Is there really intelligent life beyond the M25?

When people are well-known in London they are assumed to be well- known everywhere

RUNNING MY eye through the BBC radio programmes scheduled for this week, I see that this new London literary festival called "the Word" has done rather well out of Radio 4. On Monday alone we got Start the Week: Radio 4 at the Word, followed by Serial: Radio 4 at the Word, and, late at night, Book at Bedtime: Radio 4 at the Word. Front Row is scarcely unable to stay away from it all week, and Melvyn Bragg has also been unable to resist the temptation in his weirdly titled Thursday chat show, Melvyn Bragg - in Our Time, except that this week it's got the even more cumbersome title, Melvyn Bragg - in Our Time: Radio 4 at the Word.

A couple of puzzling things about this. One is why it's called "the Word" and not "The Word". The other is why it's getting such saturated coverage on Radio 4. After all, this is an untested aeroplane they're taking up for a spin. It is billed, surprisingly, as London's first literary festival, so you'd think they'd give it a year or two to let it get into its stride before giving Radio 4 over to it.

I don't remember such coverage being given to the Cheltenham Book Festival, or Hay-on-Wye, or the Edinburgh Book Festival or even the just-finished book festival at Bath, certainly never in their first year.

So why does a London book festival get all this amazing free coverage? Because it's in London, dum-dum. Everything that happens in London gets greater coverage than things that happen elsewhere in the country.

Why? Because the people who give it coverage also live in London, and the people they work for also live and work in London, and the people who run the BBC and edit the papers live in London, and they would be less than human if they didn't think that everything that happened in London was more interesting than anything that happened elsewhere.

You or I, living outside London, might think it would be more interesting to have a programme about why London is so uncultured that it has never had a book festival before, but you won't get many people in London thinking that's at all interesting. Nobody in London ever imagines London ever being without anything.

Also, it's so very convenient having it all happening in London. You can imagine someone at Radio 4 saying: "Hot diggity, we're going to have all these famous writers like Margaret Atwood, and, um, other very famous people all coming into London at the same time and we can pop them into a taxi one by one and get them into the studios at Broadcasting House, if we've got any studios left at Broadcasting House, that is, to record them cheaply and fill the airwaves with writers talking and reading their stuff, and we'll look as if we're doing our cultural duty, and we won't have to pay travelling or overnight expenses for any of them!"

I am not anti-London. I lived in Notting Hill for 20 years and loved it. It's just that having moved out of London 10 years ago I have gradually come to see how London-centric the press and media are.

It's a thing you remain virtually unaware of when you're London-locked. Women often tell me how much more male-oriented the world looks if you happen to be female. I remember going to Harlem for the first time and suddenly realising what a white view of the world I had.

It's the same with being a Londoner. Having a London view of the world isn't quite as drastic or radical as being conditioned by your gender or colour, of course, but it's still fairly potent and unconscious.

Take last week's guest on Desert Island Discs. Sue Lawley presented Fay Maschler as a very famous and award-winning and distinguished and well- known food writer, which may be true in London, but outside London is a load of curly kale.

How can anyone outside London know who Fay Maschler is? Fay Maschler writes on food for the Evening Standard, which is a local evening paper in the London area. She has no national presence that I am aware of at all. Can you imagine the food critic of the Edinburgh Evening News being asked on to Desert Island Discs?

No, the plain truth is, when people are well-known in London they are assumed to be well-known everywhere, and that anything that is important to Londoners is important to all, which must be a very warming feeling if you live in London, but tends to piss off the very large majority of people who don't and won't live in London.

On the other hand, lots of other interesting things do happen 100 miles from London that never get mentioned in the London papers. I'll take a risk and promise to mention some of them tomorrow.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?