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For blog items from previous years [2005-12], see links on home page.

@Connecting Up The DotComs
With the growth of electronics-company start-ups, ‘new media’ activity in the area is beginning to develop beyond ‘old’ media structures. Could the Bournemouth conurbation become Britain’s own ‘Silicon Beach’?

‘Silicon Beach’?

Two years ago, I mentioned I’d abandoned trying to find positive news to update our ‘CyberCity’ blog and website section (begun in 2006), due to the only developments, news-wise, being backward ones, progress-wise. Typically, even major fast-broadband connectivity schemes announced with great fanfare (‘making Bournemouth the UK's first Fibrecity’) would start digging up entire streets, sometimes cutting locals’ phone and internet connections off for weeks, then go quiet, having failed to get the end money or contracts they needed. Nothing would be heard for a while, only for the backers to insist to the concerned Council that the scheme was not dead, that the apparent corpse would rise again phoenix-like from its own ashes.
I’m not even sure what the outfit behind this series of announced-then-delayed developments since 2009 is actually called now - CityFibre or FibreCity [corporate background here], or some version of one or the other hyphenated by another corporate name. After the first failure (to deliver broadband via the sewage system), CityFibre was rebranded FibreCity, but now seems to be CityFibre again, or possibly Gigler FibreCity. This may or may not be the same as BT FibreCity, announced on notices on some ‘FTTC’ junction boxes (= Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, as opposed to FTTH, Fibre-to-the-Home, the important final stretch). Whether this means BT has taken over or it is just a working arrangement is not clear. There is also FibreBrand, which had been trialling on the FibreCity network backbone, but has now abandoned the locality. Gigler-FibreCity has just announced it is co-sponsoring this year’s Air Show [29 Aug- 1 Sep] to generate some goodwill, so it evidently now has money to spare.)
Overall, fibre-optic, cable and muni-wifi infrastructure schemes have all proved disappointments, bypassing less profitable neighbourhoods (nicknamed black spots, or ‘not spots’ i.e. versus hot spots), including industrial estates where companies need broadband for online-ordering transactional or shop-front sites.
Despite being onetime home to Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the conurbation has failed to develop adequate initiatives and missed out on kick-starter funding like the international Intelligent Communities awards (an early UK winner being Glasgow in 2004) and the Digital Challenge awards (‘Connecting Bristol – Building Momentum for Change’ was a shortlisted initiative in 2006, which would lead on to other things - see below). The latest national development is the government announced a £150m fund to create around 20 ‘superfast’ cybercity cable and wifi setups where BT or Virgin have failed to develop these localities. (Sometimes addresses are refused service even if the street itself has been hooked up with modern fibre optics cable, on the grounds of insufficient take-up at the time.) This latest plan at once ran into a legal challenge by BT and Virgin that this would unfairly subsidise other companies. Now SMEs will simply be given vouchers, under a scheme called The Urban Broadband Fund, to pay for faster connections (if they can get them – BT and Virgin still control the main telephone and cable lines). BT has just been attacked by Margaret Hodge et al for its demanding subsidies and remaining elusive about performance and commitments. A recent Guardian column explained:

in the negotiations, BT's lawyers have run rings around town hall staff and Whitehall civil servants. Like a cowboy builder, the company has quoted prices that public officials have found difficult to verify and has been conveniently vague on how it arrives at its sums. Last month, the National Audit Office recorded BT had overcharged by £3m in one region alone. It also found that BT was withholding contractual details from the Department for Culture, claiming they were commercially sensitive. Auditors noted: "This makes it difficult for the department and for local bodies to gain transparency over the level of costs included in BT's local bids."

