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Working classes 'deserve better'

Veteran arts broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has criticised today's top writers for mocking the working class.

The South Bank Show presenter, 74, and novelist, was born into a working class family in Wigton, Cumbria.

While not naming names, he said it rankled that Britain's most "famous" writers were still poking fun at the working class, even though many of them came from the same background.

Lord Bragg told Radio Times magazine that he was brought up in a "very cultured environment" despite growing up in a tiny, overcrowded house with few books.

"I'm not a fan of the working class being mocked, including by some of our famous writers.... even by those who came from it," he told the magazine.

"All this 'it's grim oop north' sort of stuff. Well, it was a joke once, but we've got to the stage where the working class has been turned into a cliche and it deserves a lot better."

Last month film director Ken Loach criticised film bosses for only depicting working class people as criminals, victims and battered wives.

"But give them someone who knows what they're talking about, being a farm labourer, a dock worker, a miner, who can string two words together, (and) they say 'my God this is didactic' or 'my God you're telling us what to think here'," the filmmaker added. "They're characters you so seldom see in fiction."

In 2011, BBC1 boss Danny Cohen, who is now the corporation's director of television, said that the broadcaster needed more working class comedy heroes because the channel had become dominated by middle class characters.

Lord Bragg, whose father worked as a publican to make ends meet despite passing two scholarships, said of his own background: "We listened to a lot of drama, adaptations of books, comedy.

"There was a real love of music expressed in choirs, because you didn't have to have instruments, except your voice."

The host of Radio 4 show In Our Time said that he was not tempted to follow Chris Patten as chairman of the BBC Trust, telling the magazine: " I got the job I wanted when I was 22 and I'm not going to give it up now."

The broadcaster, who joined the BBC as a graduate trainee in 1961, said of the arts industry now being dominated by public school alumni like Dominic West, Damian Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mumford And Sons: "It's because there's respectability in these professions now, and money."

Asked whether the coalition is a particularly philistine government, Lord Bragg, whose South Bank Show is now broadcast on Sky Arts, replied: "Looking back on the last 25 to 30 years, it's par for the course. It's very odd that philistine governments can do terrific things.

"For instance, Margaret Thatcher's government put Channel 4 in place. John Major created the Lottery for the arts, which has had a massive effect on culture."


From Belfast Telegraph