Culture: Why Little Dorrit's grown in stature

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The Independent Culture

I was having dinner at the Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis with a well-known restaurateur last weekend when conversation inevitably turned to the credit crunch. Was his restaurant suffering? The answer was yes. He had had only 60 covers in the previous night, down from 75 a week earlier. What about the restaurant we were eating in? Would this high-end seafood restaurant in Dorset attract enough customers to ride out the storm? Only if it lowered its prices, he reckoned. We then noticed a recent addition to the desert menu: "Credit crunch ice cream". At £1.50 a scoop, it was significantly cheaper than any of the alternatives.

Hix's establishment, which opened earlier this year, is just one of countless new ventures that are reinventing themselves in response to the global financial crisis. My favourite example is Robert Peston's book, Who Run's Britain?. On being published in hardback last February, this primer about the UK's super-rich was subtitled "How Britain's New Elite Are Changing Our Lives". When the paperback version came out last week, the subtitle had been changed to "and Who's to Blame for the Economic Mess We're in".

At least Niall Ferguson – Channel 4's answer to Robert Peston – has had a chance to reconceptualise his latest project in the light of present circumstances. Next week sees the launch of The Ascent of Money – a TV series as well as an accompanying book – which the publicity people at Channel 4 are billing as a response to the current crisis. "Coming in the wake of more than a year of extraordinary turbulence in world financial markets, The Ascent of Money could hardly be better timed," says the press release. But if the timing is so perfect, why on earth is the programme entitled The Ascent of Money? Shouldn't it be called The Decline of Money?

So far, the only unqualified beneficiary of the credit crunch has been Little Dorrit, the BBC's new 14-part costume drama. When this serial was given the go-ahead, the head of BBC Drama Productions couldn't possibly have known just how relevant a story about a young woman raised in a debtors' jail would be.

Hix Oyster & Fish House is at Cobb Road, Lyme Regis, Dorset, tel: 01297 446 910. 'Little Dorrit' airs on BBC1 at 8.30pm on Sundays and 8pm on Thursdays