Ironically, London's 'Tech City' aka 'Silicon Roundabout' has run into the same BT bottleneck with it taking months to get hooked up etc., leading to promises to trial improvements. London's Tech City/Silicon Roundabout meanwhile ran into other infrastructure problems, which led to startup-co disillusion about greedy landlords and poor Council support, with start-ups pulling out. Some cities and towns certainly have improved speeds. However what this means is the 'digital divide' gap betwen municipal and rural broadband is widening. A recent FOI request revealed that very little of the money supposedly available to remedy the lag here by 2015 - under a Dept for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) scheme called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) announced 5 years ago - has actually been paid over to district councils. So far the only beneficiary seems to have been BT.
A new £31 m fund has just [10 July 2013] been announced for ‘The Superfast Dorset’ project; to bring broadband to rural black spots (officially, up to 97% coverage), with around half the money coming from Dorset councils, who are matching funds of nearly £10m with the national ‘Broadband Delivery’ scheme. As usual, the devil will be in the detail of who, what, where, when. (Mail article here with graphs.) The article just cited is based on a BT press release - see the disillusioned comments at the end of the Echo article from those angry at the discrepancy between hype and reality so far. Disappointments thus continue to dominate in our original terms of reference - wired-up conurbations based on public-private partnership municipal ‘city-wide’ public wifi schemes. WiMax now seems as lost to us as the IMAX.

Broadband speed scores Awards 2012
Screencaps from the Broadband speed scores Awards website (Mouse over to see 2nd image.)

Nevertheless …
… A new cohort of professional creators of online multimedia content have developed locally. This is as opposed to their leaving for London etc on graduation; as a local MP put it, “Half of the techies who worked on Avatar came from Bournemouth University but what do they do when they graduate? They do a runner to Berlin and other places.”

Avatar's digital landscape
Avatar, the film that gave a whole meaning to the phrase digital landscape, was put together with the help of at least ten local art- and media-school grads.

This local development is largely due to the presence of the Uni (BU), the ‘Arts School’ (now the Arts University Bournemouth), and B-P-C aka The College (as it styles itself). These institutions contribute here as, first, they have relevant media schools and academies which annually turn out graduates with new-media skills in digital animation etc. For example, locally the Creative Multimedia Design FdA is taught at the College but offers a foundation degree from the Uni for direct "top-up" progression to a full degree in this area.
These programmes have been running for a while, but the high-speed internet backbone the graduates needed for local deployment has been lacking in the past. Design-school graduates tend to go in for Megabit-heavy ‘Flash’ sites which focus on visuals rather than text content [i.e. done as .swf or ShockWave-for-Flash graphic files rather than HTML, PHP etc web-code text files]. These would work fine during demos on the agency’s own computers, but not so well for customers who had slow connections (or on school etc systems that for security reasons block Flash content as a malware attack vector). This problem is now renewed by the trend towards viewing websites on wifi-enabled devices, where download speeds are often comparable to the old dialup connections.
However, the availability of basic broadband (even if not ‘fast’ or ‘superfast’ fibre-optic broadband) coverage through the conurbation has made this type of multimedia-rich site accessible on home PCs anyway. (You can test your access speed on a test site, here and here [a more local 'Dorset For You' council-run site]. You can also try out your internet connection on streaming videos, via LitUp, the local library-backed campaign begun last year to promote writing, here.)
Secondly, these 3 institutions attract a supply of IT- and media-experienced lecturing staff, many of whom have moved into the private sector during the education sector's mercenary target-oriented drives and cutbacks of the last decade. A few years ago, a Business Link Wessex e-business seminar host referred to ‘the College brain drain’ as a factor in the number of new start-ups. Business Link Wessex, being funded by the Regional Development Agency, is now ‘wound down’ along with the parent RDA, but other networking groups have developed for what has been labelled the ‘Bournemouth Tech/Web/Creative Community’. One of the first was BomoCreatives, now Bournemouth Creatives [link redirects to Facebook login page].
There is also a civic project, sponsored by a local MP, Conurbation 2050 (begun as a breakfast-club forum to try to expedite for future generations the stalled Master Vision plan to "transform the town centre over 20 years, mostly through building on council land in partnership with a developer"), which may a least offer networking prospects for future-oriented creative types. This is not to be confused with Bournemouth 2026, a rebranding of a Council/business-interests partnership. Bournemouth 2026 Trust also has a plan, one agenda point of which is to ‘Develop A Creative Industries Strategy’. (This is agenda-point 2.1.7 on their 40pp ‘Bournemouth Vision 2026’ plan, which is fairly well hidden discreetly available on their website (click or right-click on the 'Bournemouth Vision 2026’ image, which is not a webpage URL but a PDF-download link). The timeline for development of the strategy was 2011 [see image below], so it would be interesting to see the actual plan and discover what has been done since then.

