A need for Meades

A review in The Guardian of a collection of Jonathan Meades’ writing reminded me just how much I enjoyed his television work over the years.

Pedro and Ricky Come Again by Jonathan Meades review – dandyish Hulk rampageThe Guardian
Nationalism, for one thing. “Like all causes, all denominations, all churches, all movements, nationalism shouts about its muscle and potency yet reveals its frailty by demanding statutory protection against alleged libels,” Meades wrote in 2006. The coming of Brexit did not moderate this view. “The nationalist urge to leave was a form of faith,” he observed in 2019. “A faith is autonomous. A faith requires no empirical proof … Taking Back Control was a euphemism for the Balkanisation of Britain, for atomisation, for communitarianism based in ethnicity, class, place, faith. A willing apartheid where the other is to be mistrusted – just like in the Golden Age when we drowned the folk in the next valley because their word for haystack was different from ours.” […]

Probably we don’t deserve Meades, a man who apparently has never composed a dull paragraph. What other living writer has a YouTube channel devoted to low-res digitisations of his TV documentaries that the bootlegging uploaders have literally called a place of worship: the Meades Shrine?

That YouTube channel mentioned above is here, but it in turn wants us to go instead to meadesshrine.blogspot.com​, “All Meades’ films can be found there, in one piece, and no copyright takedowns.”

MeadesShrine

It’s great to see his programmes about brutalist architecture are there. I missed them when they were first shown on BBC Four, and the iPlayer doesn’t want to help out, annoyingly. I wonder if my favourite example will feature.

Concrete jungle: the brutalist buildings of northern EnglandThe Guardian
A new book captures the most aspirational and enlightened architecture of the north’s postwar years – featuring competitive church building and an endless supply of reinforced concrete. […]

Roger Stevens Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse, LS2.
Designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. Built 1968–71, listed Grade II*. The building was erected to house multiple lecture theatres, and acts as a focal point of Leeds University’s expanding campus. An initial design was abandoned in 1963, its cantilevered theatres deemed too expensive. A simpler proposal for ramped circulation eliminated the need for cantilevers. Simplified thus, the building went ahead. Constructed of reinforced concrete, since painted, its character is derived from the ventilation pipes and recessed balconies.

I know their documentary styles couldn’t be more different, but there’s something about the work of both Adam Curtis and Jonathan Meades that I find enthralling, commanding and utterly necessary — binge-worthy material to be sure.