South London Art Gallery
Ryan Gander Exhibition - Heralded As The New Black
The South London Art Gallery presents a solo exhibition of acclaimed British artist Ryan Gander, organised in partnership with Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Comprising a body of work made during a 'year off' from exhibiting, and including a number of works made exclusively for the SLG space, Gander's show is highly anticipated both in the UK and internationally. The exhibition consists of entirely new installations, interventions, films and by-products which derive meaning from their location and context. The exhibition is a diverse and playful investigation into facets of the making, presentation, history and documentation of art and design.
A local street map will be available for visitors to take away. Gander has altered it to include streets that existed before 1914, bringing the structure of civic space into question. Another work, The New Alphabet (2008) is an installation of thirty-six wooden printers' blocks made in response to the utopian 'new alphabet' typeface designed by Wm Crouwel in 1967. The new alphabet was radical in its use of only vertical and horizontal strokes making certain letters unrecognisable. Gander's version is a series of additional marks rendering Crouwel's alphabet legible again. The two typefaces work in symbiosis so that Gander's typeface, presented out of context in a pile on the gallery floor, proves to be as illegible as the original.
Humour underpins much of Gander's work, rescuing it from mere 'institutional critique', engaging us with its dead-pan, self-deprecating knowingness. It is as rigorous as it is strangely accessible. A catalogue, the first to articulate a critical in-depth examination of his practice, accompanies the exhibition.
Ryan Gander was born in 1976 in Chester and now lives and works in London. He studied at Manchester Metropolitan University before studying at the Jan Van Eyck Academy, Maastricht from 1999-2000 and the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam from 2001-2002. Exhibitions have included solo shows at the Cornerhouse, Manchester 2004, Mumok, Vienna 2006 and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 2007 and 2008. He participated in the Tate Triennial in 2006. He has received numerous awards including the ABN AMRO Art Award, the Dena Foundation Award and the Paul Hamlyn Award.
The South London Gallery receives core funding from Arts Council England and Southwark Council and ongoing support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Helen Thorpe, Outset Contemporary Art Fund and the Moose Foundation for the Arts.
The SLG is in Peckham Road. The exhibition: 25 April-22 June admission free. Tuesday-Sunday 12-6pm.
Dulwich Picture Gallery - Coming of Age of American Art 1850s to 1950s
Paintings from the Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts.
Marine paintings by Winslow Homer, portraits by Thomas Eakins, genre paintings by Eastman Johnson, landscapes by John Singer Sergeant and James McNeill Whistler, and abstract art by Jackson Pollock will be among the famous works in this exhibition about American Art. Over the course of the one hundred years from the 1850s to the 1950s, American art and culture came of age, evolving from the provincial to the international and moving from literal depictions of the particular to abstract interpretations of universal ideals. Organised by the American Federation of Arts and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Coming of Age will explore the complex and extended process of maturation that took place throughout this formative century of American art.
The exhibition focuses on the key movements during a period in which American art matured and took its place in the international arena. It will begin with mid-nineteenth century American landscapes, followed by late nineteenth and twentieth century paintings. Turn of the century works by American Impressionists such as Childe Hassam and Maurice Prendergast will contrast with Ashcan paintings by artists such as Robert Henri and John Sloan. Twentieth century modernist masterpieces by Stuart Davis, Georgie O'Keefe and Marsden Hartley, among others, transition in to mid-century abstract works by artists such as Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, László Moholy-Nagy, and Jackson Pollock. The selection will offer a comprehensive look at the major developments in a period of one hundred years marked by the rise of modernity and by a dramatic change in the physical and social landscape.
The Exhibition opens 14 March - 8 June.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist - The Dulwich Players
Written in 1970, Accidental Death of an Anarchist is Dario Fo's best known and most popular play. In the first four years of its production it was seen by an estimated one million people.
Dario Fo's mischievous yet haunting satire of bureaucratic conspiracy, totalitarianism and cover-up is the story of a notorious liar, conman and certified maniac; who stands alone as a bastion of honour and justice. Fusing the spirit and energy of Italian Comedia Dell'Arte with the madcap farce of a Marx brothers film, this riotous comedy is brilliant, witty, bitingly acerbic, acutely political, and one of the most acclaimed pieces of comic theatre of the twentieth century.
The play will be performed at The Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College on 3rd, 4th and 5th April at 8pm. Tickets £8 from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.
