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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
film
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
    Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

    Berlusconi's world of sleaze

    The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
    Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

    Could gaming arcades be revived?

    The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
    Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

    Heard the one about menstruation?

    Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage