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The Great War Anniversary

One hundred years ago today, at midnight Central European Time, the event that shaped the twentieth century came into being. Or at least the British Empire’s participation in it began.

Germany had invaded Belgium that morning so we were a bit late. (A squad of Germans had invaded Belgium the previous evening but had jumped the gun – so to speak – not getting the delaying telegram in time and were recalled. They were soon back though.)

Yet those were not the first shots. Hostilities had started seven days earlier on 28th July when Austro-Hungarian troops opened fire on Serbia in response to the true first shots – the ones fired by Gavrilo Princip and which killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie but even those had their roots in the welter of national entanglements which plague the Balkans even yet.

Those entanglements were mirrored in the system of alliances that dictated that Germany had to attempt to defeat France first before swinging round to take on Russia and so necessitated a march through neutral Luxembourg and Belgium.

Ironies abounded. Without attacking Belgium, Germany might have avoided war with Britain and so the holding up of the German armies by the BEF at Mons and later the Allies at the battle of the Marne might not have succeeded and so gained Germany the victory in the west it desired. Russia managed to invade eastern Germany earlier than the Germans had anticipated and troops were hurriedly withdrawn fron the Western Front to face the threat which I believe was actually defeated at the Battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes before these reinforcements could get there.

The Great War is remembered for the bloody stalemate of the trenches yet in these first encounters when it was still a war of movement daily casualties were enormous – especially for the French – much higher than in most later battles; though the Somme has a grim reputation in Britain.

I heard a woman on BBC Radio 2′s Pause for Thought this morning say she refused to call it the Great War “as there was nothing great about it.” Wrong meaning of great I’m afraid.

The Stuarts on BBC 2

I watched the first episode of The Stuarts on BBC 2 tonight.

It seemed, like on its first showing on BBC 2 Scotland earlier this year, an odd decision to start with James VI (or James I if you prefer.) There were no less than eight Stuart monarchs before him. In the year of the Scottish Independence Referendum that could be interpreted as a slight, another piece of English ignorance/dismissal of Scottish History.

That the first episode dwelt on James’s desire to unite the two kingdoms as Great Britain might also seem like a dark Better Together plot as the Guardian noted today.

Yet (some, though not all, of) James’s ancestors were spoken of in the programme so the ignorance/dismissal angle can on those grounds be discounted. And the differences between the two countries that then existed (of religion principally,) and in some respects still do, were not glossed over but I was left wondering who on Earth thought broadcasting this was a good idea now. It can only lead to accusations of bias

I had another such disjointed TV experience with the BBC recently. Janina Ramirez in her otherwise excellent Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War – on BBC 4 last week, this (and next) but also a programme that has been screened before – kept on emphasising how the events she was describing played a large part in how the country “we” live in now came to be as it is. (Note also the “us” on Dr Ramirez’s web page about the programme.)

Yet that country was/is England. Ramirez seemed totally unaware that her programme was to be broadcast not on an England only channel but one which is UK-wide. Indeed that the country all the BBC’s principal audience lives in is not England, but the UK. [Except for powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies legislation at Westminster is for the whole of the UK. No English elected body oversees the equivalent powers to those devolved elsewhere (arguably there ought to be one;) it is the UK Parliament that performs that function.]

Two parts of the UK share none of the history Dr Ramirez was outlining. Wales (having been incorporated earlier) was involved directly in the Hundred Years War but neither Scotland nor Ireland were. Yet she spoke as if that circumstance didn’t exist.

This sort of thing does contribute to a feeling among many Scots (and I suspect Welsh and Northern Irish viewers too) that the BBC is a broadcaster with a mind for England only and too often forgets the three other constituent parts of the UK.

Glasgow School of Art

I was devastated to hear today of the fire at Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s masterpiece building, the Glasgow School of Art. (For pictures of the undamaged building see here.)

I have featured another of his buildings, Scotland Street School, here.

I have also visited the House for an Art Lover, built to Mackintosh designs in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park (on part of the site of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, 1938,) and Hill House in Helensburgh as well as the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow but all without benefit a modern camera. All are visually stunning.

I must confess to being a teeny bit annoyed when Lorna Gordon, BBC London’s Scotland correspondent, called the Art School an Art Deco building. None of Mackintosh’s buildings are Deco. They are leaning towards it, certainly, but really have more in common with Art Nouveau. At a pinch you could say they act as a bridge between the two styles. While some Mackintosh designs have the blend of horizontal and vertical that is a signifier of Art Deco he also had a strong liking for curves which grew firmly from the Art Nouveau tradition of evoking nature and natural forms.

I assume the plans for the School of Art are still in existence somewhere – and that there is insurance in place. Even if it is costly it is to be hoped that some sort of effort at restoration can be made to the Art School. The result may not be original but so few of Mackintosh’s designs were erected in his lifetime it would be tantamount to a crime to allow to disappear the outstanding example that was.

