June 26, 2009

Famous Rich and Homeless

I know Charlie Brooker was taking the piss out of these Mission documentaries but I must admit I quite like them. I think they are really worthwhile TV in an age which pushes ever onwards towards worthless TV. Famous Rich and Homeless is on the iPlayer here in two episodes both of which are fantastic.

I must admit I usually pass by "spare some change" in London with no reaction and this has made me seriously look at myself about all this, which is the main point of the documentary I suppose. I have only slept rough once, under a bridge when I got stuck hitch hiking. It was horrible. This doco showed really well how easily people who are comfortable and healthy deteriorate in spirit. It was shocking how "homeless" they all looked after just two days.

It was good to see how each individual coped. I had a huge grin watching what a total cunt the grandson of Winston Churchill turned out to be, wimping out from the start. Hardeep was, not surprisingly the funniest, but Annabel Croft was probably the biggest surprise, dealing with what was in front of her in a really open, honest and positive way.

I have read before that John Bird, founder of The Big Issue had "a bit of a problem" and it really came out in part two of this doco, as he berated two of the stars for trying to help the person they were assigned to for the second part of the project. I can sort of get where he is coming from but he made himself look like a complete tosser. Yes, people should be encouraged to help themselves but there is nothing wrong with trying to help people either. You can't shout at people for helping without looking like an idiot especially when they have been on the street for six days and you haven't.

Having said all that, the reason I haven't been the type to "spare change" is because I have seen a bit of the other side of London. I made good money pavement drawing when I had to whilst squatting. Bins in london are full of fresh, high protein food. There are plenty of places where decent free meals are available. I have been humbled by the generosity of some serious looking capitalists at Christmas particularly on Christmas eve when, if you look you will see that every doorway and every available space in the West End is full of beggars with their heads up because a lot of money and gifts are heading their way.

One christmas eve after spending a really bitter day drawing reindeers on the pavement in Victoria I spent the 60 quid I raised on Turkey, Whisky, Wine and Ginger Ale, aplogising to the checkout girl as her hands were blackened by all the coins I handed her. I was always just about fine squatting because I had friends. What this doco reminded me though, was about poverty of the human spirit, and what a crisis it actually is. I remember sitting inside cold and skint, breaking into derelict buildings and sleeping on the floor, taking ketamine to "Be somewhere else". It was another squatter who motivated me to step out and earn something. I could at many points so easily have gone downwards instead. I didn't realise until I was out of it how much of a housing crisis I was actually living in. Just looking back through this blog to posts written when I was still squatting it is really obvious to me how much more insecure, scared and crazy I was. It is easy to be cynical about z list celebrities etc etc but in truth this doco really touched me.

New Statesman


...I don't know if Blandford was hoping to repair his reputation as a parasitical waste of space, but if so his plan spectacularly misfired. "The Churchill family seem to be quite good in time of war and this is my war with concrete," he'd smugly announced beforehand, but the first shot hadn't even been fired when it became clear that his only strategy was surrender. Unabashed about cheating on the first night, he demanded a second night in a hotel as well. "If I'm to be a productive participant in this programme then I need to get some rest,"he said crossly, and when the programme-makers gently pointed out that sleeping on the street was something of a sine qua non, he ran for home. Good riddance said John Bird, the conceiver of this exercise in empathy generation. Good riddance murmured all of us, with just a passing regret that the Marquess hadn't been chained to Hyde Park railings for at least one night before being allowed to scuttle back to Blenheim... Independent


1 comment:

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