Here was a truly fortunate man who was dealt a hand which gave him opportunities to use his boundless energy and inventiveness to become one of the great Victorian engineers and managers. His connection with Dulwich started in 1843 when at the age of 23 he was elected Warden of Alleyn's College, more usually called Dulwich College, an office he held until 1851. At the time the College's affairs were at such low ebb he probably had little influence to change the existing idle culture which would ultimately lead to its closure by Act of Parliament six years later.
In 1866/7 he designed and built the shed for the platforms of William Barlow's magnificent St Pancras station. He constructed its 240 foot span arched roof using massive temporary wooden staging on wheels. The 24 six ton iron ribs were raised two at a time by the power-driven hoists. With a maximum height of 100 feet this was the widest span in the world at the time. This iron shed has lasted over 140 years, and apart from damage caused by a World War 1 Zeppelin, and a World War11 bomb, is a as good as new after the recent £800 million restoration overseen by English Heritage. The renewed pale blue paint, suggested by the first Station Master, faithfully continues to remind passengers of the sky above.
Alleyne was a self-taught engineer who had the good fortune to be appointed manager and chief engineer of the Butterley Iron Works in Derbyshire through his wife's connections with the firm. The business produced 50% of the world's pig-iron at the time and was the largest exhibitor of iron at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the International Exhibition of 1862. It also provided all the iron for the St Pancras platform shed, Vauxhall Bridge and the Edinburgh water supply. It cast and made steamship engines for the Royal Navy.
Alleyne came from an old Barbadian family whose ancestor had arrived there within three years of the first settlers, around 1630. The various branches of the family came to be the most prominent landowners on the island. Alleyne's grandfather Sir John Gay Alleyne, first baronet, was the Speaker of the island's Assembly and the leading politician there in the second half of the eighteenth century. Surprisingly, one member contributed to the eventual abolition of slavery in 1833 by appearing for the slave in the landmark Somerset Case of 1772.
As a child Alleyne would have been familiar with the sugar cane mills in his native Barbados, and it may have been these that fired his interest in engineering. Before he came to Dulwich, Alleyne was at Harrow for three years, entering at the late age of 17, and then at Bonn University. Details of his attendance and what he studied at Bonn have not been forthcoming, but it is possible that engineering was involved. However his great opportunity arose from leading the Butterley Iron Works with its extensive collieries, rolling mills and workforce of 7000 men.
Alleyne took out 14 patents. His inventions included the "Butterley Beam" which doubled the depth of iron joists for supporting mill floors and iron ship decks, by welding two joists together longitudinally to make them three foot deep. This construction was used in HMS Agincourt in 1861, one of the three largest single screw battleships in the Royal Navy. By coincidence the inventor of the screw-propeller, Sir Francis Pettit Smith had also been a Dulwich resident. Another novel device of Alleyne's was a puddling furnace with a rotating circular bottom.
In the 1860's he and his sons designed and built a five-ton steam yacht, and Lapwing, a nine-ton steam launch for which some parts were made at his home workshop at Chevin, near Belper in Derbyshire. Lapwing was sailed at great speed down the Derwent. Other designs produced at home were a church clock and a fire engine, manned by his daughters. They did stalwart work when the local church caught fire in 1903.
Alleyne's passion for astronomy was another aim in life which he fulfilled, by acquiring the largest privately owned telescope. It was made by Thomas Cooke. Sunspots were studied in relation to the conditions of the earth. His family of two sons and eight daughters were often roused in the middle of the night to observe special astronomical phenomena. Having been dragged out of bed they all said "Yes, yes, we can see it" so they could get back to bed quickly.
The penultimate Warden of Dulwich College died in1912. One of his last achievements was to learn to ride a penny-farthing bicycle when he was over 80. He said," It's better than a modern bicycle because if you hit anything there is a better chance that you will fly over the top of the obstacle and not crash into it yourself."
The Fort, Grange Lane by Michael Rich
In September 1945, immediately after the War, I went to Dulwich College and joined the Scouts. The Scout Troop which I joined was the 3rd Dulwich College which had been founded in 1937 by "Skip" Hall shortly after he had left the College. Its peculiarity was that it was to be led by Old Alleynians in contrast to the other School Troops which were led by masters at the College. During the war Hall had kept in touch with the boys who in that period provided the leadership, although with supervision from Vickie Styler who had founded the first Scout Troops at the College.
