Wednesday, February 15, 2006


London Calling

Today the office received a slightly mysterious phone call from the BBC. The caller wouldn’t give Charlotte a hink of why he was calling; I had to call him back.

It turns out someone has an idea to make a documentary about the Rover and Longbridge and this guy’s sniffing around for angles and contacts and so on. I should have asked him why he was calling us – like witty reposts, stinging retorts and profound observations, key questions only ever present themselves when it’s too late.

There’s something in his cheery blankness that disturbs me. It rapidly becomes clear that this guy’s never set foot in Birmingham. I’m wary of giving opinions because this isn’t my land. So I issue string of warnings. There is no single story of Rover, there are as many stories as there are people to tell them. The story of Rover goes beyond the plant into the communities and supply chain. Birmingham isn’t a pit village it’s a dynamic evolving city. It’s easy for middle class aesthetes to romanticise manufacturing industry but there’s little romance in doing those jobs. How sad is it that in collaboration with a new partner MG-Rover isn’t building a car and a half for every family in China?

In Home of the Wriggler we only dealt with a tiny fraction of the material available to us. The fantasy four shift six hour version of that show still holds an awful lure. It is a fascinating and complicated mesh of stories to be mined. I don’t blame this guy and his mates for prospecting. When he asked how we got our contacts I should have said “just by being here”. If he stops anyone in the street and they don’t know someone closely connected to Longbridge then they will know someone who knows someone who is/was. I hope this guy gets on a train and makes a journey.


Much better he does that than tries to pick the brains of people who've already done the work for themselves. It seems like cheating, somehow :/.
That's journalism for you - even the voyeurism is vicarious. It's worse, sometimes, when they try to form an opinion of their own. Some subjects just don't work very well when you attempt to expose the truth in the 'He says, she says' courtroom of formulaic documentary television.
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