In the meantime, not just Glasgow, not only Scotland, but the world, is a poorer place to live in tonight.

Modern Glasgow at Night

Most of the buildings I featured in the two previous Modern Glasgow posts are lit up with coloured lights at night.

This is BBC Scotland from the North bank of the Clyde.

And its entrance on Pacific Quay.

Here’s Glasgow Science Centre (at dusk.)

The Hydro manages to look like a spaceship.

Modern Glasgow 2

The first is engineering rather than architecture. The Clyde Arc – immediately dubbed by local wags the Squinty Bridge as it crosses the River Clyde on a diagonal. Also in the photo is the Finnieston crane – all that remains of the shipyards that once lined the River Clyde here.

Right next to the Glasgow Science Centre (see previous posts) on the south bank of the Clyde is the new BBC Scotland building. It looks externally like a giant shoe box. Internally it’s more interesting as anyone who’s seen television interviews given inside will know.

The entrance is on the west side and is adorned with BBC Alba as well as BBC Scotland. There is a largeish scuptural thingy here too on the right of the photo. (Squinty Bridge in background on left.)

This is how the BBC building looks from the north bank of the Clyde.

Just a touch along the south bank towards the Squinty Bridge lies the premises of STV (Scottish Television) part of the Independent Television network, ITV. This shows the STV logo at the access road (and the Finnieston Crane.)

This is a closer view of the STV building. Another shoe box, though smaller than the BBC Scotland one. The round building to the right was I believe once an entrance to a pedestrian tunnel under the Clyde. (There is a similar rotunda building where it debouched on the north bank which now houses four restaurants.)

Reelin’ In the Years 78: El Doomo

I remember hearing this on the radio in the 1970s and thinking it was very different indeed from the stuff Ellis produced when he was with Love Affair, but I don’t think I ever caught its title. I’m not even sure I realised at the time that Ellis was a band name. I recognised it straight away when listening to last Sunday’s Sounds of the Seventies on the iPlayer.

This is about as far from Bringing on Back the Good Times as you can get.

Ellis: El Doomo

Scottish Avenue, Empire Exhibition 1938

Another Brian Gerald drawn art postcard from the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, 1938. This time of the Scottish Avenue. It shows both Scottish Pavilions (the ones with the towers) and the BBC Pavilion in the foreground. At the other end of the avenue is the Palace of Arts, the only building from the Exhibition still standing in Bellahouston Park.

Just Like Buses

Today is another anniversary. Again just about inescapable if you’ve been near any BBC outlet the past week or so.

You wait 50 years for an anniversary and then two come along at once….

On 23rd November 1963 a strange, spooky TV programme with a first episode entitled An Unearthly Child appeared on BBC 1.

The programme was of course Doctor Who.

On Thu, 21/11/13, BBC 2 showed a good drama about its genesis, An Adventure in Space and Time. It’s on the iPlayer here.

The BBC has got a bit of a cheek calling it the longest running TV programme, though, considering they axed it for years after Sylvester McCoy’s run finished – apart from the Paul McGann one-off.

For any nostalgia freaks here are all the different title sequences.

BBC Bias

I see Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has been sniping at the BBC.

Well, sniping isn’t quite the word. Threatening would be nearer the mark.

If you recall before the last General Election I predicted this sort of thing would happen if the Tories were to win office. The only surprise is it’s taken this long for them to get round to it. Too busy demonising the unemployed and telling lies about the mess they inherited (the UK economy was growing in May 2010 when they took over. They immediately set that into spectacular reverse.)

In any case what have they to complain about? I rarely hear much criticism of the government or its policies on the BBC news. It might not be 100% suppportive. But it’s not supposed to be.

I read over the weekend that during the last government Gordon Brown was seen on the BBC twice as much as David Cameron – aka Mr Irresponsible. At the moment it’s four appearances for Cameron against every one for Ed Miliband. As I remember a similar ratio applied during John Major’s time as PM. (Now there’s the return of the undead.)

Whenever there’s a Tory government the letters BBC might as well stand for Bend over Backwards to the Conservatives.

Joining the Wildest Side

Lou Reed has died.

Member of The Velvet Underground (of whom it was said that not many people bought their records but everyone who did rushed out immediately and formed a band) and inspirer of David Bowie plus countless others.

He became well-known in the UK due to the song Walk on the Wild Side becoming a hit. Much, much later Perfect Day was turned into a magnificent BBC promo video.

I suspect everyone will be posting one or other of the above two tracks so here’s another of his better known songs.

Lou Reed: Satellite of Love

Lewis Allan “Lou” Reed:- 2/3/1942 – 7/10/2013. So it goes.

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