Fri 1 to Thu 28 Feb 2013 to be announced

BBC Radio 4 broadcasts controversial poem

  • By Yafit Lazar and 1 other
  • Last update: 3 years ago
  • United Kingdom

Holbeck Cemetery, Beeston Road

Wikipedia-Betty Longbottom

BBC Radio 4 is set to broadcast a new version of
Tony Harrison's 1980s poem V, which could lead to one of the the biggest controversies in the radio's history. 

The British radio station is expected to broadcast the poem, which was written during the 1984-85 miners strike, as part of a celebration of poetry. When it was first aired on Channel 4 in 1987, V caused an outrage that even prompted an early day motion in the Commons.

The poem touches on religious, cultural and racial divides in the Beeston area of Leeds. It focuses on the author's reaction to visiting his parents' graves in Leeds, only to find the cemetery littered with beer cans and vandalised by obscene graffiti.

The new version of the poem will be preceded by a documentary about the reaction it provoked in the 1980s and will be broadcast between 11 p.m. and midnight. Prior to the airing of the poem the station will emit multiple warnings about the language.

When faced with criticism, Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams defended the decision to broadcast the poem, despite its repeated use of words such as "fuck", "cunt" and "nigger".

"The audience doesn't like swearing and I don't like it. I tell my children not to swear," said Williams. "But you cannot tamper with the integrity of the piece. We would never do it gratuitously," he added.

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