The 2026 Trust may have had something to do with the fact that the closest Bournemouth has had to an arts centre, the BCCA (a 19th-C building gifted by Shelley the poet’s son Sir Percy Florence Shelley to the people of Boscombe ‘forever’), set to be demolished to make way for housing, is to retain a 3-room ‘digital hub’ centre. (Background: Despite a community campaign to save BCCA, the Council voted to demolish it on the basis the 11 houses set to replace it would do more to ‘regenerate the local area’ than a community/arts centre, and there were already 19 ‘comparable’ community/arts venues in the neighbourhood, which the campaign strongly disputed. A legal application by the campaign for a judicial review has just failed, on the grounds it was out of time, i.e. over 3 months old.) There are also several networking setups in the area specifically for those in the digital-creative industries, like Meetdraw.

The Bournemouth conurbation, from Digital Dorset interactive map

The Bournemouth conurbation's digital 'cluster', from Digital Dorset's interactive map. The map doesn't show it, due to the clustering effect, but there are at least 50 creative-digital businesses.

On a larger, more public scale, for the past 2 years, there has been a techies’ 2-day conference in town called “Silicon Beach”, featuring visiting speakers from the US and elsewhere, with the 3rd coming up 5-6 September, exploring “themes of 21st century marketing” [details here]. Now the suggestion has been made this month by local entrepreneurs that Silicon Beach should be backed as the new adopted nickname for the conurbation, as the region’s recognised go-to place for new-media tech-company growth. The Silicon Beach place-name moniker is of course to create an equivalent label to California’s Silicon Valley, [which has grown to enormous extent since the 70s]. Since then, the designation has broadened to describe more than plants making silicon microchips, and there have many attempts to get centres around the world recognised as the go-to place for new-media / tech-company start-ups.
In the UK, for instance, the closest centre would be Bristol area’s ‘Silicon Gorge’, which actually extends to Swindon, Bath and Gloucester. Its Wiki entry notes that in Bath “Many companies have been started by ex-employees of companies such as Future Publishing and IPL, two long standing employers in the area.” In fact Bournemouth was a centre for Future Publishing and other tech-magazine outfits until 2005-6; at the time, I blogged about the virtual collapse of Futura et al’s local activities as another backward development. To our east is outer London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ , which sounds like a spoof but isn’t [history of name here. As East London Tech City, it was backed by an official ad hoc quango [history of development here and official blog], with a recent Guardian article here mentioning that such "Tech clusters can be found in cities all over the country, including Bath, Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle." There are several self-designated 'Silicon Beach' areas in the US, mainly in Calif., but according to Wiki’s list, there is no self-designated Silicon Beach in Britain – yet.
Silicon Beach would be an ideal moniker for the conurbation to adopt as it is an attractive visual image, and suggests a laid-back almost-surfer like approach to business and work, something US tech companies (most famously Google) promote, an extension of the idea your job is a lifestyle, encouraged by onsite rec facilities to keep you at work. As far as existing tech-web new-media business presence goes, is there sufficient to give the notion credibility? A recent survey of activity in the town and surrounding area puts the number of creative agencies in Dorset at over 300, and Bournemouth itself seems to account for 29 of these, and other parts of the conurbation a lesser number. (The overall conurbation is about the size of Bristol, pop’n-wise.) The largest seems to have been born out of the ashes of the 2005-6 tech-mag implosion / exodus mentioned above: Imagine Publishing, whose site says it “publishes 20 print and digital magazines, 29 websites, over 250 bookazines, and employs 145 creatively driven people at its Bournemouth offices”. Survey partner Meetdraw has the report online (PDF-download link – right-click on it to download: Dorset Creative Census 2013).

A screenshot from the Dorset Creative Census 2013, showing Bournemouth's digital-creative services 'cluster'.