When Lieutenant-Colonel H.R.Hall, as he had become, returned from the Army, I remember our head-quarters in an old pavilion in the "Tank Field", named after the war-time Emergency Water Tanks. We had added some lean-to sheds as "patrol dens" and hoisted our flag from the old oak tree. But almost at once Hall negotiated the use of a larger disused building, by the Covered Courts on the College grounds. This the Scouts improved and redecorated, and was duly opened in 1949 by Brigadier Lorne Campbell VC, who became the Troop's Patron.
Fifteen years later there were two Scout Troops with room for 50 boys, and a waiting list, a Senior Scout Troop of fourteen 15 to 18 year olds, which, by that time I led, and a Rover Crew of 19 Old Alleynians. The troops met after Games on a Saturday, when it was possible to get Old Alleynians who were at work on the Tuesday afternoons when the School Troops met, to lead what became "the 48th Camberwell, Old Alleynian Scout Group, Lorne Campbell's Own". Thus, although the Scouts were all from the College, the Group was no longer part of it. Redevelopment plans led the College to wish to recover the site by the Covered Courts which we were occupying. Every alternative site which we proposed, which appeared acceptable to the Estates Governors, was also earmarked for some further School development.
In 1939 the Army had requisitioned the farm at the top of Grange Lane which then occupied the land between the Golf Course and Cox's Walk, in order to establish a Gun and Searchlight Battery to protect London during the Blitz. The views over London were and are appropriately panoramic. In 1960 it was returned to the Estate with the gun emplacements still to clear and a host of temporary buildings in various states of dilapidation. One morning in 1961, I received a 'phone call from Hall: we had been offered new head-quarters in the de-requisitioned Gun-sight. I remember being led round the site by the Estates Manger, who asked what we wanted. We tried to restrain our ambitions: surely the Mess Building was more than we could use or maintain? But we chose a range of three buildings which had included the Officers' Mess and the WRAC building which appeared to be in relatively sound condition, and then said yes also to the lorry-garage which would accommodate the Group Stores, and marked off an area of land in front of them. The rest of the site would be cleared and laid out as allotments, and one building between ours and the Golf Club was reserved for the allotment-holders.
Hall with a stroke of imaginative romanticism named the site "The Fort" to commemorate its war-time use. The Scouts' enthusiasm was caught. We marked out our boundaries with massive posts "cannibalised" from the Gun-site, and set to work painting and refurbishing the buildings. Boys stayed in the buildings or camped for week-ends, but some work had to be done professionally. The increased size of the Group brought in new parents who gave their support both financial and physical. We even got a subscription from P.G.Wodehouse. In 1962 the Fort was officially opened by Sir Charles McLean, the Chief Scout of the World, as the Old Alleynian Group's Head-quarters, and on that occasion he presented five Queen's Scout Certificates, to members of the 48th. Although the buildings were fit for use to provide separate club-rooms for each of the four units of the Group, major reconstruction of the Mess was financed by a grant from the Charitable Trust of Tom Ismay, whose father had been the Chairman of the White Star who escaped when their flagship, the Titanic, sank on its maiden voyage.
The Group shared its good fortune with other scouts and welcomed scouts from the UK and abroad to use the premises and an extra piece of land between our original boundary and the allotments which the Estate added to the lease. The Allotment Holders decided to set up their premises amidst the allotments, and the building reserved for them became available for a Service Crew from the local Scout Districts.
At that time there were 95,000 Scouts in the newly formed County of Greater London. For Scout purposes, therefore, Greater London was divided into five Scout "Counties", and Hall became County Commissioner of Greater London South, with 16,000 Scouts, He appointed Gordon Carr as Warden first of the South London Training Ground and then of the South London Scout Centre, which he continues as a near full-time voluntary job to this day.
In 1967 the College abolished Saturday School, and it was no longer practical to have Scout meetings on that day. The 48th Camberwell Scout Group was closed and the Scout County took over the Fort.
