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Monday, April 10, 2006
Comment: Groundwork is the People's choice
In the weird Big Brother-meets-Communist sloganeering of the 'People's Millions', today Groundwork emerged the winner of £1.5m Big Lottery Fund cash through TV voting via GMTV.

"After a week of campaigning, frenzied voting and fraught nerves, GMTV viewers have voted for Groundwork UK to deliver Safe and Sound, a programme that will bring different generations together to create safer environments and help people feel better about where they live."

Now I'm a fan of Groundwork and don't want to seem down on them, but 'frenzied...fraught...' - someone's had fun in that press office! Only 20,000 people - 0.03% of the population - voted so it's hardly the People's Millions, more like the Bored Housewives who watch daytime TV's Millions. What's more concerning is that this is evidently such a good way to give out money that next year, the 'People' will be asked to decide what project deserves to get £25-50m to spend.

That's all on top of Channel 4's Big Art Project, which at least has the sense not to expect the 'people' to vote in their masses for public art, Restoration, and Demolition, where 10,000 votes were cast in a tide of furious anti-concrete hysteria, and an entire town won the accolade of 'worst building', leading to a masterplanning process as they realised that they couldn't very well knock the whole thing down. Rather a ironic and fantastic outcome, actually - the programme that was meant to be about demolition actually turns out to be about recycling, re-use, adaptation of something imperfect into something better.

I can smile at Channel 4 and actually rather like the Big Art Project, but there's something cringeworthy about the government using GMTV to attempt some sort of direct democracy. They don't even have the ubiquitiously enthusastic Kevin McCloud on board. Its all a bit weird - 'press the red button on your TV remote for a playground in YOUR local neighbourhood!' and reminiscent of the whole ASBO TV debacle about to come to my local estates. As if voting for a few million from the Lottery will placate those of us who are mad about the billions that get spent subsidising air travel, for instance, or being able to spy on the local hoodies makes the fact that the council won't pay for youth centres suddenly OK. Bread and circuses, I say...


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