Now, it seems, it is largely a matter of connecting up the dots, or rather a master plan to connect up the dotcoms dotted around the area via some joined-up thinking, so that there is a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Bloomsbury author’s E.M. Forster’s catchphrase (used as advice to writers), ‘Only Connect’ is sometimes cited as the watchword here, but perhaps more apt is the more recent term recognising how, historically, socio-economic and other circumstances come together to create a significant event: convergence.

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ITV Makes A Killing In Dorset

The big local-interest media event of the year so far has been ITV’s Broadchurch, filmed partly in Dorset, around West Bay and Bridport. ITV's answer to the hit Danish series The Killing, the 8-week drama serial was meant as a one-off, the lead characters ending up dealt a cruel fate of the sort often found in a Thomas Hardy novel. (There are literary-reference clues in the drama to suggest this was no coincidence.) Nevertheless, a 2nd series has already been announced. The reason is not that the story was left open-ended (it definitely wasn’t) but that it achieved ratings of over 9 million viewers, which brought in £15m of advertising revenue - despite the original sponsor, a cruise-ship company, nearly pulling out after a scene showed a burning dinghy (!). The DVD release has been withheld till May 20, to allow time for showings in additional markets.

Broadchurch was ITV’s attempt at an English equivalent of the so-called ‘Scandi-noir’ type of brooding-crime drama-with-social-significance, in particular the Danish 20-hour Forbrydelsen aka The Killing, which in 2007 launched the current cycle of surprisingly exportable long-form, crime-in-a-social-context dramas. It and its two followup series were shown on BBC4 in their popular Saturday night crime-drama-with-subtitles slot, and it was also remade for US TV as Gracepoint (filmed on its rainy Northwest coast), again with a 2nd and 3rd series to follow, with similar single-murder investigations. The format of The Killing explicitly (note the use of the singular in the title) abandoned the approach ITV adopted in the 1980s, where there is an initial murder, and then another one (or a serious assault) just before each commercial break, sometimes ending with the lead detective being nearly done in by the killer in a confrontational final scene. Thus instead of setting up Broadchurch like an episode of Wycliffe or Lewis, where the background story would be disclosed in fragmentary interpolated scenes - which the viewer is meant to sift for clues but are in fact mainly red herrings - the background story was given equal time with the investigation scenes. To establish a ‘Scandi-noir’ mood, an Icelandic composer was brought in to score Broadchurch, and whole scenes have no sound apart from the music. (The song used in the trailer is "People Help The People" by Birdy.)

The traditional serial-murder story format of course is not suitable for any setting outside a major population centre. (Even then, it was notably unrealistic – all those endless murders in Oxford’s academic community in Inspector Morse.) Though the Danish prototype series limited itself to one killing, it had an urban setting (Copenhagen area) allowing the female detective to repeatedly wander alone into jeopardy in darkened factory buildings etc. Scotland Yard had a special ‘murder squad’ they would send out from London to help provincial forces, which provided the story template for many a British detective novel or drama (see e.g. the 1957 Town On Trial, with John Mills as the ‘maverick’ lead detective sent in to shake things up by being rude to all and sundry). Later, regional force HQs had their own teams, and the murder in a remote village was the standard story setup in the Cornish-set Wycliffe. But these did not deal with the community except as suspects and (inevitably reluctant) witnesses. The “town wrapped in secrets” (to use Broadchurch’s ad-line) is not new, and the chief interest of the locals is their desire to keep the lid on some personal secret the detective must uncover en route to solving the murder.

Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall has said a large part of his inspiration was Twin Peaks (shown on BBC in the early 90s and belatedly just issued in a complete DVD set), set in a quiet Northwest logging community. This small-town-big-crime story setup certainly gave the town characters equal screen time with the detectives. But this cult US series wandered away from its powerful initial depictions of grief spreading through the community into an almost laughable quirkiness imposed by co-creator David Lynch, along with a surreal plot that tried to integrate bizarre supernatural elements. The use of the supernatural here does have roots in the 'Northwest Gothic' (an early-20C American school of literary melodrama), but trying to make fun of the characters as hick eccentrics at the same time proved a self-defeating attempt to appeal to both traditional-romantic and more hip-urban audiences. (That’s American tv for you.) Viewing figures fell away, and the series was abandoned rather than concluded. (A feature-film was then commissioned, but this opted for a prequel rather than sequel, the series’ unresolved plot strands being impossible to tie up.)


