Thursday, 7 February 2013

Two fab documentaries this week

Jeremy taped this off BBC 4 for me - knowing i'd love it. One of their documentaries that comes across *a bit* like an undergraduate essay with illustrative archive footage... but lovable for all of that. This maybe relied on one or two of its interviewee's too heavily (that bingo moghul fella, whoever he was!) and was at its most charming when it interviewed current bingo addicts - the extremely old and the new, surprising, younger generation. I liked the fact that it was so strong on exposing the horridly sniffy middle class derision of the 1960s bingo explosion - 'cretinous' etc. I also liked how it was keen to talk about the history of working class entertainment and its endlessly negative portrayal by the media / intelligentsia / etc. There were even some academics on show, talking sense and not talking down. All with the dulcet tones of Sarah Lancashire narrating - and some really smashing vintage footage from Butlins and the hallowed halls of Meccas and hollowed-out cinemas up and down the land. 

It made me remember how central and sacred bingo was to all of my grandparents. Do catch this if they show it again.

BBC 3 last night had their first episode of a new docu-soap shot last summer here in Manchester, focusing on a small community in a rough corner of Harperhay. The increasingly-snotty and patronising Guardian warned us not to go into it expecting just another 'look at the funny chavs' show... because this one has real heart. And that's very true - but i don't need the Guardian to tell me that, thanks.

This is a beautifully made show. I don't know if we'll follow the same scattered groups of characters through all the remaining episodes, but i hope so. Rather like a Russell T Davies drama - not only in its setting - but in how it begins with very bold, almost vulgar strokes of colour to denote its characters, and then fills in the glorious, revealing details. It almost seems like Channel 5 crap when it picks out its subjects at first - the budding drag queen behind the newsagents counter; the teen girls off to Magalouf; the twenty something alkie living with his 50 something transsex girlfriend; the ignorant shagger from the market place stringing his dopey girlfriend along...  But then, in the telling, something very magical happens. The documentary makers are actually *listening* - and what they get from these people is just gold. It reminded me at its best points very much of Paul Watkins' The Family from 1974, and his subsequent work. It felt very endebted to his style of attentiveness.

The girl from the Wishy-Washy laundrette is thinking about her impending holiday in 'Shagalouf' and she muses over whether she'll get a tan. 'I don't even know if i can get a tan.' And the point isn't underlined - we just see her staying indoors, with the broken washers and dryers, waiting for the sun.

It's all heart-breaking stuff. Every minute of it. The woman with her umpteen pets, stroking lizards to sleep, telling us how she's always looked after damaged animals - as her boyfriend queasily irons his t-shirt for going down the shop to buy more cider. It's strong stuff, in a surprisingly quiet way.

Oh! here's the poster for something Jeremy's been very much involved in during recent weeks. They're trying to close down our library and swimming baths here in Levenshulme. This sucks. So - there are readings and all sorts going on this weekend at the library. If you're near - come and support!


  1. You've convinced me to watch People Like Us on catch up. Thanks! xx

  2. Let me know what you think, Jill! And congrats on your new book!