Saturday, 20 December 2014

My Problem with Gareth Malone

Ah, to be honest, I have no problem with Gareth Malone: I have never met him. My only experiences of Malone are via his televisual representation, a performance persona that has been constructed through the post-structural relationship of his personality and the media industry. He might be a stand-up guy, witty and intelligent, capable of watching South Park  and Wagner's Ring Cycle and bringing a perspicacious understanding to both events.

My problem, however, goes back to his first appearances.

Malone's first bout of bringing singing to the benighted masses was filmed in South Oxhey. I grew up there (well, technically in the posh part over the railway tracks), and suddenly found myself capable of frightening Glaswegians simply by association.

South Oxhey was imagined by the BBC as a shit-hole that made Stoke look chirpy and the Gorbals seem like The South Bank. Lingering scenes of poverty porn - the precinct where I used to go to have a burger - interviews with locals that made them come off like the extras from Planet of the Apes. I wasn't above mentioning that my family lived there, if I could make one of the staff at Scottish Opera blush and whimper.

Problem is - South Oxhey was tough, but it was far from a cultural wasteland.

During the making of the programme, they interviewed my mother. She's been running a dance school in South Oxhey (where she was brought up) for the best part of fifty years. Alumni include one of the Spice Girls (Mel, I think), Nikki off Big Brother and, more interestingly, the first English student to be admitted to the Bolshoi School in Russia

Cultural wastelands don't tend to have ballet schools. So my mother's interview was canned, no doubt for another chat with a choir member gushing over Malone's gift of high art to the chavs.

The problem is not Malone, it's the shit pump. To manufacture the necessary drama, they had to demonise the locality. 

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