Closer to home, an earlier tv series filmed in West Bay and Bridport, the BBC’s quickly forgotten 1999-2000 drama series Harbour Lights, had an ex-RN officer returning to his home town ‘Bridehaven’ to work as harbourmaster and getting involved with the local policewoman chasing smugglers etc. This evident BBC attempt to create a south-coast counterpart to their whimsical 1990s Scottish country-policeman series Hamish Macbeth suffered from a depiction of the community as a lightweight set of ‘types’ to provide story material, and there may have been a determination to avoid repeating this mistake here. Harbour Lights itself switched to become more of a crime drama after its first series.
Above and below: Harbour Lights. The locations will appear familiar to Broadchurch viewers. The cliffs and beach where the body is found are also those seen in the fake suicide scene that opened each episode of the original BBC Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin.(Hover mouse over picture to see 2nd image.)

Broadchurch gave as much dramatic weight to members of the local community as the detective duo, who were not easy-to-like figures, neither The Local One (prone to make threats of assault, including of killing a suspect’s dog) nor The Outsider Specially Brought In (emphasized by his Scots accent). Normally the trope is that the Clever Lead Detective is socially dysfunctional; here the detective is dishevelled and gruff enough but the case is broken not by any particular insight, just circumstantial luck as he haphazardly pursues a missing laptop and phone. (Nor in the finale does he wrestle with the villain on a rooftop or clifftop, as scriptwriters of provincial detective series tend to opt for.) The rest of the police force are shown as almost useless ciphers who just stand around. The various community figures on the other hand – suspects, victim’s family and friends, witnesses, the local church, newspaper, etc. were treated seriously as they tried to achieve closure (that useful American phrase) in one way or another – getting past anger, grief, or suspicions about others.

That these character portrayals offered more than the usual set of stock figures and red herrings was likely a reflection of the fact the series creator, writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall, has roots in such a community: he has lived for ten years where the drama was partly shot, at Bridport/West Bay. (Scenes were also shot at Clevedon). His own comment was 'Broadchurch is set in the Dorset landscape where I've lived for about ten years. I was brought up on Merseyside, but the town where I live now is particularly wonderful, with a interesting, varied community. In a way, Broadchurch is a love letter to the town and the county and the landscape.' Certainly its high ratings would be partly the result of the massive advance publicity it received, and every other major magazine cover seemed to feature a still of the two leads posed against West Dorset’s red sandstone cliffs. There is no coy attempt to pass off the setting as elsewhere: though the detectives work for the fictional “Wessex Police,” dialogue references to popping over to the neighbouring town of Lyme [Regis] indicate fictional town and filming location match up.

The series' production company Kudos had sent script proposals with similar 'Killing' type stories to both BBC and ITV, perhaps assuming only one would be commissioned at best; in fact, such was the desire for a British tv counterpart to the Danish series that both were. (Online commentators have pointed out the child killer is the same figure in both series, which I won’t elaborate on here to avoid spoilers.) BBC’s Mayday went out as 5 x 1hrs Sunday-Thursday the same week Broadchurch launched in the Monday 9pm slot, but only achieved half the ratings figures. Mayday abandoned the successful formula balancing investigative and community scenes, had a less distinctive physical setting (filmed anonymously around Dorking in Surrey), and opted instead to have the drama revolve around shouting matches between the characters, who like other types living in rural communities also (as seen by urban-dwelling media types anyway) have sinister pagan leanings that come out when they are threatened. The killer is not caught in the end but instead haunted by the victim’s ghostly apparition, her vow to return to haunt the killer empowered by the paganism that (in urban eyes anyway) survives in English woodland. (The title is meant to be a pun: Mayday = help / ancient pagan festival, geddit.)