Since that time Scout numbers have sadly declined. There are now only some 6,000 Scouts in the Scout County, including many younger boys, compared with the 16,000 of 40 years ago. But the Fort has continued to be well used not only by Scouts but also by a wider community. The Ismay Room has been completely rebuilt and improvements made to continue the life of the other original "temporary" buildings. There is accommodation for 100 in three separate buildings, each with its own kitchen and washing facilities, to say nothing of the ample camping space. In 2007/8 some 5,000 Scouts from at least 28 different countries will have made use of its facilities, with the easy access through the Woods to Sydenham Hill Station. Training courses have been held for both adults and Scouts, and the facilities have attracted other youth training organisations, such as Operation Raleigh International and the Woodcraft Folk. Except in July and August, when demand from Scouts is at its peak, the various rooms are available for hire by local organisations, including three different painting classes, many of the local Schools and Churches, and private functions such as a mothers and toddlers group and birthday parties. These amount to nearly half the total activity at the Fort, over and above the Scout activities, and enable the Scout County to break even on a budget of some £75,000 a year.
In 1988. the Dulwich Estate renewed the lease which the Old Alleynian Scout Group had assigned to the Scout County, for a period of thirty years, thus continuing the generosity displayed when we were taken to visit an abandoned gun site, forty years ago.. This has enabled an enterprise begun by Bill Hall when he first founded the Old Alleynian Scout Troop to be continued in the form of a Scout Centre not only for Dulwich and South London but also of international significance.
In 1897, John Le Couteur opened an English agency for the French "Gaumont et Cie" company in London in order to sell their cinematograph machines and films. His assistant was Alfred Bromhead, who soon took over, managing the agency from Le Couteur. In 1899, Bromhead opened a small open air studio at Loughborough Junction on a four-acre site used by the "Loughborough Cricket Club", and for a short period produced a number of fake "China" and "Boer War" films.
By January 1901, Bromhead had moved their production facilities to Walton-on-Thames where he joined forces with Cecil Hepworth to produce and develop films. However, by the end of 1902, Bromhead had returned to the open air theatre at "Loughborough" where a number of films were produced on an uncovered open wooden stage, 30ft by 15ft. Bromhead later recalled a number of these early films, which were often shot in the local streets, including in one film being arrested for causing a disturbance.
During 1904, Bromhead moved to a larger site nearby at "Freeman's Cricket Field" which was situated between Champion Hill and Dog Kennel Hill with Green Lane (now Greendale) appearing as a feature in many of the films, including one extant film where a sheep can be seen grazing in the area, which also included a sign for "St. Olave's" school ground which is still there. The site of "Freeman's Cricket Field" was owned by a local builder, Thomas Freeman, and is situated where the present Sainsbury's supermarket and Dulwich Hamlet Football Ground are. The original site had been leased to the "Champion Hill Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club".
In February 1905, Bromhead stated that the company was based on a 14 acre site, and that it produced 80 000 feet of film per week which converts to an average of 15-20 new films every month. New subjects were staged and rehearsed at approximately £300 each. The wooden open air stage revolved in order to keep the sun in position. The painted scenery and furniture were hired on a daily basis. The actors who the company employed were paid two shillings and sixpence a day, plus an additional four pence for their train fares. "Supers", who were used for the chase crowd scenes in the local streets, were usually paid with free beer from the local pubs.
Bromhead hired a number of outside producers and cameramen to make the films, however his main stage-manager was Alfred Collins, who fitted in his film obligations in between time when he was working as stage manager for Kate Carney, a popular musical performer of the period. If Collins was working outside London with the Kate Carney troupe, Bromhead would send Collins a cameraman so that he could make a film wherever he was at the time.
Apart from the "chase" films, which were a specialty of the company, Gaumont also produced sound-disk films using the Chronophone-Messter system. Leon Gaumont, the French founder of the company came over to Champion Hill to supervise the first two "Chronophones" in 1904. The main producer of these sound films seems to have been Arthur Gilbert who, several years later in 1908, was exhibiting films at the nearby Imperial Hall, in Grove Vale, later the site of the Odeon Cinema. There is an advert from December 1905 relating to a Gaumont Theatre Studio which was used to film the Chronophones. This glass-house studio was 130 ft long, 65 ft wide, and 100 ft high, and was advertised as "a veritable Crystal Palace". Two film sets could be used at any one time, and additional lighting was provided by Cooper-Hewitt Mercury Vapour Lights.
During 1908, Gaumont separated itself from its French parent company and changed its policy to producing "artistic subjects" which included a dramatisation of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Charles Dickens). Alf Collins had been reduced from being the stage-manager of the company to just an "ideas" man, and his film career was more-or-less over, probably because of his inability to read or write. He had always depended on his wife Maud to write down his ideas for the films, which usually came from "comics".
