BBC Radio 3, 5 February 2012
Written by Alice Nutter, herself a member of the protest movement over
many years, My Generation chronicled the attempts by successive generations within a single family to involve themselves
in different protests - the Miners' Strike of 1984, the rave scene, and the current occupy movement where protestors marched
on the City of London and eventually camped outside St. Paul's Cathedral.
It was structured as a series of four tales, each told by different family members:
Cath (Jo Hartley) for the 1970s, her husband Mick (Jason Done) the 1980s, Cath's son Ben (John Catterall) for the 1990s, and
Emma (Emma Rydall) for the 2000s. Each one of them were involved in different types of protest, and living in various accommodations
- a squat, a camp, and a respectable house in suburban Leeds. However what unified them was the desire to eliminate capitalism
and work towards a more egalitarian society.
As the action unfolded, a paradox emerged - the inevitable consequence, perhaps,
of growing older. While Mick and Cath never lost their radical beliefs, they gradually acquired the trappings of bourgeois
existence - a house, a car, good clothes; in other words, they became part of that capitalist generation that inspired younger
people to protest.
Bearing this mind, I began to wonder whether the 'protest movement' could actually be called a 'movement' at
all. It did not seem to have a specific cause (unlike CND, for instance, which campaigned for decades from the 1950s to the
1980s against the use of nuclear warheads in Britain), but rather constituted a series of isolated protests against different
causes - the Thatcher government, the City slickers, or global capitalists. Rather it seemed to me that the family were united
by the desire to protest; in other words, to find a direct means of expressing their dissatisfaction with
the world they lived in. Director Susan Roberts emphasized this shared desire through
an imaginative use of doubling: Rydall and Austin (as well as Aimee Leigh Foster, Harvey Chaisty and Carla Henra)
all played two roles over different generations.
With its epic structure, combining short dialogues with a wealth of cultural references
in the form of archive footage plus specially composed music (by Harry Hamer), My Generation offered a vivid
slice of social history over the past three decades. However it left me wondering whether three decades of sustained
protest actually led to a better world? Or is British society still as indifferent to the dispossessed as it was in the late
1970s? Given what has happened in recent months in London - as well as in other cities - I don't think we need to answer such