Radio review

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The Independent Culture
Apparently, Meg Richardson's salon was kitted out in William Morris's "Blackthorn" pattern wallpaper - a piece of information that came from Why Morris Matters, yesterday on Radio 3. The Post Office, which announced last week that there would be no stamp commemorating the centenary of Morris's death because he was not judged to be of sufficient stature, should put this in their pipes and smoke it: any artist who can penetrate British culture this thoroughly, from Crossroads to Radio 3, is surely worth the odd stamp.

Still, I'm slightly uncomfortable with the title of Andrew Saint's tribute. Does Morris really matter? Why Morris Matters had some fascinating moments - including an atmospheric opening describing Morris's funeral (his coffin laid in a moss-lined cart drawn by a horse wreathed in vine leaves); but his importance was asserted, not demonstrated.

What was demonstrated was that some surprising people - such as Glenys Kinnock - are fans, that Sanderson still sell a respectable quantity of Morris wallpaper, that a few printers and architects draw inspiration from him, and that some fashionable ideas (for instance, about ecologically sustainable technology and planning for cities) are in line with his thinking. Does this mean that he matters? A better question might have been: why doesn't Morris matter? Why is no political party interested in his model of socialism? Why, a century after he proclaimed his ideals of beauty and utility in everyday life, are we still happy to be surrounded by glitzy tat?

Which brings us neatly to Take That, subject of two hour-long documentaries on Radio 1 on successive Sundays. This seems like a peculiar use of licence- payers' money - nice lads and all that, and with a refreshingly sharp sense of their position in the scheme of things (in the first programme, one of them said that if they'd been concerned with respect from the music industry, they'd have given up five years earlier); but not even their fans thought they mattered that much. Interviewed after the break, they declared themselves "gutted" and "suicidal", without sounding remotely sincere; they would all probably be getting married and having children, one pointed out, so it wasn't the end of the world.

The sad fact is, teenagers these days have gone all post-modern: they don't really care that much about Take That but they're prepared to go along with the act. It's all rather dispiriting. When even the teenyboppers are ironic, can anything ever matter again?

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