Episodes

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0101Riding With Cobbett20170206

Patrick Wright has spent much of his career thinking about English identity - a question which has become more pressing in recent years.

He argues that no one has cared much about Englishness unless they could define it as a settled, organic way of life threatened by external beastliness: England, in other words, as a realm that tends to be imagined most fiercely when it is threatened by an encroaching modern force.

In three programmes, Patrick argues that the shaping of English identity as a reaction to threat goes back, at the very least, to the writings and rants of William Cobbett. Combating land enclosure and surging capitalism Cobbett identified a pressure on English values and an English rural way of life as being THE THING which threatened to undermine all that was precious about his native land.

Patrick sets out on a Rural Ride, one of the journey's that Cobbett himself took in the 1820s, to explore the resonances his fears, hates and passions have for today's nation which seeks to free itself from the trammels of the EU and the control of Global capitalism. He speaks to scholars, Cobbett enthusiasts and those who now live in the quiet backwaters where Cobbett sought to reveal the virtues of the real England he sought to protect.

Producer: Tom Alban.

0102The Secret People20170213

Patrick Wright continues his exploration of English identity and his argument that England tends to be most fiercely imagined when it is threatened by an encroaching modern force.

In the second of three programmes, he examines the work of the writer G.K. Chesterton who as a "Little Englander" opposed Britain's imperialist expansion abroad. Instead of world politics, he celebrated "making the world small". Echoing the speech made by Theresa May last year, in which she said "if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere", Chesterton held that cosmopolitan globe-trotters knew less about England than the rooted man, permanently present in one place.

Patrick will also explore how increasingly the state seemed, to Chesterton, to threaten the English people and to take away their liberty. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the English pub, where meddling temperance reformers wanted to implement restrictive licensing laws. Chesterton felt that politicians "understand nothing else but money" and do not know how to help the poor as they have "no instinctive grip, no lively eye for anything as it really is."

So Chesterton issued a warning to the governing elites in his famous poem "The Secret People" not to forget the power of the English people, who "have not spoken yet". Patrick asks what this poem, cited in parliament at moments of crisis and quoted by journalists post-Brexit, has to tell us about modern society and how we define Englishness today.

Producer: Clare Walker.

0103 LASTThe Common Market In The Garden Of England20170220

Writer on Englishness Patrick Wright explores how our sense of England responds when people feel threatened by outside forces.

In this episode, he visits Kent, the 'Garden of England'.

Patrick lived in Kent in the 1970s, when two new' threats' encroached on people's lives. In this programme he explores how people interpreted these new developments, how they responded - and what all that tells us about how we think of 'England'.

The first 1970s intruder was the juggernaut - huge lorries hammering through tiny villages on their way to the ports and the Continent. Patrick meets campaigners whose lives in the quiet village of Bridge were blighted by the juggernauts, and finds out how they blocked the A2 in a bid to have a bypass built. And he talks to a playwright and actor about the play they staged about all this.

The campaign for a bypass was successful. But how much did all this really have to do with Europe?

Patrick also explores how the UK's admission to the Common Market affected the Kent orchards, visiting a farmer who remembers the impact on his father's apple-growing business, and the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale.

And he talks to local people, including the editor and senior reporter of a local newspaper in Sheerness, about how the sense of Englishness that emerged in the 1970s in response to our EEC membership may ultimately have shaped the vote for Brexit.

Finally, he talks to the National Trust, who responded with striking speed to Brexit by heralding an opportunity to recapture long-marginalised aspects of England's distinctive landscape.

So, Patrick asks, does Brexit offer a liberation for Englishness, or the loss of a way to define itself - at least until another apparent threat encroaches?

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0220170914

Patrick Wright meets Roger Scruton, who argues the EU has encroached deeply on Englishness

Patrick Wright meets the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, who argues that the EU has encroached on the fundamentals of Englishness: the landscape, and the common law.

And he hears from others who question the idea that the European Union has encroached in this way, including Martha Spurrier, the Director of Liberty, author Robert Winder, and Greg and Teresa Malciewicz, editor and publisher of UK-based Polish-language weekly New Time.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

02Barbara Castle20170913

Patrick Wright focuses on Barbara Castle, the Red Queen.

