Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Welcome to my wonderland

Earlier this week the clocks moved.  The nights are getting darker earlier and it is a time that many find their moods changed, and life can take on a driecher outlook. Don't dispair though, sit down with a cup of cocoa and enter my wonderland.

Wonderland is a wonderful stream of programmes on BBC2.  It sits in the social documentary strand and, while no doubt cleverly edited, has little or no narration and really just lets the people on screen tell their own story.  Some are sad, some are bad, some are dotty yet all someone leave me feeling that little bit warmer inside, and a wee bit more thankful for the bizarre, eccentric and wholesome british isles.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 1 of the series 'Boy Cheerleaders' transports us to Leeds to meet boys developing their talent for dancing.  Under the watchful eye of dance worker, and - as it transpires - wannabe parental advisor and general surrogate father/male role model, this rag-tag group of boys defy local sterotypes to train as cheerleaders and enter a national competition.
Through the eyes of various members of the group we find out how tough life at home and school is going, how a lack of male role models was causing confusion and how (regardless of background) all boys ever want to do on school trips is stay up very very late.  

This one really goes into its own with the un-spoken sections.  I 
spent most of my pre-university years envolved in community drama.  Finding out through this the incredible transformation that can occur and, as many shots within the programme testify, it's not always what is said but the looks on participants faces as they are the only male competitors in a national competition yet the strut out to bust-a-move and potentially raise the roof...

(EDIT - If you want to find out more about them go to their BEBO page - DAZL Dimonds)



Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 2 of the series 'High Society Brides' somersaults us into the world of, according to it's editor, a more 'sophisticated version of page 3'.  Page 3 is a chance for The Sun to display a scantily clad women in little or no clothes, often spouting a 'news in brief(s)' which bears an uncanny resemblance to Murdoch's veiew.  This programme - well it follows the featured women from 'country life' magazine who have a high quality portrait taken and are 'announced' as either single or engaged to someone in high society.

Once the height of high society - this was a flick through the pages and profiles of the women featured in CL to find out what their life was up-to and what happened to the relationships they featured.   If the last programme was about boys defying stereotypes, this one was about living it up - within the context of today's societal norms.  While two participants had quiet dated views (one being quiet clear that a women's place is in the home, but a man doesn't only have to commit to her) the rest lived relatively full lives and laughed off the fact that cousins and others would inherit their fathers wealth, leaving them with nothing, all because of the inherent sexism of the aristocracy.  While all were strong characters, a lasting impression was left on me of the loneliness of high society.  Many of those profiles appeared to have it all, yet someone still be very lonely.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 3 continued with the challenging profiles with the delightfully named 'Mad Cats and Englishwomen'.  Starting with startling statistics, including the fact that there are 1 cat of every 6 people who live in London (and half of those cats are homeless) it moved on to enable the experiences to tell the story of why a small group of women work hard to deliver a quality of life to cats who are lost, abandoned or neglected.

This was a challenging programme because the core participant in the programme couldn't talk. Instead we saw women take some clear decisions, based upon surroundings, and consider if the cats were safe or happy in their situation.  While the first programme made me consider about the need to lobby and ensure arts funding isn't cut, this one left a much deeper situation.  There is one distressing situation where a women goes to a mans house to find a situation more reminiscent of John Peel's documentary 'A life of grime'.  While this show focussed upon the re-homing of cats, I finished it realising and thinking that animals play a key part in anyones mental health.  People struggling to cope with an animal are as much in need of social support alongside any need they identify to get rid of the animal.

If this taster of wonderland has wet your appetite then don't worry - watch the next episode each Wednesday, BBC2,9pm....

Take Care Y'All

John



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