Melvyn Bragg on Class & Culture

Melvyn Bragg on Class & Culture

Series 1 - Episode 3



The fact that Irvine Welsh, author of the sordid, heroin-addled urban classic Trainspotting, should consider himself one of the “idle rich” probably demonstrates more than anything what Melvyn Bragg calls our “classless cultural elite”.

In the final part of this jaunty series, Bragg looks at the great levelling effects of culture in Britain during the past 30 years. Now art isn’t just for posh people; anyone can visit Tate Modern (and they do, in their millions) and ex-miners can commission a huge work of
public art, Dream, on the site of a former colliery in St Helens.

The Oxbridge comedy line has been broken by the likes of comedian Russell Kane, and authors such as Welsh and Sue Townsend, who wrote the Adrian Mole books, have transcended their roots. Townsend, however, has a sniffle when she talks about how she felt she had to keep her writing secret in the early days, in case she was seen as some kind of class traitor: “People can despise you for moving away from them.”


The broadcaster explores the past 30 years of culture in Britain, starting in the Thatcherite 1980s, a decade that saw the emergence of influential voices including dramatist Alan Bleasdale, Adrian Mole creator Sue Townsend, ska band the Specials and Viz founder Chris Donald. He also talks to Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh about the 1990s rave generation, before reflecting on more recent social divisions, with the new class of super-rich bankers and celebrities at one end and so-called `chavs' at the other. Last in the series.
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