To be fair to the BBC, they did make a more successful stab at the genre with another gruff Scots detective, in their March crime series pilot Shetland, which is based on a crime-novel series and was filmed on location in this most Nordic part of the UK to achieve a vivid sense of place, and has now been commissioned as a full series. ITV on the other hand, has made less of an impact with another current seaside drama, The Ice Cream Girls, not an investigative serial but a 3-part psychological revenge drama about a dark secret buried in the characters’ teen years, supposedly set in Brighton but shot in Ireland for tax reasons. And despite writer-producer Chris Chibnall’s involvement with fantasy dramas like Life On Mars, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Camelot, Broadchurch remained grounded in a specific time and place. (His acquaintance with Dr Who star David Tennant is likely the reason the lead detective is Scots.) There was only one scene with CGI elements, the clifftop beacon-lighting ceremony, introduced to help visualise the community's final ‘closure.’

Broadchurch did carefully respect the genre’s whodunnit-mystery aspect: there were no previews at the end of each episode giving away half the next episode's plot, and advance press preview ‘screener’ copies were withheld for the last 2 episodes. (Given that Ep. 6 had a rather action-packed ending with the killer attacking the detective etc, it may be the series was intended to be shown as four 2-hr episodes, as with earlier ITV series like Inspector Morse and A Touch Of Frost.) Much of the online commenting has been about unresolved plot threads (e.g. the postman), indicating viewers were struggling to piece together clues, trying to achieve their own ‘closure.’


Overlooking the scene of the crime. In fact, several different locations were combined for these and other scenes.

By Ep. 6, a betting-shop firm was offering 7-to-4 odds that the killer was X, though their correct guess, suggested by commenters, seems to have been largely through a process of elimination of former suspects. As usual in this genre, these had gone out of their way to appear guilty by Acting Suspicious and then refusing to provide a proper alibi - to maintain their privacy and avoid tabloid exposure, it turns out. The tabloid press were another element in the drama (with the Leveson Charter pending, a topical one), depicted in a less cut-and-dried manner than the slimy characters Inspectors Morse and Wexford would run across. The plot’s over-reliance on past cases of abuse of children (three unrelated instances crop up in the ‘back’ story alone) as a motive for obstruction of justice as well as killing warped the overall social portrait somewhat towards media cliche. TV producers inevitably claim lifting the trappings of the most sensational cases from the headlines is them “dealing with” a social problem; but here all the instances prove to be more tragic misunderstandings with their own set of additional victims. A more controversial idea was not taken up (beyond some threats to the local vicar) that one or more of the boys themselves might have been involved in blackmail (as in William Trevor’s BBC-TV dramatised award-winning 1976 novel Children Of Dynmouth, which has a similar West-Dorset seaside-town setting).

The quickly-announced Series Two seems foolhardy, given the way the writer tried to avoid writing an 8-hour pilot for a longer ‘detective’ series, sidelining the two police characters in more ways than one. (See the Telegraph’s “The Broadchurch Sequel Is A Mistake” [warning – spoilers].) Some are cynically speculating the 2nd series will be to plug the gaps remaining in the story, a back-story prequel like the Twin Peaks feature Fire Walk With Me. These gaps began right away, e.g. why Det Sgt Miller did not get the Det Insp promotion she was expecting, and why DI Hardy was given the job instead when he was [a] patently ill (passing out etc, so unsafe to drive a car) [b] attacked in the national press (“Is this Britain’s Worst Copper?”) for bungling a child murder elsewhere and (as commenters kept pointing out) [c] unable even to shave himself or do up his collar. (He has the exact same unshaven stubble for the entire 59-day investigation, so this may be an American-inspired (remember Miami Vice?) attempt to match the lead detective’s ‘iconic’ look in The Killing, where the female detective famously wore the same pullover throughout.
The lead detective’s main advice to his team and to the local community was to look out for anyone behaving oddly or differently, i.e. out of guilt or nerves; there was a certain amount of this behaviour to provide the usual red-herring suspects; but in the event, the killer turned out not to fit this profile, but gave himself up anyway, saying he was sick of hiding. This may have been intentional, further undermining the clichéd idea the lead detective must always be right in the end. However tight plotting was not the series’ strong point, and it seems the lesson is that to have a successful outing in this genre, what is more important is imparting a strong sense of place.

