How local can you go?

Share
Related Topics
All heroes are local, more or less, but some are more local than others. In Local Heroes (Radio 2, Saturday), Tony Capstick set out to survey the dismal turnip-field of local entertainment, to discover why it is that some performers can be huge on their home patch and unknown everywhere else.

Dennis of Grunty Fen, for instance, is enormous in East Anglia. He has his own radio programme, and has even, so we were told, entertained the Royal family at Sandringham (though the unkind thought occurred that it might have been more accurate to say that he had appeared before them, and leave it at that). Dennis has a mysterious warm bucket - it never gets cold! - and believes that the dinosaurs were wiped out by the laxative properties of giant rhubarb (hilarious!). We also met Scotland the What?, a trio of middle-aged men from Aberdeen who make old-fashioned jokes in the Doric dialect, and remark with some asperity that the north-east of Scotland shouldn't be confused with the north-east of Britain, which of course lies between Newcastle and Sunderland; and, ironically, Paul Wheater, who is billed as "the North-east's answer to Jim Reeves".

The programme didn't, as promised, analyse why these entertainers don't travel. Up to a point, that didn't matter - five minutes with Dennis and you had a pretty shrewd idea where the problem lay. But we could have done with some idea of why he appealed to anybody in the first place: was it a matter of solidarity - a refusal to admit that a local boy isn't funny? Or is it that there are localised forms of entertainment which genuinely can't be translated on to the wider scene?

This last seems unlikely. What was dispiriting about the programme was the realisation that, aside from a smattering of dialect and a couple of references, there wasn't anything truly local about most of these acts. What's to differentiate the North-east's answer to Jim Reeves from the South-west's answer to Jim Reeves, except the label? With the other acts, most of the jokes were old ones with a bit of regional colour spattered on top - they all shared a generalised sense of localness which you could get anywhere.

You can certainly get it in North-East of Eden (Radio 4, Wednesday), a comedy series about a GP from London who comes to live on the improbably named island of Paradise, just off the north-east coast (that's the north- east coast of Britain, you understand). Peter Kerry's script contains some OK jokes - last week's depressive Norwegian fisherman ("All we have in Norway is Grieg, Ibsen and a pathological hatred of large aquatic mammals") - and more cheap ones (the days when John Selwyn Gummer was automatically funny are, thank God, behind us). But Paradise is just a stereotypical eccentric remote community, and for all the local colour, this might as well be about a doctor from New York ending up in Alaska. Come to think of it, that's not a bad premise for a programme...

True local feeling does exist, though: Another String (Thursday, Radio 4) featured the Cornish playwright and part-time lobster fisherman Nick Darke, whose strength of feeling for Cornwall was obvious and moving. But with it came a certain smugness; at one point, railing against benches on clifftops, he proclaimed that the people who perpetrated them might think they loved the place, but they didn't really. There was something ugly about that moment - pride shading into jealousy, love into possessiveness - that made me think more kindly of Dennis.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Part Time SEN 1:1 Teacher

£40 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experience SEN Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Ottawa police officer runs with his weapon drawn outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa  

Ottawa shooting: Canada’s innocence is not lost — unless we want it to be

Jake Heller
 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?