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Saturday 8th October 2011
The script for the first Objective of the second series has been a tricky one to get right - the golliwog is an incendiary item and I wanted to write a show that was funny, though not disrespectful to the broader issues. Even attempting to defend the golliwog could be needlessly offensive to many (though others would undoubtedly feel offended that this "innocent" toy would need defending). It's been a really fascinating subject to research and I won't have as much time on the other three shows, but in the end having met Golliwogg, the original golly, I was able to see him, at least, as a positive figure. He was a bullied and unattractive doll who Upton turned into a hero and children saw beyond his outward appearance and recognised his inner goodness. I wondered about ending the show by saying in a way he represented us all and toyed with listing some people who might be said to be like Golliwogg. It was an audacious thing to do and it made me laugh, but I also thought if the tone was right that it could make a strong and solid point. But what I had written, taken out of context, would be seen as pretty offensive and I knew that evening Radio 4 was probably not the place to try and make this point. So I kept on working, right through the rehearsals this afternoon to try and find the right way to finish.
The recording itself was, I think, the best one we've done on this series. The BBC had bought me a golliwog (with your licence fee) and I had it in my suit pocket and before the show I drew the audience's attention to the subject and there were audible gasps and you could actually sense how uncomfortable and worried many of them were. I hadn't anticipated that. I thought that most people would know already, maybe having followed the blog, but I think there were quite a few people there who weren't necessarily fans of mine and just came to whatever shows the BBC out on I hoped the tension would break when they saw which way I was going with it.
And luckily the hard work paid off, because I think the tone was right. And I managed to deal with Enid Blyton and nursery rhyme racist word excesses without actually saying the words out loud, but without letting anyone off the hook. Comedian Ava Vidal was my guest - she is black and has a great routine about the golliwog, but had also just been to a protest about the doll being stocked in a shop in Sutton. But she gave some context to how the golliwog had affected her own childhood, which hopefully would make the people who said it was just a harmless toy think again.
The recording took almost an hour and the radio show will only be half an hour, so it's hard to know how much of the stuff will stay in, but you can hear for yourself. It will be on at 6.30pm on November 8th (and also the iPlayer and hopefully this first episode will also be released as a podcast). It's great to have the first one under our belt.
But I couldn't go out for a drink to celebrate as I had to get home to prepare for the half marathon. I got my name ironed on to my running vest and my timing chip attached to my running shoe. My girlfriend and me couldn't quite believe what we were about to do and the nerves and fear made it hard to get to sleep.
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