At the Debate on "Has Television Destroyed Britain?", Michael Grade Responded to My Remarks by Describing Me as a "Middle-Class, Middle-Aged, Public School Old Fart". (Diary)

By Clarke, Nick | New Statesman (1996), June 16, 2003 | Go to article overview

At the Debate on "Has Television Destroyed Britain?", Michael Grade Responded to My Remarks by Describing Me as a "Middle-Class, Middle-Aged, Public School Old Fart". (Diary)


Clarke, Nick, New Statesman (1996)


It was the young interviewer from Radio Cornwall who put me properly in my place. "So your film is going out tonight?" she inquired chirpily. "Well, actually, it's a book, and it was published last week." "Fine," she replied. "Let's go ahead. So Mr Clarke, your book..." I was on the local radio treadmill -- hunched in a small studio in Television Centre for 12 consecutive ten-minute slots with BBC local radio stations around the country. You never know what to expect: a quick canter through the publicity handout, or a series of pointed questions from someone who has strong and contrary views about the way life has changed over the past 50 years. And then there's Vanessa Feltz. The call sheet simply said "Radio London", so I wasn't expecting to be plunged into the live discussion she was conducting with an unspecified number of other guests. I needn't have worried, because Vanessa did all the talking. She also failed to notice that my allotted time had run out, and when we were nearly five minutes into the nex t booking (Radio WM), I decided I would have to ignore that old convention that it's the interviewer who gets to bring proceedings to a close. "Thanks, Vanessa, it's been lovely to talk to you, but I'm afraid I have to go," I said, and pressed the "clear" button.

The Media Society arranged a debate with the compelling title: "Has television destroyed Britain?" This was presented (erroneously, or exaggeratedly at best) as the thrust of my book, but I was persuaded that it would make for a livelier debate. Unsurprisingly, quite a lot of television people disagreed with the proposition, and several of them agreed to come along and explain why.

Bazalgette, as it happens, is a cricketing acquaintance, though the fixture between his team and mine was cancelled last week. In the light of what happened a few days earlier, a break from the great game is not unwelcome. After two decades of largely pleasurable summer Sunday afternoons, I suffered the exquisite humiliation of a "King's Pair" -- dismissed first ball in two consecutive innings. For non-cricketing readers, let me explain that this is roughly as embarrassing as, say, pouring a glass of red wine down the Queen's decolletage. And it happened at one of my favourite village grounds -- The Lee, perched in the Chilterns near Aylesbury. The bowler was an old friend, Stuart Rudd, who looked suitably remorseful as I left the pitch. Even the cattle in the neighbouring field lowed mournfully. Well, that's what I've been hearing in my subsequent nightmares.

It wasn't so much a debate as a ritual dismembering. Michael Grade responded to my opening remarks by describing me as "a middle-class, middle-aged, public school old fart". …

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