On Wednesday I met The Woman Behind The Screen and it remains unclear if the experience was more unnerving for her or me. Though, as she is unlikely to be writing about meeting me, maybe it is safe to assume I was the more shaken.
A few years ago a vast television set was erected in central Birmingham. It stands above the hoardings that have, for half a young lifetime, concealed the fact that no renovation work is taking place on the Town Hall. This screen is low definition – red, green and blue festoon bulbs from Blackpool Pleasure Beach taped together in clusters facing the Central Library. They beam out over all the poor souls, sat on the steps, trying to while away peaceful minutes watching the real live world go by. No chance. Since the screen has been up there’s no real live whiling away to be done. Volume is stuck on full, the channel -some spongiform encephalizing quasinews spew – cannot be shifted. Orwell would freak.
Stan’s Cafe once received a letter from The Woman Behind The Screen suggesting we may like to contribute some ‘content for the screen’. I replied explaining in fairly direct terms why Stan’s Cafe wouldn’t be contributing content. A reply came back from The Boss Of The Woman Behind The Screen explaining that Manchester already had a screen and that other cities were queuing up to get theirs (Manchester, discerningly, shoved theirs on the arse-end of a shopping centre). Our correspondence continued debating whether or not the screen could be deemed Fascistic. We agreed to differ.
So, on Wednesday I was at the BBC’s offices in The Mailbox to hear what opportunities there might be for our Frankley School collaborators to get their stories broadcast and the was a presentation by The Woman Behind The Screen. Clearly one of life’s great enthusiasts she was trying to drum up more ‘content for the screen’. I sat listening, Zen, like a monk, making not a sound. While she was extolling the screen’s social virtues I didn’t point out that during the European Championships a bigger better screen was erected on Centenary Square which drew a frenzied crowd, thus when Match Of The Day cut to see goal reactions round the country it looked like only a dozen people were watching in Brum. Even as she was speaking, on the monitors beside her, tickertape news was announcing a Council ban preventing people watching football on the Big Screen due to violence two years ago – I said nothing. In the mingling, networking, sipping orange juice, buffet raiding presentation aftermath our paths crossed. We introduced ourselves. I caught her twitch. “Ah, you’re the one who doesn’t like the screen” she said. Not like it? Let me count the ways in which I do not like it.
The good news is that when the fictitious workforce finally complete their renovation job and the Town Hall opens that screen goes. Unfortunately it will probably reappear elsewhere hopefully on the arse-end of the Pavilions Shopping Centre where to watch it you would have to station yourself on the Inner Ring Road and dance around the busses.