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Fisherman’s friend

Open Country - review.

Open Country
Radio 4

This year’s first episode of Open Country was powerful. The presenter Helen Marks went to Hastings to consider its small fishing fleet of under-ten-metre boats that have worked off the shingle for over 1,000 years. The fiftysomething Marks is a fearless, intelligent presenter – her sympathetic Borders accent occasionally hinting at Ulster too (she has worked as a presenter there) – who does the bravura number of just going up to people, introducing herself and saying what she’s there for several times an episode. This gives the programme an intensely here-andnow feel, as though absolutely nothing has been edited out.

“Can I come into your shed, Arthur?” she asked one of the fish-sellers on the beach who help drag the boats up lard-smeared wooden boards that sit on the shingle. “ . . . Yes,” barked Arthur, sounding a little surprised, as this rather intense woman seemingly came out of nowhere (you could picture Marks in her navy cagoule and fleece) and proceeded to ask him a series of searching questions about the fish he had been selling that week. “Plaice, sole, grey mullet, shad . . .” he listed. “Shad?” challenged Marks, fiercely. “It’s between a herring and a sea bass,” shrugged Arthur. Marks later questioned a fisherman on the exact nature of a huss (a catshark) and said, with somewhat narrowed eyes, “Right, I think I’ll take a look.” You definitely want Marks inside your tent pissing out.

At one point she coaxed a fisherman into recalling the dangers of the job before effective lifejackets: “Nobody knew what to do if you went over the side. You just did whatever came naturally. Which was drown . . .” A couple of times she broke off to describe for us, quite brilliantly, ropes pulled taut as boats were hauled from the sea or the gladiatorial battle between gulls over scraps of fish on the shore (“One has taken flight with fish in his mouth but – oh!”). How to wrap the rather mesmeric programme up without letting it drift once? With typical forensic skill Marks simply stood aside to make room for a genuinely hand-wringing monologue given by a fleet representative about new legislation forcing fishermen to throw back the (many) cod they land – their swim bladders ruptured in the nets, not one fish survives. Marks didn’t even sign-off, restoring a kind of sanity, in tone at least.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 14 January 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Dinosaurs vs modernisers

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SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

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SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

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The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.