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Genuine vs manufactured grief

Genuine vs manufactured grief

As has been reported across the British blogerati and the Internet, broadcasting institution (in the very best possible sense of the word) John Peel died suddenly, aged 65. Although not everyone is that bothered.

Unlike previous deaths of very-famous-people, John’s passing has provoked surprise (wot, he was 65 ?!!), genuine regret and a tinge of mourning amongst friends and colleagues.

There were whisperings in the corridor at lunchtime, followed by a phone call from a friend with access to a Reuters newsfeed. This was followed by emails from other friends, colleagues and all-staff emails generally expressing shock and surprise.

When I got home, my flatmate (whose birthday it was) asked me if I’d heard about John Peel. At her birthday dinner (me? With 15 ladies, not all of them lesbians? With my reputation?) the DJ asked for a minute’s silence – and got it, from the bar staff and patrons alike. Try getting a minute’s silence from football ground patrons for Ken Bigley.

This morning, Chris Moyles delivered a seemingly personal tribute to John Peel, complete with anecdotes. Totally at odds with her usual beer-and-lager persona.

Contrast all this to when Diana died.

The national mood of mourning, and constant saturation by the media seemed to be totally at odds with what people I knew were actually feeling. Even Radio 1 breakfast DJ Kevin Greening‘s “tributes” to Diana seemed to be lacking any personal involvement, and were more just about reflecting the national mood.

While TV news kept showing people lining up to pay their respects amidst hysterical scenes outside kensington Palace, my workmates would make jokes about Diana – although never when the mourning tealady came by. The comedian I went to see the night of Diana’s death – after being reassured by a weary telephone operative that the gig was still going ahead – even made a small joke about his act being full of Diana jokes, and that the gig was now cancelled. During the moment of silence at Diana’s funeral, my flatmate could be heard shagging his girlfriend.


  • tamper

    Bizarrely, the BBC Three channel bug (the thing permanently in the top-left of the screen) last night read "BBC Three – Dedicated to John Peel'.

    As you can imagine, I was greatly comforted by this tribute of, er.., dedicating the channel's evening output. Although it didn't make the wife's bedtime viewing of 'Good Girls Don't' and Graham Norton any less grating…

  • we seem to want to share emotions in this society where most people are strangers. Unfortunately the emotion we seem to have chosen is that of communal grief.How sad this seems to be when there is so much to celebrate in our country

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