The Finest Hours

Visually impressive re-creation of astonishing true life sea rescue
In early 1952 a winter storm whipped up the seas around the town of Chatham in Cape Cod and remarkably two oil tankers were split in half by the raging waters. While the local rescue service was focussed on the more accessible SS Fort Mercer, a crew of just four set off to try and rescue survivors from the SS Pendleton. This entailed a journey which saw them having to ride over giant waves and somehow find the ship without a compass which gets blown overboard. Meanwhile those left on half of the Pendleton did their utmost to keep the ship afloat and wait to be rescued. If you read the plot for this film you’d imagine it as an unlikely fiction but it is actually a true story of amazing courage and determination from both sides of the rescue attempt recognised as the finest in the history of the US Coast Guard. 


Dangerous Visions

Review by Oliver Wake
May and June saw the return of BBC Radio 4’s annual Dangerous Visions season of dystopian science fiction, featuring both adaptations and original stories and dramas.
Joseph Wilde’s Produce was an effective but emotive drama about ‘designer babies’ and the danger of children being viewed as consumer products, with their attendant manufacturer liabilities. Equally intriguing but less dramatic was Your Perfect Summer, On Sale Here, by Ed Harris, which posited a world of addictive immersive videogames drawn from the memories of human subjects. Sarah Woods dramatised and updated William Morris’ socialistic 1890 novel News from Nowhere to present a future London as a bucolic post-capitalist utopia.


Be Careful What You Wish For

The UK’s EU referendum result is a reckless leap in the dark
In the early stages of the European Union referendum when everyone knew a lot less about the respective cases for staying or leaving, it was suggested that the choice essentially boiled down to a simple one. If you are risk averse vote to Remain. If you like taking risks vote to Leave.  There was also a feeling- and nothing more tangible than a feeling- that when it came down to the wire more people would end up voting Remain and not taking that risk. These sorts of things were dismissed by hard core campaigners (from both sides) who said we should and would vote on the real long term serious political and economic issues.  Trouble is nowadays with social media spreading ideas like wildfire most people don’t do that. Most people vote based either on one particular issue that it niggling them or else on little more than gut feelings. In that respect the result is no more than a reckless leap in the dark, an expression of an optimistic `grass is greener on the other side` view. I’m sure there were just as many Leave voters who had nervous stomachs on hearing the results this morning as those who voted Remain. As is already becoming apparent nobody actually knows what will happen now. The mechanism is clear enough- the soon to be ubiquitous Article 50- but the economic and social repercussions of operating that mechanism are not. 


How the European Union saved Liverpool

I’d like to tell you my EU related tale regarding my home town Liverpool which was saved by the EU. Back in the Nineties, the city was in a tailspin following decades of national and local neglect and the situation was so bad that it qualified for what was known as Objective One status, basically identifying it as one of the poorest places in the EU. While the Conservative government of the time had contemplated allowing such places to slip into what they described as “managed decline” the EU targeted projects into which they donated a considerable amount of money. This was not a handout as such nor was it a magic wand that would cure the city’s ills. It was however a solid supporting mechanism the idea of which was to help the area recover and thus be able to support itself in the future and help create a platform upon which private business could then invest in. This in turn led last decade to the double win of the redevelopment of a large swathe of the city centre known as Liverpool One and the city’s winning the European Capital of Culture status for 2008. Ever since then Liverpool has thrived and grown and now that is spreading beyond the city centre outwards. Yet the seeds of this recovery lie in that EU money. When few UK politicians cared, the EU did,whatever other motives might have gone into the mix. There are no doubt several other places which have had similar about turns.