ITV, being a set of regional franchises, took the lead in filmed location drama early on, when it decided to compete against the BBC Drama department - which was more focused on soundstage shooting (with perhaps the odd exterior filmed scene to show the characters arriving somewhere). Though some trendsetting ITV prestige productions were shot abroad, line producers complained ITV wanted the award-winning quality of Brideshead Revisited, Jewel In The Crown and Reilly Ace Of Spies without actually offering realistic budgets. The answer was to have a crime series set and filmed within the ITV company’s own regional franchise area. ITV had already developed a strong presence with crime dramas like The Sweeney (all location-shot) in the 70s, and later maintained it with feature-length i.e. 2-hr crime dramas like Inspector Morse and A Touch Of Frost, which ran through the 1980s, 1990s, into the 2000s, only ending as the lead actor was dead or too old. These have almost always begun as novel adaptations but have then branched off into original scripts, as with Morse spinoff Lewis (just finishing after 7 seasons) and ITV’s just-underway young-Morse prequel series Endeavour. BBC responded with their own crime series set and filmed in distinctive regional settings, most successfully with their 1980s Jersey-set hit Bergerac (which it is now looking to revive).

The need for a strong sense of place is confirmed by tourism enquiries to wherever the series is set. Local councils often make the mistake of thinking a story full of murders etc will put visitors off, but this does not happen. The Dorset area has not had the one-to-one association of tv crime series and locality as say, Jersey enjoyed with Bergerac, Oxford with Morse or Cornwall with Wycliffe, but crime novels, films and tv dramas have a long history of being set in the Dorset area: our two-part guide to this has now been updated to include Broadchurch. Given the inherent scripting difficulties, it may be a 2nd series will be a long time coming; in the meantime, West Dorset tourist offices have reported enquiries have shot up. In the event, visitors may discover tv producers' sleight-of-hand in combining widely separated locations to create a single locale (as many scenes were shot at Clevedon in North Somerset as in Dorset). But it seems people like to engage with this genre by exploring the scene of the crime for themselves, which will bring them to those red cliffs which are such a distinctive part of the Jurassic Coast.

Broadchurch graphic banner
ITV's surreal (perhaps Dr Who inspired) graphic banner, showing David Tennant with wind-tousled hair and the whole town pushed up onto the cliff overlooking the murder scene, all wrapped up in police crime-scene tape.

Bournemouth AirShow 2013
The area's biggest media event, the 4-day airshow [29/8/13-1/9/13], still has no proper timetable freely available online (see our commentary on this from previous years), but Wave-FM is at least offering a live-feed online video channel, here. (Flying events are usually noon to 430 and evening displays 7.15pm.) The Echo also has a daily as-it-happens 'blog' page with Twitter updates, here and a 'schedule' with no specific timings (just the running order), here.
Update: The above links are of course now dead or out of date, but media coverage can be found on YouTube, here.

Jane Austen Bicentenary
The press is currently running many items on Jane Austen due to its being the 200th anniversary of her Pride And Prejudice, ranked in polls as 'the nation's favourite novel,' which was published this day [28th January] in 1813. We have more info on our Local-Literature homepage, plus a linked dedicated page on local-interest sites (literary locales and filming locations), just updated. [read more].

Setting The Scene In Wessex: The Crime Novel & Drama
Part Two of our 2-part guide to local-interest crime novels and film/tv dramas is now online. This had to be divided into two pages because in terms of sheer output, it is the biggest literary genre of all, with work ranging from novels about old-time smugglers through the Golden Age of the Detective Story, to the latest 'forensic' thrillers. Part One, covering up to 1945, is here, and Part Two, covering up to the present day, is here.

Ken Russell, 1927-2011: British Film's Wild Man In The Woods
The region’s most long-established filmmaker was Ken Russell, “the wild man of British cinema,” who lived in the New Forest and died shortly before Xmas. Ken often shot scenes for his films locally, regardless of where they were set, and as promised earlier in our obit-notice item, we’ve put together a feature web-page on his local links, some of which may surprise you.
[view feature page]























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