Thirty years ago, there were 20,000 brass brands in Britain. Today, there are fewer than 500 and Dinnington Colliery Band is one of them, but it isn't in very much better shape than the pit from which it takes its name – and that closed in 1992. Enter Sue Perkins and the BBC cameras, to offer mouth-to-trombone resuscitation. A Band for Britain follows a formula familar to anyone who watched The Choir: middle-class music lover (in this case, Perkins, rather than choirmaster Gareth Malone) steams into under-privileged area (in this case, South Yorkshire, near Rotherham) and grabs everyone by the crotchets, generating self-esteem, urban renewal and great lashings of love.
I'm a sucker for it, and devoted as I am to lovely, genteel Gareth, bold, bossy Perkins does the same job almost as appealingly. Moreover, there is a seam of pure TV gold running through the story of Dinnington Colliery Band, from Sally on principal cornet, who was once asked to choose between her cornet and her husband (and chose the one with the more compact shape and mellower tone quality), and the woman whose name I missed, whose parents were band members and whose girlhood pleas for a pony fell on ears doubtless deafened by the theme to Van der Valk. "Oh no, you don't want a pony," they said, "you've got a flugelhorn."
It is the widows and divorcées of Dinnington who have kept the band alive, but without an injection of youth it will die, and I imagine the sound of a brass band dying is a horrible thing: a long, mournful, valedictory blast of the euphonium. So, Perkins held auditions, and found a chirpy young drummer with dreadlocks, as well as Jack, who used to be in the band but quit. Why does he want to come back? "I just like the idea of being on television," he said, which wins him cheers in our front room; not even dear Gareth managed to extract honesty like that. With one guileless admission, Jack has revealed a crashing modern truth: it's not the trumpet players who will blow life back into this ailing band, it's the camera crew.
Also enjoying the cameras is a fellow called Dr Nicholas Childs, conductor of the "world famous" Black Dyke Band, which is not quite world famous enough for its fame to have found my house, but that doesn't matter. I know Dr Childs is a brass band big shot because he told us so – "Alex Ferguson comes from Govan, I come from Tredegar" – and if anyone can save Dinnington Colliery Band, he can. And Perkins. And the idea of being on television.
In Dispatches: Cameron Uncovered, the political journalist Andrew Rawnsley addressed the question of whether David Cameron is the soloist the Conservative Party needs, or whether he's all puff and no substance. Rawnsley has caused Gordon Brown some embarrassment with his new book, The End of the Party, and here he balanced the scales a little, artfully undermining Cameron's qualities of youth and vitality (if elected, he will be the youngest Prime Minister since 1812) with a reminder that Cameron will also be the 19th Old Etonian to hold the office.
To a large extent, Rawnsley let his interviewees do the skewering, either forensically (Peter Mandelson) or unwittingly (Ed Vaizey MP). Bizarrely, Vaizey seemed to suggest that Cameron's wife, Samantha, might not vote Tory in the forthcoming election, although the bigger crime from where I was sitting was the clunkiest metaphor I have heard for ages. "Until you've got a chicken in place who understands the modernising agenda," said Vaizey (I think in reference to Cameron), "you're not going to lay the modernising egg." Ah, but which came first, the modernising chicken, or the modernising egg? And why did the modernising chicken cross the road? I think Vaizey has a few questions to answer.
There were some memorable questions in Women, the first of three documentaries about the rise of feminism, concerning clitoral orgasms and menstrual extraction among other interesting topics. The director, Vanessa Engle, clearly does not believe in making her study of feminism entirely comfortable viewing, especially for the male of the species, but then it's about time we were made to squirm for the injustices men have perpetrated on women through the ages, and if that doesn't get me a cup of tea in bed tomorrow morning, I can't think what will.
But I shouldn't be glib about an important piece of television, which included interviews with some of the most influential feminists of the past 50 years. Among them was Robin Morgan, who led the 1968 demonstration outside the Miss America contest, where a crown was placed on a sheep. This she now regrets. "I didn't quite have my animal-rights consciousness in order," she said, and indeed there were all kinds of inconsistencies in those early protest years, not least Cilla Black singing "I want equality", surrounded by dancing girls in tight leotards, although any song that rhymes "status" with "peeling potaters" definitely gets my vote.Reuse content