Barbara Betts, the daughter of a tax inspector, was born in Bradford in 1910. Her childhood was steeped in left-wing politics. Her father was an active member of the Independent Labour Party and she became a socialist at an early age. She was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and Oxford University. Her father had been a William Morris-esque Guild Socialist; her mother used to set up a maypole on their patch of Pontefract cinder track. In the 1950s, she watched in horror as her vision of an English working-class improving itself through education being washed away as a slew of jukeboxes, Hollywood movies, quiz shows, T-shirts and chewing gum tumbled over the Atlantic. English culture was being subsumed by the American Vulgar. Some of the fiercest resistance came from the left - JB Priestley and Richard Hoggart and Barbara Castle.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

02George Orwell20170911

Patrick Wright examines the long history of anxiety over threats to English identity.

Sitting in his Hertfordshire garden in 1940, Orwell eyed the bombers overhead and began to write 'England, Your England' - the first part of his fighting book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius - a rallying-cry for a revolutionary patriotism in the face of the Nazi threat. Orwell's hopes for a left-wing patriotism have often been invoked, and still are today - sometimes to insist that the left once knew how to appeal to patriotism.
Patrick Wright visits the writer's former Hertfordshire home (just down the road from Manor farm of Animal Farm fame) to launch his second series of programmes exploring the way English identity is so often defined and clarified when under threat. He talks to Orwell scholar Robert Colls, as well as people who find Orwell's argument about a thread linking disparate groupings of English people to be a potent symbol for what might have been and what might yet be again in spite of a fracturing of vision as expressed in the Brexit vote last year. Postman and writer CJ Stone, screen-writer Lissa Evans and former MP Michael Wills also share their thoughts on Orwell's 'characteristic fragments' and his famous lines about returning to England from any foreign country and having 'immediately the sensation of breathing a different air.'
Is that air still there to be inhaled or are Orwell's visions and arguments no longer valuable contributions to the debate about what it is to be English?

0201George Orwell20170911

Patrick Wright examines the long history of anxiety over threats to English identity.

Sitting in his Hertfordshire garden in 1940, Orwell eyed the bombers overhead and began to write 'England, Your England' - the first part of his fighting book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius - a rallying-cry for a revolutionary patriotism in the face of the Nazi threat. Orwell's hopes for a left-wing patriotism have often been invoked, and still are today - sometimes to insist that the left once knew how to appeal to patriotism.
Patrick Wright visits the writer's former Hertfordshire home (just down the road from Manor farm of Animal Farm fame) to launch his second series of programmes exploring the way English identity is so often defined and clarified when under threat. He talks to Orwell scholar Robert Colls, as well as people who find Orwell's argument about a thread linking disparate groupings of English people to be a potent symbol for what might have been and what might yet be again in spite of a fracturing of vision as expressed in the Brexit vote last year. Postman and writer CJ Stone, screen-writer Lissa Evans and former MP Michael Wills also share their thoughts on Orwell's 'characteristic fragments' and his famous lines about returning to England from any foreign country and having 'immediately the sensation of breathing a different air.'
Is that air still there to be inhaled or are Orwell's visions and arguments no longer valuable contributions to the debate about what it is to be English?

0202John Betjeman20170912

Patrick Wright explores John Betjeman's battle with the planners of post-war England.

John Betjeman, poet, broadcaster and romantic, is chiefly remembered for the things he loved, including old churches, seaside towns, music-hall and railways. He was a great lover of England but he was also not afraid to attack those he saw as England's enemies. Villains skewered in Betjeman's poems include the town planner or 'planster', the property developer and the civil servants Betjeman accused of tearing up towns and villages, wrecking the countryside with pylons and ring-roads and destroying the very fabric of English life. "The worst of them" Betjeman wrote "want to turn us from a nation of house dwellers into a nation of flat dwellers living in huge hygienic Karl Marx Hofs, ants in an insect world of the future."

Patrick Wright travels through Betjeman's London from Parliament Hill Fields to Smithfield to explore Betjeman's love of architecture and contempt for many of the new buildings he saw rising in London and across the England he cherished. A.N. Wilson, Gavin Stamp and Gillian Darley are among the contributors Patrick meets as he looks back at Betjeman's contempt for mediocre buildings and poor planning. And, as London is convulsed once again by a wave of re-development, Patrick asks what Betjeman would make of today's construction boom and whether a new generation of planners now have not too much power but too little.

Producer: Julia Johnson.

0203Barbara Castle20170913
0204Roger Scruton20170914

Patrick Wright meets Roger Scruton, who argues the EU has encroached deeply on Englishness

Patrick Wright meets the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, who argues that the EU has encroached on the fundamentals of Englishness: the landscape, and the common law.

And he hears from others who question the idea that the European Union has encroached in this way, including Martha Spurrier, the Director of Liberty.

Producer: Phil Tinline.