at least being able to assume that if people don't know what something is referring to they will accept the argument as a personal one and think about it for themselves - was meant to be in answer to your point.  I watch science programmes where things often go over my head, but I don't expect the presenter to explain them all to me - I watch on the understanding that I will be able to follow some arguments or processes and not others.

It's the difference between teaching school children and university students - at school there is a greater emphasis on making sure pupils are given the information they need (though always with the proviso that they need to think for themselves too), at university that sort of spoon-feeding goes out of the window and students are expected to do their own research if something doesn't make sense to them.  Some television programmes are presenting information on the basis that the viewer might know nothing or very little; others assume a certain level of knowledge - there needs to be both, otherwise, as I think Himadri said, we never get beyond the basic facts in the time available, and we need analysis, and motivation to do our own analysis, not just facts.  Well, some of us do, anyway - too much TV aims at a low level of knowledge, it's frustrating for those of us who want a bit more depth.
I never said I had a problem with it being his opinion either, in fact I have continually said throughout that I have thoroughly enjoyed the series and found informative and it has provoked me to find out more on certain points raised but as Sandra (I think it was) said if someone is going to allowed 3 hours of airtime to voice his own opinion, then they should also allow some of that time to others to offer a differing point of view, or at the very least when offering evidence to back these claims up make sure they are substantial not just a token gesture, as with the point in question which I keep banging on about, one line of a poem which was taken out of context. I originally wasn't having a go about that either if you recall I said for all I know he could be a snob but I thought it a bit of a generalisation to say that using one line of a poem as your basis for it. That was just my opinion on it, but as Himadri pointed out the value of such opinions is questionable, considering I had little knowledge at that point of the man. But considering what others have since said and the research I have since done I don't think it was too out of place a comment to make, whether or not you agree with it is of course up to you. The other two programmes, were as I say more rounded and offered a more balanced view, based on concrete facts, not flimsy out of context evidence.

Oh and by the way - It was actually broadcast on BBC2, and it was quite widely publicised and promoted on all the main BBC channels, but I am not going to argue that point with you.
Evie

I think we just have a difference of opinion - you asked for discussion and I joined in.  We all understood what you were saying, but some of us interpreted the programme and the issues you refer to differently.  I don't agree that it was 'flimsy, out-of-context evidence' - that's fundamentally why we are disagreeing - but disagreeing is fine, as far as I am concerned.
Apple

Evie wrote:
Quote:
...but disagreeing is fine, as far as I am concerned
Well at least we agree on something!  Smile
Evie

Cool
Green Jay

Apple wrote:
I was just going to say Himadri wrote that not me, and I was just wondering why it says I wrote it.



Sorry, Apple, I know it was Himadri, and i didn't even look at how the quote box had displayed until I saw your comment. There is one ref at the top to Himadri in one type-face, then "Apple wrote" in bold and I have no idea about why that came out - again , apologies, but I must have cut out too much text when quoting the post. I was really replying to Himadri and trying to be jokey about my different tastes.
Apple

Not a problem, I was just a bit confused when I saw it!  Very Happy
Apple

I thought I'd post this comment here although it only has a tenuous link to this thread, that is Melvyn Bragg, but has anyone watched the new series of the South Bank Show which has been resurrected?
Apple

I'll take that as a no then!
Chibiabos83

No from me, sorry... I didn't even know it was back!
Green Jay

Has it been taken over by another channel?
county_lady

It is now on Sky Arts which we no longer pay for.
Chibiabos83

Yes, I spotted in Sunday's Observer that it's now on Sky, which rules it out for me. A shame, as the first one's a profile of Nick Hytner, whose work interests me.
Mikeharvey

I'm sorry that it's only possible to get South Bank Show on Sky. I haven't got SKY and am determined not to.
Evie

I hadn't heard it had returned either, but now I know why.  I don't have Sky, and won't - partly because I don't see the need to pay for TV above the licence fee (which I am very happy to pay), but mainly because of the Murdochs, of course.  Shame ITV let it go.  Is Melv still doing it?
MikeAlx

I feel the same way about Sky, and am miffed that Sky Movies Indie now seems to get all the sorts of films that I like, and that used to be on Channel 4 or BBC2. (When I can afford a technology upgrade I will probably go for Netflix or LoveFilm or somesuch).
Castorboy

The same thing is happening here. We have a Sky channel which has a monopoly on sport, public affairs (the Jubilee celebrations were on the pay channel only), the most recent US series' etc, and when a new film channel, Quickflix, announced plans to show films via the net, Sky quickly signed up all the competition. On top of that our only ad-free channel is to be scrapped at the end of June.
Sandraseahorse

I seem to be the only one who has watched "The South Bank Show" now it's on Sky.  

It has the same opening music with different graphics (from what I can remember) and, of course, Melvyn doing the interviews.  It goes out at 10.00 pm on Sundays and is then repeated twice during the week.

I watched his profile of Pat Barker, who wrote the "Ghost Road" trilogy, and found it interesting.  I didn't realise that her father left home when she was young and when her mother remarried a man with children, there wasn't sufficient room in his house for Pat, so she remained with her grandparents.  By the time her mother had persuaded the council to provide a large enough house for all the family to be together, Pat had become settled with her grandparents and chose to remain with them.

Melvyn being Melvyn focused on her Northern working-class upbringing and she spoke eloquently about it without being chippy or self-pitying.  

There was quite a lot on her new book "Toby's Room", which is about facial reconstruction of soldiers injured during the First World War.  I knew about the pioneering work carried out during and after the Second World War but I didn't realise surgery was so advanced earlier in the 20th century.  Some of the photographs and illustrations I found hard to look at.

The next programme is about the history of grime music.  I haven't decided yet whether to watch it.
MikeAlx

That sounds fascinating, though I was frankly a bit disappointed with Barker's last WWI book (the one about the war artists). Surgery was of course more primitive in the 1910s & 1920s, compared with the pioneering plastic surgeons of WWII, and many men ended up wearing masks or partial masks of some kind.

The artist Henry Tonks, who had taught drawing to many of the key WWI artists at the Slade School just before WWI, worked with one of the surgeons, doing countless facial drawings to assist with the reconstructive surgery. If memory serves, Tonks had himself studied medicine before moving into art.

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