Monday, 11 January 2010

Prime suspect for nonsense

You know, I meant to hit the New Year blogging, and have had several things I wanted to point out/at on here last week, but the snow and some pressing issues rather stole the hours away. I'll try and make up for it this week.

Next time someone tells you that there's less need for a focus on diversity because even the people who don't really get it at least now know 'the rules', or that diversity is 'an add on' to their real arts work and just a burdensome Arts Council box to tick - I'm not making this up for effect, people do say this stuff! - remind them of Lynda La Plante's recent and widely-reported comments. (Overseas readers: she wrote a half decent tv series once, Prime Suspect, and has been banging out crooks with heart and police dramas with diminishing returns ever since.) As reported here by the BBC and here by the Telegraph, she feels excluded by the politically correct BBC and that commissioners would 'rather read a little Muslim boy's script' than one by her. “If my name were Usafi Iqbadal and I was 19, then they’d probably bring me in and talk,” said La Plante, apparently.

Well, that made me give three cheers for the BBC - or it would if it were absolutely true. Or if these comments were the last we ever heard of La Plante. Unfortunately I suspect neither is quite the case. Although the range of voices heard on the BBC is broader than it was, there is still a tendency to commission a relatively small set of old faithfuls. It seems very easy to use the same people over and over. (More noticeable, of course, when the person is some way from the tv norm - Griff Rhys Jones doesn't stand out in the same way as even Alan Bennett.)

The theatre has seen a number of precocious debuts of late, it must be time for some new talent, new voices on tv too. How did Griff Rhys Jones corner so many markets, for instance? Most urgently, perhaps, we need to hear the stories and imaginings of those who are most often represented by phantasms - young Muslim men, amongst them, but not exclusively.

The diversifiying of the arts workforce and of the stories the nation tells each other still has a long way to go. Have a look at the comments on some of the other coverage of La Plante's comments and you can see why. Look at the tv schedules and you can see the nonsense of La Plante's comments. If I was a commissioner at the BBC, I'd be forcing her to collaborate with Shazia Mirza, on a comedy drama.

(Hmm, maybe that's why I'm not a commissioner at the BBC...)

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