sun 27/09/2020

Don't Stop the Music, C4 / The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Don't Stop the Music, C4 / The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, BBC Two

Don't Stop the Music, C4 / The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, BBC Two

James Rhodes gets music education moving. The M6 remains at a standstill

James Rhodes: instrument amnesty

The act of learning music, in a choir or an orchestra, rounds out a young person. What are the benefits again? All together now: improved social skills, concentration, discipline, self-esteem, numeracy, behaviour, confidence. Music makes you better. Society at large would benefit from investing in music education. It sort of beggars belief that this argument still has to be made.

The act of learning music, in a choir or an orchestra, rounds out a young person. What are the benefits again? All together now: improved social skills, concentration, discipline, self-esteem, numeracy, behaviour, confidence. Music makes you better. Society at large would benefit from investing in music education. It sort of beggars belief that this argument still has to be made. Meanwhile it would seem the DoE's idealogues and OFSTED's bean counters are inadvertently bent on beggaring the futures of British youth.

You can’t get a decent music lesson in every British primary school, not if St Teresa’s in Basildon is anything to go by. Pianist James Rhodes sat in the office of the head teacher who looked him in the eye and told him that the annual budget allocated to music is precisely £0.00. In the year 5 class the teacher, as by statutory requirement, was teaching her pupils rhythm. “That’s not what I would call a music lesson,” said a shellshocked Rhodes.

This isn’t quite what the PM had in mind for the long-lost Big Society

Don’t Stop the Music (****) is an excellent title for a promising idea filtered through the usual formatting sieve of the can-do documentary challenge. Expert parachutes in to help kids learn a vital life skill. For Jamie Oliver, read James Rhodes, a beanpole with big specs and bigger hair. The first episode was as predictable as a three-chord song. Rhodes wandered into a cultural desert and, having cleared a conventional array of obstacles (head teacher obsessing about targets, kids distracted by Sky and PlayStation), by the end of an hour had sprinkled it with the waters of harmony and rhythm. The children were introduced to and enthused by proper music-making, given various wind instruments and two weeks later had accompanied Rhodes in a short concert. Encore!

The one tweak to the format is that this programme is also by way of an appeal. Instruments don’t grow on trees, and nor does money to teach pupils to play them. Rhodes pounded the streets of Basildon imploring people to raid their attics and cellars for discarded instruments, and he wants us all to do the same. This isn’t quite what the PM had in mind for the long-lost Big Society, but if the government won’t support music education, it looks like everyone else will have to. I’m holding onto mine, but as part of the so-called musical amnesty you can gift yours here.

The M6 is hell on stilts. That much seems clear from The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane (***). The bit that flies over Birmingham is the subject of an observational documentary which is similar in almost every way to Watermen: A Dirty Business. Blokes in high vis jackets spout homespun wisdom while doing a dirty job out in the field.

The joke is the programme is a misnomer. In the rush hour, which is more like three hours, there is no fast lane. There are three slow lanes. Sometimes four, now that the hard shoulder is being deployed to ease congestion. Only BMWs cruise the £900m M6 toll road.

It was lovely meeting the tarmackers who go out at night and fix things. It’s an antisocial, dangerous job, but they smiled for the cameras. The roadside rubbish collector we met was an eye-opener. He picks up 30 bottles of lorry driver piss per shift. “Either we haven’t got enough services,” he mused, “or they’ve got a fetish for peeing in bottles.” Lorry drivers get up to all sorts. A highways inspector caught one from Eastern Europe watching a Seventies TV drama on his laptop while driving. The driver, alas, wasn’t one of those people issued with a dashboard cam by the programme-makers. 

As is always the way with such series, this was about people, all sorts of them. And there are enough of them - workers, controllers, motorists with dashboard cams, all with thick Brummie accents - to make this a well-spent hour. Spare a thought for those who woke up in 1972 to find a motorway fying past their bedroom window. But anyone who moved in subsequently, the noise would presumably have come up in the survey. They spend their lives complaining. “If you live next to a motorway,” philosophised the man from the Highways Agency, “you’ve got to expect some inconvenience.”

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters