Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Power To The People

Losing the shop, pub and school is normally a sentence of death for a village as it spins into inexorable decline. BBC reporter Tim Samuels was embedded in the picture-postcard pretty Cornish village of Lanreath. The twist to the programme was that he was both reporter and agent provocateur, he had a plan…

Samuels had the innocence of an ingénue and the sort of self-deprecating charm that could win over the local Women’s Institute. With them on board anything was possible.

It wasn’t all cream teas and buttered scones, he got up at four in the morning to witness the last milking of the cows at a local farm, the farmer standing disconsolate as they were loaded onto a transporter. He was making a loss of 2p on every litre of milk, prices falling due to relentless pressure from the super markets.

In a nearby sea side village he was introduced to the ‘Revolutionary Action Committee’ who were monitoring the insidious spread of second homes and holiday lets.

There was some inspired door stepping of politicians, Post Office minister Jim Fitzpatrick forced to justify closure of rural post offices, Tory spokesman Alan Duncan, ‘I’ve got a wonderful chap who delivers our mail’, ‘What’s his name?’, ‘Er… postie?’ Then on a reconnaissance mission to Islington he tricks the Mayor into inviting him to bring some sheep onto the green.

Samuels took the whole village – WI, Morris Dancers, school children, sheep and all - to occupy a stretch of Islington. The media coverage does get a bit incestuous as BBC News report on the BBC organising a protest.

The battle to keep the school open is lost, but on his return a few months later the community has rallied, the pub and post office have reopened.

The programme concentrated on one village, as it was the BBC they weren’t going to involve all the other schools faced with closure and it would have been interesting if they’d mentioned which political party voted to close Lanreath School.

Maybe this programme will spark some French style direct action as farmers invade the cities blocking off roads and dumping manure outside the politicians’ offices. Is Tim Samuels the new Jose Bove? Not quite it is the BBC you know.


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