A beaver in Germany. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The government is capturing wild beavers for the first time in centuries

Beavers are the new badgers as the government's decision to trap England's wild beavers causes outrage among wildlife lovers.

Beavers. They're the ones who build dams and have tails that look like scaly ping-pong bats. They are very resourceful creatures who usually appear in fiction as industrious yet cosy folk, just hanging out, working on their dams and paddling with efficiency. Tory values, really. Ironic then that the government has decided to capture and house in a zoo England's first wild family of beavers in about 500 years.

The beavers live somewhat confusingly in a place called the River Otter, which is in Devon, and were first spotted in February this year in video footage captured by a local environmental scientist.

Defra minister George Eustice told parliament yesterday: "We intend to recapture and rehome the wild beavers in Devon and are currently working out plans for the best way to do so. All decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind. There are no plans to cull beavers."

But campaign group 38 Degrees has started a petition called "SAVE THE FREE BEAVERS OF ENGLAND" to send to the department, which states, "The beaver was hunted to extinction and we have a duty to bring them back to our rivers."

Here's the original footage of the family:

Here are some beavers:

A North American beaver. Photo: Getty

 

 

North American beavers. Photo: Getty

A beaver in Germany. Photo: Getty

A Scottish beaver. Photo: Paul Stevenson/Getty

A beaver in Germany. Photo: Getty

A beaver in Oregon. Photo: Bill Damon/Flickr

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Potato and Juliet: how Mark Rylance makes children like Shakespeare

A presenter who speaks freely but in the sort of sentences which can be used as powerful, off-the-cuff links throughout a programme is rare as a unicorn. 

How young can you learn Shakespeare? A rare repeat of a 1998 programme presented by Mark Rylance (27 April, 6.30am, rebroadcast 1.30pm and 8.30pm) asks the question. Not yet a superstar incapable of resisting a part in the new Christopher Nolan film, Rylance was then the artistic director of the Globe Theatre. Just an Abrahamic guy in a silly hat (most likely), sitting all mystical in a class of six-year-olds and asking things like what the word “Romeo” makes them think of.

“Potato,” someone decides. “Now, girls,” giggles Rylance, “would you fall in love with a boy called Potato?”

A presenter who speaks freely but in the sort of sentences that can then be cast into solid chunks and used as powerful, off-the-cuff links throughout a programme is rare as a unicorn. When Rylance talks about hoping that children recognise Shakespeare as a “playful friend, rather than someone they are going to meet on a forced march to an exam”, the unpreening lightness of his delivery suggests one, unscripted take. “He wrote for the ears,” the director went on. “It just sounds interesting. His words have body and form.”

I suppose the question is not so much how young you can teach Shakespeare, but how young you can teach any (great) poetry, because children instinctively take to it. For instance, a big-screen adaptation of T S Eliot’s Cats has been announced. In the fantasies of my friend James, this adaptation will feature Channing Tatum as Rum Tum Tugger and Lady Gaga singing “Memory”, and will be produced by the team behind The Incredibles. In short, a poem with children in mind while the adults sit there thinking: “What the f*** is this? There’s no plot at all!”

Instead, the upcoming Cats will be directed by the sombre Tom Hooper, doubtless brought in to “study” the text. Give me Rylance’s six-year-olds any day, imagining what things Henry V might have noticed the night before the Battle of Agincourt. “Wolves howling,” breathes one. “Bats flapping,” gulps another. Then finally – and this suggestion couldn’t be bettered – just before Henry steps out to claim “. . . I think the king is but a man, as I/am”, he possibly spots “a mouse rolling on his bed”. 

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 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

0800 7318496