Digital-only channel BBC Four this month launches its most ambitious season of programming to date with a celebration all things Edwardian.
Spanning six weeks the channel promises to offer "e;a collection of eclectic drama’s, documentaries and entertainment programmes"e; featuring talent as diverse as Mark Gatiss, Ian Hislop, Peter Snow and Harry Enfield.
The season aims to show how Edwardians lived lives not too distant from our own.
Theirs was an age which saw the first foray into aviation, the invention of labour-saving devices for the home, the rise of ‘the brand’ and the ‘the High Street’, as well as the ‘commuter class’, mass consumerism and tabloid journalism.
Each week will cover a different topic including ‘food’, ‘work’, ‘eccentrics’, ‘entertainment’, ‘society’ and ‘art’. Highlights of the season include:
The Edwardian Larder: April 18th at 9pm
When Captain Scott set out to conquer the South Pole in 1910, he began a journey which was to end in death, and enduring fame.
In the wake of the tragedy, we have not remembered him as a pioneer in another area: the development of sponsorship deals with food manufacturers of the day. The inside of Scott’s hut, still intact at Cape Evans, Antarctica, is a potent reminder of the growing power of food brands in the Edwardian era. It is filled with packaged food, all provided free to the expedition in exchange for advertising rights and publicity photographs.
�Menace of the Masses: 21st May at 9pm
John Carey, writer and critic delivers an eye-opening critique of the response by turn of the century intellectuals to the rise of popular culture. Many of the literary icons of the age including D H Lawrence, E M Forster, George Gissing,� H G Wells and W B Yeats – feared that the traditional culture of the nation would be destroyed by pandering to the inferior tastes of a rapidly increasing population. Based on his controversial book ‘The Intellectuals and The Masses’.
Professor Carey identifies those aspects of the shifting cultural landscape that provoked fear and loathing amongst the intelligensia – universal education, suburban housing, tinned food, tabloid newspapers, popular fiction and photography� among them.
He reveals the extent to which this revulsion infected their writing and creative output and he argues that the modernism in literature was a reactionary movement designed to elevate reading� beyond the reach and understanding of ordinary people.
Music Hall Meltdown: 7th May at 9pm
Capturing essence of music hall, but with a contemporary twist, this ninety minute extravaganza hosted by Phil Jupitus and Marcus Brigstock� this one off entertainment special will showcase the best of much loved and some little known talent in one spectacular show.
Featuring Harry Enfield, Phill Jupitus, Jo Caulfield, Milton Jones, Madness, Marcus Brigstocke, Stuart & Barry
A Tabloid is Born: 21st May at 9pm
As former editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie had his finger on the nation’s pulse for over a decade. From ‘Gotcha!’ to the ‘white van man’ politics of the early ’90s, he knew what his readers wanted.
But where did the tabloid begin?
In A Tabloid is Born Kelvin explores the origins of the redtops at the dawn of the 20th Century, beginning with the launch of the Daily Mail in 1896. It would change forever the way the world was reported.
The publisher was Alfred Harmsworth – a maverick opportunist who grew up to become the ‘Napoleon of Fleet Street’ & eventually Viscount Northcliffe. He was ‘the bridge between the Victorian and Edwardian eras – a 20th century man’. While still in his teens, Northcliffe realised that the Victorian broadsheets bored most ordinary Edwardians stupid. The Mail would provide them with stories that would inform and entertain – scandal, celebrities and a few ‘first class murders’.
Kelvin will explore the world of the Mail’s readers – the harbingers of Middle England – and wryly observe the way Northcliffe targeted women. In 1903 he launched the Daily Mirror as a paper ‘written by women, for women’. The first editions were a disaster, and he sacked the entire female staff – ‘it was like drowning kittens’. Within months the Mirror was relaunched as a ‘pictorial’ & became the country’s biggest selling illustrated paper.
The Mirror gave birth to the first paparazzi, and the love affair between tabloids and the Royals. Kelvin dissects the first debates about privacy and intrusion, and some early scoops & exposés. What was the X factor that sent circulation soaring? And what do they tell us about the society we were back then?
Irreverent & iconoclastic, A Tabloid is Born is the story of the Edwardian people, through the pages of the People’s Press.