By 1912, Dulwich Hamlet FC had moved away from the Freeman's site to another pitch nearby, and Lorraine Wilson had taken charge of "The Champion Hill Cricket and Lawn Tennis Ground". This change may have been one of the reasons why Gaumont decided to move. Because of their changeover to making more dramatic films, they decided to dispense with the outdoor film studio and made plans to build a large, indoor, glass-house studio at Lime Grove, Shepherd's Bush, which was opened in 1915.
Approximately 35 fiction films survive from this period between 1903-1910 at Loughborough Junction and Champion Hill, including five Chronophone disc films. As well as producing fiction films, the Gaumont company also specialised in topical films, and in 1906 the company opened one of the first cinemas in London - "The Daily Bioscope" in Bishopsgate.
A number of films from 1903-05 survive as paper print copyright deposits at the Library of Congress in Washington, USA. In Britain, during 1904-05, many of the films were copywrited by having either one frame or one photograph deposited at Stationer's Hall. A number of these deposits indicate that Gaumont hired outside producers, such as the local "Norwood Company" as well as William Haggar, from South-Wales. Gaumont also distributed films by other companies, including the "Clarendon Company" which was based at Selhurst, and the "American Biograph Company" for whom there was a reciprocal agreement.
(I would be interested for any feedback from readers relating to any memories of the film studio at Champion Hill - Tony Fletcher)
Reviewed By Greville Havenhand
Little did I know as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1950s that the pugnacious President of the Union and the exceedingly bright young man from Brasenose who I later met at the BBC were to be the force behind a strange, contradictory product of the Thatcher years-Channel 4. Jeremy Isaacs and Anthony Smith took up the challenge of breaking the stranglehold of the BBC and the ITV companies and created a public institution dependent on advertising. In the 1970s there were only three channels and there had been a demand for a fourth for a long time, and it seemed as if it would be a second ITV channel. A group, ideologically led by Smith , but with great input from Isaacs and others won the day. There was to be an Open Broadcasting Authority to supervise and control the channel which was to derive its revenue from the ITV companies rather than from its own advertising; it was to cater for minority interests and to get the bulk of its programming from independent producers rather than the network companies. Dulwich based author and journalist Maggie Brown chronicles the conception, the birth pangs, the troubled childhood, the rebellious teenage years and the fractious later years with the thoroughness and style which on would expect from one of the country's better media journalists..
Isaacs, already with a proud track record as a television producer and editor had demanded "a fourth channel that will somehow be different." He found himself as its Chief Executive". The IBA had wanted Sir Richard Attenborough as Chairman, but he was too busy filming his epic "Ghandi" at the time, but accepted the Vice-Chairmanship and the Chair went to Edmund Dell, a former Minister in Harold Wilson's Cabinet. He was a somewhat austere man, full of rectitude but with no knowledge of the Television industry. His relationship with Isaacs was to be less than harmonious. Attenborough, although considered by some to be a verbose "luvvie", got on with both men and his input over the years was invaluable. There was an occasion when, after a series of complaints that some of the channel's output was too left-wing he tried to force Isaacs and its head of current affairs, the formidable Liz Forgan, to accept independent scrutiny of the current affairs programmes. Attenborough skilfully forced him to back down. Nevertheless, Liz Forgan's rule over Current Affairs was characterised by a series of disputes over bias in the output. David Glencross of the IBA believed that the former Guardian journalist did not fully appreciate the difference between print and broadcast journalism. Newspapers were free to give an opinion; Television was, by the law of the land, committed to being impartial. When Forgan later ran BBC radio there was no sign of this confusion.
The early days were chaotic. Commissioning Editors were supposed to buy programmes from independents but there was little control, either over money or quality. On the whole, though, Isaacs and his team redefined the possibilities of Television. Irreverent "Youth Programmes", controversial current affairs and documentaries, and an increasingly mature Channel 4 news, set the tone, but there were still internal disputes and external politics. Programmes aimed to increase the younger audience such as "The Tube" and Jonathan Ross's "The Last Resort" were a mixed success. The audiences were good but the producers often sailed close to the wind and caused increasing worries to the regulators. At first the channel's overall audiences had been small and the safety net of ITV had been a necessity. One of the triumphs, albeit short-lived, was the success of "Film on 4." The production of films for television like "My Beautiful Laundrette" sometimes became a hit in the cinema, without making a lot of money. The Channel had its artistic and documentary triumphs, but also its internal squabbles and political disputes. Eventually Isaacs left, not entirely happily.
