Playful Radio – Something Political

Somethin’ Else make radio. In fact they do a lot of things, online, apps, radio etc. but one exciting thing that they are doing soon is a day of pilots for ‘Playful Radio’. July 7th they will broadcast over the internet a number of pilots, ideas for interactive, playful radio / audio content.

One of my ideas is in that list.

I have to admit that the idea when I put finger to keyboard, in my mind felt rather slight, it was in fact based on something that I had wanted to do around the election and was in fact much more of a visual art focus than this.

Inspired by the rather excellent ‘The Story‘ from earlier this year I wanted to do something around politics and playfulness. I still do, a day about playing games and making satire and exploring political ideas and processes in a way that is engaging to the many of people who would not in fact be interested in paying attention before.

We can step back further, before The Story even, to art. Here I have been thinking about the art of Peter Kennard, who now works with Cat Picton-Phillipps and they produce work, under the name kennardphillipps like this:

Tony Blair takes a picture of himself with a phone in front of a burning oil pipeline in Iraq - Photomontage
Tony Blair takes a picture of himself with a phone in front of a burning oil pipeline in Iraq - Photomontage

Peter Kennard has been doing this politically charged photomontage work for years, in the 70’s and 80’s he produced numerous works for CND.

One of his most famous is ‘The Haywain‘ where he took John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain (1821) and placed upon it the image of 3 nuclear missiles.

For me this is still a powerful image, the pastoral view of England with American missiles in it.

When Banksy started doing his ‘Santa’s Ghetto’ pop-up shops in London, this image of Tony Blair in front of a burning oil pipeline was a best seller.

It is not just Peter Kennard, a whole new generation of artists, many of them street artists are mixing politics in with their often playful images. The work of Banksy of course, but also collectives like Static.

Static produced a rather interesting ‘games’ series of prints around 2008. The three prints are ‘Right Hand Red’, ‘Fortunes Fated’ and ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’. They each have a distinctive style and each is about politics, protest and games. RHR features riot police and a game of Twister, FF Nixon and Kennedy face off over a Wheel of Fortune and in COU a game of Urban Cricket is played in an urban wasteland with riot vans watching.

They have continued to produce work that is based in politics and satire that is also playful and unique.

Now I have always enjoyed my politics delivered with a touch of anger, satire, creative spins etc. As I think I have mentioned in a blog post before, beyond my comic reading of Starlord and 200AD, when ‘Crisis’ came out I latched onto it and lapped up every instalment of ‘Third World War’.

And recently in my investigation into games and play it does not take long to find this same spark in this creative area either. Political simulations have been played for years. Some of the most popular video games are in fact of this type, Civilization and SimCity. There are also card/board games that allow you to play the Cold War or the Nixon/Kennedy election and most recently a small company in Cambridge started producing a board game about the ‘War on Terror’. It includes a black balaclava with the word ‘Evil’ on it. When your country is selected by the spinner as part of the Aix of Evil, you don the balaclava. Its probably a highly accurate simulation of the actual model used to decide who does form a part of this particular Axis.

On election night I wanted to fill a room with artists, to watch the coverage as it came in and produce art works, mashups through the night about the election, the reporting of the election, what was the world that was starting the following morning. Peter Kennard often describes himself as an ‘Unofficial War Artist’ then this would be a group of ‘Unofficial Election Artists’ responding to the nights events.

It did not happen, but the idea of mixing and remixing as an approach to examining politics and news as a playful prism still stuck in my head. So when I got an email mentioning that Somethin Else were looking for ideas, I sent something over.

All very visual, how does this work on radio?

So the idea was this, to take the interactive stream of twitter, find the stories and satirise them on the radio show, play with them. I tried to describe what I wanted, it needs to be The Daily Show meets Blue Jam, on the radio. The idea itself was not much more, as I thought about what I wanted to do I could not get away from thinking visually about the photomontages and mashups I have spoken about above.

But Somethin’ Else know about Radio and I got an email saying that they wanted to try the idea out.

Its amazing how popular comedy and panel shows about current affairs are. Its astounding that people would actually say that they did not watch the news, they watched ‘The Daily Show’ to get their information on what was happening in the world. Maybe it is something reassuring, if these people can write a joke about it, it can’t be ‘that’ bad. The world carries on. Forgetting, of course that comedy can often be so cruel.

I know that I cannot watch news progammes without thinking about ‘The Day Today’ and ‘Brass Eye’ the television shows by Chris Morris that tore apart how new and current affairs are communicated by modern media. Of course it was Chris Morris who also produced ‘Blue Jam’ something a lot more surreal and frankly odd. By latching onto Blue Jam as the nexus point with Chris Morris I want to say that we are trying to come up with something that is a bit different, not just Brass Eye on the radio.

Chris Morris has spoken about why his current film about Islamic Terrorists is not done in the style of Brass Eye, it was something he has done, about the language of television news, he did not need to re-tread that. We don’t either.

Of course maybe we will be lost in the sea of programmes about the news and I list these as shows that have influenced my when thinking about what this playful radio experiment could be.

My Inspirations:

‘The Now Show’, ‘PM’, ‘Broadcasting House’, ‘Mock The Week’, ‘Have I Got News For You’,’Russell Howards Good News’, ‘Spitting Image’, ‘Yes Minister’, ‘Yes Prime Minister’, ‘The Thick Of It’, ‘The Daily Show’, ‘Brass Eye’, ‘The Day Today’.

I hope that you will listen in on the 7th and give us your feedback, I hope that it works and it is something fun and worth listening too. When I have the links, I’ll post them here and on twitter. When I have more news on the presenter I’ll post that too.

In the meantime, if you think you spot a story that might be interesting, or could be funny, or just odd or important then let me know, on twitter: @marksimpkins