Any Questions – Lowestoft

I think I only went once to the Paris Theatre to watch a live radio broadcast when I lived in London, loved it so much swore I’d become a regular, but never did, nor did I return once! So here I am at 64, eager to accept the invitation from David Youngman, Waveney Greens, who extended beyong Lowestoft to us in land.

Michael and I went to Lowestoft’s Players Theatre to take part in BBC Radio 4’s longest running national discussion, Any Questions. It was first broadcast in October 1948.

Our surprising warm-up guest,. Lowestoft’s one and only Zeb Soanes. Like his own Shipping announcements, Any Questions’ hosts rarely move, mostly after over a score years. Initially chaired by Freddie Grisewood from 1948 to 1967, followed by David Jacobs from 1967 to 1984, by John Timpson an unusal brief sojourn from 1984 to 1987 and by Jonathan Dimbleby from 1987 to 2019, our host tonight was the quick, bird-eyed, Yorkshire man Chris Mason. Zeb was brilliant, affirming his Lowestoft links, taking us through his own career as would be actor listening to shipping news, to announcing it himself, after going out in boat to see and feel it’s importance out at sea.

It was a pleasure to be in Seagull land, off Tom Crisp road, at this local theatre, whose volunteers and trustees made us immediately welcome. We were invited to write our questions down collected by a typical BBC man (crush corduroy jacket, jeans, french beret, and smiling eyes) . ‘This is your show’, he galvanised us. ‘The panel can come and go, it is your chance to speak up, make your views known, do not be shy. It is fab being back on the road, not on zoom, and among the people again’, he qualified.

Sadly our questions were not chosen among the 8 which were, and we watched with some jealously as the chosen askers were escorted to the front seats for ease of microphone boom. ‘I can confirm that the panel do not hear the question before the show’ said our BBC beret man.

The panel were journalist and broadcaster, Ian Dale; Doctor Karen Hester, chief operations officer for Adnams, and two MP’s, Gillian Keegan, Conservative for Chichester and Minister for apprenticeship and skills, and our own Clive Lewis Labour MP for Norwich South.

The first question was regarding the general health of the nation, and the need to ‘level up’ especially coastal communities, who felt they were neglected in favour of large cities as in the Red Wall.
Clive immediately used this as a way into our most urgent need, to address the Climate Emergency. Government investment must relate to ‘Green Jobs’. The Government should do the what and Local power the how. What exactly are Green Jobs? prompted Chris Mason. Jobs with low carbon footprints – a well-paid job, say, in the Care industry, workers who do vital jobs, working in communities, no material throughput, but an essential service.
Gillian Keegan mentioned the new development of the James Paget which would help in some way to ‘level up’ locally. She also cited Sizewell as an effective job creator, to some rumblings in the audience. Karen Hester said any job, green or not, would be welcome here.

The second question was on Afghanistan, with Clive Lewis answering first, as he’d served time there. Loads to unpick here: the morality of not protecting the translators left behind, of withdrawing before I was safe; was it a just war in the first place? Lots of opportunity to take the moral high ground which all did with ease.

The third question was on Labour leadership of Corbyn and Keir Starmer (Starmer recently urged Labour to embrace Blair’s legacy). It seems that Clive Lewis had already made his view known (giving Starmer a D-) and did not change his tune. His point was Starmer’s view and vision was not clear. With Blair you knew it was Education, Education, Education. ‘I wish it was ‘Green Jobs, Green Jobs, Green Jobs with Starmer’, he said
Karen Hester was brief: A leader is supposed to lead. ‘Ouch’ said Clive Lewis.

The final question (although 8 were selected we only had time for 4) was concerning Sizewell. I liked Karen Hester’s point. Look at your mobile phone, she said in a pragmatic and honest approach, the one in your hand is already out of date. How can we be building a massive project, not complete for 10 years, on technology we think is modern now?
Chris Mason directed the question to the involvement of the Chinese with a 20% stake, inviting a spot of jingoism (how can we work with a country who discriminates against the Uighurs) and build back British. Gillian Keegan: We need Nuclear to reach our Net Zero objectives.

We walked out to the dusk of Lowestoft, to the easterly most point with dogs released running freely, with waves crashing on Lowestoft’s protective rocks, the extreme edge of our Island.

2 thoughts on “Any Questions – Lowestoft”

  1. Interesting commentary Rachel. Thanks. We too visited Lowestoft yesterday for the first time in years. I must say we were very pleasantly surprised. Hope you are well.

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