Last Night's Television - Running in Heels, E4; Tweed, BBC4

Dark side of the loom

Watching Tweed you can’t help but fear that you’re looking at a dying artisanal craft, a proud tradition of craftsmanship and culture that will find it hard to survive in an increasingly mercantile world.

Once, there were lots of documentaries like this, made the slow way and stubbornly indifferent to passing fashion. But how long can such a cottage industry sustain itself against mass-produced reality shows and polyester formats? You can almost imagine a wide-eyed enthusiast, in 50 years’ time, being told about the unimaginable heyday of public broadcasting.“ They really made a whole series about one type of handmade cloth?” “Yes.” “And they really called it Tweed? Not something like ‘Weaving a Rainbow’ or ‘The Stuff of Life’ or ‘Local Heroes?’” “Yes... they just called it Tweed. They were plain, proud men back then, impatient of frivolity.”

For myself, the fact that the BBC would commission and broadcast a series like this – and stick it in the Radio Times with that take-it-or-leave-it title – is an argument for the licence fee in itself. But above and beyond the cherishable thud of its title, Tweed turns out to be rather good, an account of a dying industry twitching so fitfully on its deathbed that it may yet kick itself back into life. Its first episode, last week, concentrated on Brian Haggas, a Yorkshire textile man who’d decided to rescue Harris Tweed as a kind of retirement project. Brian bought the Stornoway mill that supplies most of the individual weavers with their yarn and announced that good times were just around the corner. Unfortunately, the weavers soon discovered that his strategy was that of the Vietnam general who explained that in order to save the village it had been necessary to destroy it.

Brian rationalised the pattern range from around 8,000 to just four, perversely choosing shades that might have been calculated to illustrate the pejorative sense of the word “tweedy” as a synonym for boring. He then cut off supplies of yarn to anyone wanting to make more interesting fabric, in an attempt to corner the world market in Harris Tweed jackets. Sadly for Brian, the world wasn’t interested, despite a feverish sales push. So this week, with thousands of unsold jackets in his warehouse and countless bolts of unsaleable tweed on his books, he was back in Stornoway laying off his workers and mothballing his freshly painted mill.

The upside to this sorry tale being the fact that other tweed enthusiasts have finally been galvanised into action by the Haggas threat – and have descended on the isle of Lewis to introduce its somewhat startled inhabitants to the manners of American entrepreneurs and London fashionistas. There was a delicious sequence in which a foppish toff called Guy Hills – a tweed obsessive who dresses in Bertie Woosterish plusfours – found himself face to face with the bemused mill worker in overalls, and the invasion isn’t over, since another tweed revivalist has taken on Deryck Walker, a trendy young Scottish menswear designer, to haul the fabric into the 21st century.

The culture shock was considerable, but frankly they were in desperate need of outside help since the Harris Tweed Authority appeared to be pinning its hopes of an industrial revival on some of the ugliest novelty gonks ever produced – objects that could induce nightmares in the more sensitive child. Happily, the films themselves are a very potent advert for the fabric, which manages to conceal beneath its sturdy and unflashy surface intense twists of colour and a genuine connection to the landscape in which it is made.

You could say much the same for Malcolm Neaum and Ian Denyer’s surprisingly engrossing series. Not a lot of tweed in Running in Heels, where the themes of the week were shift dresses and jumpsuits. A reality elimination version of The Devil Wears Prada, which challenges three clueless clotheshorses to win a job on American MarieClaire, E4’s show is about as challenging intellectually as the average make-up feature. Talita is the bitch queen, schmoozing other people into doing her work for her before sloping off early to iron her hair. Ashley is the dippy one, who spends most of her time handcrafting excuses for her failure to perform the tasks they’ve been set (“I had a kind of weird karma moment... I gave my last dollar to a homeless man and then realised that was my dollar for the subway”) and Samantha is the school swot, beavering away like crazy but getting all teary when she realises that she can’t fit into the micro-sized sample garments. We like Samantha, who at least seems to grasp the concept that hard work is the currency of success rather than sulky pouting or Carrie Bradshaw-style ditziness, but sadly she fared no better than the others when they all presented their work to the British editor Joanna Coles, who appears to be taking part in an unannounced competition to become the next Anna Wintour.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
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
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?