Under Cover Of Darkness
Mystical Machine Gun
If You're Thinking of Me
Kids In Glass Houses
Martin Wainwright, Thursday 21st June 2012 14:00
The Olympic torch procession has been a triumph in the north – with more to come – and many thanks to Guardian Northerner readers who have helped to plot its progress via our n0tice link. It has been a pleasure to see the jubilant faces, large crowds, excited children and bizarre methods of transport. Local organisers have vied with one another to find striking and peculiar ways of helping the flame on its way. Zip lines, steam engines, narrowboats. The ancient Greeks would have marvelled.
There's even been sunshine. And its rays have illuminated a wider reason to celebrate this project. It has shown how a metropolitan event can be shared throughout the English regions and nations through devolution and practical thought. Vague and usually misconceived notions of what happens out here were never given a look-in. Local people were consulted about the best routes, the most apposite links to each place visited and the most effective way of harnessing community energy.
The latter has been shown in spades; each scene of wild enthusiasm is a reminder of the good neighbourliness, vigorous local life and level of health and prosperity, even in serious recession, which is the context to headlines about 'broken Britain' and the need for 'localism'. That wheel really doesn't need reinventing. Its spokes are spinning so fast that the Government's blue-sky thinkers apparently can't see them.
The Olympic cultural festival, launched today, also spreads the benefits and sense of involvement of the main event, which is bound, geographically, to be London-centred. That inevitability can also be turned to good account because London is our capital too, even to the extent of paving every street on its Monopoly board with stone from Huddersfield and Brighouse, as the Northerner has reminded the world more than once.
These thoughts have bubbled up after a stimulating debate with members of the University of the Third Age in Bradford, where exasperation at the city's image in much of the media is intense. Context is abandoned in a relentless focus on the problems – which of course are real, just as they are in the UK's three most deprived council wards, which are all in London. One of the two lessons of Bruegel's The Fall of Icarus and W.H.Auden's poem on it Musée des Beaux Arts – that drama and news take place in a corner of a vastly greater canvas of normality and well-being – should be the first and last item on every media training course.
The second lesson, that suffering, misery and drama should not be ignored on that account, does not need teaching to the modern media.
On with the torch then. And if you feel like doing your bit for Bradford in particular, then tomorrow, Friday 22 June, is Positive Bradford Day, with non-stop entertainment in Centenary Square and around the new fountains and mirror pool by City Hall for eight hours. I know these events can sound a bit toe-curling but organisers Jane Vincent and Saleem Kader are spot-on when they say:
The danger is, that the UK's perspective of Bradford is formed through documentaries such as Channel 4's 'Make Bradford British' or the repeated reporting of our "hole in the ground" where the Westfield shopping centre should be, when there's so much fantastic work, fantastic people and inspiring initiatives that go unnoticed People still remember Bradford for the riots that were over a decade ago - now we're the first UNESCO World City of Film, home of the National Media Museum and a national self-employment hotspot.
Give it a go, and let's hope the weather co-operates. I have to admit – as people did at the U3A meeting – that this is one aspect of life in the lee of the Pennines which has denied Bradford the super-optimism of Leeds (a city which dryer, though not warmer, than Barcelona). My uncle Chris Hollis, vicar of Heaton for many years, told me when I started on the Telegraph & Argus that Bradford people always wore macs, just like the famous statue of J.B.Priestley. If it wasn't raining, the reasoning went, it soon would be.