Thursday, 21 January 2016

Roger Allam & Living in London

by Les May
I first saw the actor Roger Allam in a short series called 'The Creatives' which ran from 1998 to 2000.  I did not see him again until he appeared in the part of  veteran Detective Inspector Fred Thursday in the ITV series 'Endeavour'.  (This may tell you more about my TV watching habits than about his career trajectory.)   In the three series he has constructed an entirely believable character whose defining characteristic is his ordinariness, though in one episode we are let in on the secret that as well as a happy family life he also has a 'history'.   Unsurprisingly he has recently found himself in demand as an interviewee in publications as different as the Sunday Post and the Big Issue.

The 'Endeavour' series is set in the 1960s and in his Big Issue interview he makes a couple of 'sixties' comments:

'By discovering the threatre I not only started unocking the mysteries of the city and what was on offer but also discovered that this is where I wanted to be.  I loved the live experience. And because it was so cheap, I could go pretty frequently.  Subsidy back then was a commitment to keeping seat prices down – it wasn't a corporation buying advertising.  The arts have become more elitist.  The involvement of corporations and wealthy individuals means that more of it is theirs and less of it is ours.  I am so glad looking back, that I lived through our brief social democratic blip and that those things were available to me as a boy.'

He ended his interview by saying:

'I have always lived in London.  I am a Londoner.  But the city will start to die because of what is happening with property.  Young people can't afford to live here.  It's become a place where housing is all about investment.  The monetisation of everything means it seems to be ceasing to function as a city in which people of all incomes can easily live alongside each other.  When I was  born in the East End, I'd go to sleep to the sound of the tugs on the docks.  There were thousands of dockers, and working class people could live in London.  It feels depressing to me as a place now. Everything's about money.   It is very, very corrupt.'

That 'brief social democratic blip' he speaks of is a time well within living memory, so we know that such a society is achievable.  But to achieve it we need to change the terms of the debate.  That's what I think Jeremy Corbyn is trying to do.  

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