The next head was Michael Grade, steeped in show business, forceful -even brash , but not, at that time, entirely in tune with the earlier cultural, educational and minorities aspirations of the channel. He was, however, the man to give it the commercial edge that was needed; he allowed the commissioning editors the freedom to be outrageous. It was not for nothing that he was dubbed "pornographer in chief." The successor to "The Tube" was "The Word", home to cutting edge live music, provocative interviews and stunts in appalling bad taste. I remember an old friend, David Glencross, now with the Independent Television Commission (how these bodies changed with successive legislation), telling me that he had many a sleepless night brought on by the controversies over "The Word". He transmitted his and his colleagues' views to Channel 4 in no uncertain terms. Grade had surrounded himself with a talented creative team and good managers. There were very serious moves to have the channel privatised, but it found an unexpected champion in its chairman, Sir Michael Bishop, chairman of British Midland Airways. An active and generous member of the Conservative party he used his skills and contacts to protect it. His letter to Major was the model that should have been followed recently, when thanks to its own mistakes, its unique status was again threatened. Many insiders feel that Blair's dismissal of Bishop was not only ill-judged but spiteful.
The original dependence on the money from ITV had changed. In 1993 it had become a public corporation without shareholders, but with a safety net from ITV but also a commitment to pay ITV if revenues exceeded the agreed level. It was commercialised to an extent that dismayed its idealistic founders.
Grade had not seen the future of the new digital and multi-channel age and it was left to his successor, Michael Jackson, encouraged by the Blair Government, to embrace it. He strived to use this entry into the digital world to give it new vigour. He recruited a new Director of Programmes, Tim Gardam, a former BBC head of news who, like many others had been frustrated by John Birt's prescriptive style of management. He was appointed without the then Chairman, Vanni Treves having been consulted. He was keen to keep up the standards of factual programmes but also to fight for ratings. "Big Brother" gave it ratings and its spin-offs sustained an audience for E4.. "Friends" and "ER" gave the imports class and an audience. The number of imported programmes on the whole, however, went down dramatically. Brown thinks that in spite of an obvious improvement, the reign of Jackson was a time of wasted opportunity.
In 2001 Channel 4 lost money for the first time. Competition for advertising was fierce, but so was the competition for good programmes, and as Channel 4 was the only network with no in-house productions it suffered.
The relationship between Jackson and his Chairman was never an easy one. Brown thinks that he came closer than any other Chief Executive to filling the shoes of Isaacs, but in a speech he said that the concept of public service broadcasting was a shibboleth whose time had come. So the man who had presided over a hybrid of commercial and public service did not believe in its tenets. He left to go to the United States in 2001, to be replaced, after a deal of indecision, with Mark Thompson, the present Director General of the BBC. One of the key aspects of his relatively short tenure was his campaign to have the channel merge with Channel 5. Just as a new Chairman, the son of Paul Johnson - the journalist who had dubbed Grade "Pornographer in Chief" - was appointed the BBC's Director General, Greg Dyke, was fired in the aftermath of the Hutton report, and Thompson replaced him. Ms Brown's verdict on his reign was that it was disruptive; he started a debate on the Channel's future, casting doubt on its ability to remain independent. He was not her favourite Chief Executive.
After an interim Andy Duncan head of marketing at the BBC took over - a symptom of the times. As well as not being a programme man he was very much in thrall to Johnson, who was increasingly hands on. Once again the future of Channel 4 was cast into doubt with the affair of "Celebrity Big Brother" and the racism row. Added to this were the scandals concerning phone-in competitions associated with the "Richard and Judy Show" (recycled from ITV late in 2001). Truth to tell it was not the only channel to be involved in the phone-in debacle but it was all part of an ongoing malaise. Maggie Brown points out that the management did itself no favours when in the Shilpa Shetty-Jade Goody racism row they told Ofcom that the channel was always prone to controversy because "its core values included "making trouble, inspiring change and doing it first."
Channel 4 is at a crossroads. The roads leading to this crossroads have been charted with style, elegance and insight by Ms. Brown. Her sources are impeccable, her diligence remarkable. If there is a small criticism it is that the latter part of the book appears less sure than the earlier. For anyone with an interest in broadcasting it is essential reading; for the general reader it is a fascinating read.
A Licence to be Different - The Story of Channel 4 by Maggie Brown
British Film Institute £16.