Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘Mark Steel’s In Town’: series finishes in Wigan

The series on BBC Radio 4 finished as consistently well as it had proceeded before.  The subject matter was rich and varied, including George Orwell, George Formby’s stern opposition to apartheid, Northern Soul and club culture, pie-eating, rugby league, and a story about an encounter between Prime Minister John Major, and a man with a pineapple ring adorning his penis.

Something I failed to mention in the previous review now deserves special emphasis.  For a man who grew up in the south-east, Mark Steel’s mastery of regional, including Northern, accents is remarkable and, in my recollection, unique.  His Lancashire sounds different (in all the right ways) from his Yorkshire.  His Welsh sounds Welsh, and not some kind of weird south Asian hybrid.  His rural accents are different from the metropolitan ones.  His accent impersonations are like the dishes served in a good restaurant: you don’t need to be told what they are, because each one is instantly recognisable. 

I wonder if Mark Steel, as a committed socialist, felt any compunction about raising laughs about subject matter which included parochialism and insularity and the kind of human behaviour which has been exploited by the ruling class to divide and rule.  Noticing the differences between two places which are half a mile apart and then blowing them into a froth of mistrust and misrepresentation is something that the British certainly find funny.  Maybe he thinks that by helping us to laugh at these differences, he can educate us to realise how insignificant they are, and that eventually we will gain more of a feeling of solidarity with our fellow beings.  I hope he does.  I can hardly wait for the next series.


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