Whatever Happened To Community?

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Through Thick and Thin20131202

01Through Thick and Thin2013120220140129

01Through Thick And Thin2013120220140129

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

Community has become one of those warm and fuzzy notions about which it feels impossible to complain. But Giles thinks our presumptions about community should be challenged.

His parish in inner London is rich in diversity, but many people survive in bedsits on short-term lets and have little in common with their neighbours. Their communities have become very thin and they struggle to find common ground.

Nowhere is that common ground more apparent than in our nostalgic ideal of community - embodied in the picture postcard English village. Here is the ultimate 'thick' community - everybody knows everybody else's business, some people still leave their back doors unlocked, and locals are broadly similar in their worldview.

To examine this rural idyll, Giles travels to Northamptonshire to talk to his parents. He has no desire to live in this sort of place, but he's really interested to try to get under the skin of a close, cohesive and un-diverse community and to get a sense of the real benefits and disadvantages of living there. He also goes to nearby Finedon to talk to the vicar - Rev Richard Coles. He asks what it's like to live in a place like this if you're not quite the same as the majority - perhaps because you're gay, an immigrant, or simply plain different.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

01Through Thick and Thin2013120220140129

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

Community has become one of those warm and fuzzy notions about which it feels impossible to complain. But Giles thinks our presumptions about community should be challenged.

His parish in inner London is rich in diversity, but many people survive in bedsits on short-term lets and have little in common with their neighbours. Their communities have become very thin and they struggle to find common ground.

Nowhere is that common ground more apparent than in our nostalgic ideal of community - embodied in the picture postcard English village. Here is the ultimate 'thick' community - everybody knows everybody else's business, some people still leave their back doors unlocked, and locals are broadly similar in their worldview.

To examine this rural idyll, Giles travels to Northamptonshire to talk to his parents. He has no desire to live in this sort of place, but he's really interested to try to get under the skin of a close, cohesive and un-diverse community and to get a sense of the real benefits and disadvantages of living there. He also goes to nearby Finedon to talk to the vicar - Rev Richard Coles. He asks what it's like to live in a place like this if you're not quite the same as the majority - perhaps because you're gay, an immigrant, or simply plain different.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

02Nostalgia20131209

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In our digital, global age, we look back with misty eyes to a 'golden age' of community in the 1950s. But our anxiety about lost community is nothing new.

In 1836, Augustus Pugin published Contrasts, a book of architectural drawings comparing the buildings of the medieval community with those of the industrial revolution. In response to what he saw as the urban decay and social rootlessness created by the industrial revolution, Pugin set about re-inventing the architecture of medieval community, initiating the Gothic revival. This wasn't simply about highly decorated churches with pointy arches, it was a wholesale programme of social and moral reform - a return to some imagined 'golden age' where people lived at ease with each other in stable and religiously engaged communities with shared values.

Giles travels to North Staffordshire, often known as 'Pugin-land' because of the high concentration of Pugin's buildings, to explore how many in the 19th century wanted to return to medieval forms of community. He argues that this is not dissimilar to the nostalgia many people feel today in response to globalisation and social churn.

And in the struggling former pottery town of Stoke on Trent he talks to MP Tristram Hunt about contemporary anxiety over community, and challenges a former BNP councillor nostalgic for a past with few immigrants and full employment.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

02Nostalgia2013120920140205

02Nostalgia2013120920140205

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In our digital, global age, we look back with misty eyes to a 'golden age' of community in the 1950s. But our anxiety about lost community is nothing new.

In 1836, Augustus Pugin published Contrasts, a book of architectural drawings comparing the buildings of the medieval community with those of the industrial revolution. In response to what he saw as the urban decay and social rootlessness created by the industrial revolution, Pugin set about re-inventing the architecture of medieval community, initiating the Gothic revival. This wasn't simply about highly decorated churches with pointy arches, it was a wholesale programme of social and moral reform - a return to some imagined 'golden age' where people lived at ease with each other in stable and religiously engaged communities with shared values.

Giles travels to North Staffordshire, often known as 'Pugin-land' because of the high concentration of Pugin's buildings, to explore how many in the 19th century wanted to return to medieval forms of community. He argues that this is not dissimilar to the nostalgia many people feel today in response to globalisation and social churn.

And in the struggling former pottery town of Stoke on Trent he talks to MP Tristram Hunt about contemporary anxiety over community, and challenges a former BNP councillor nostalgic for a past with few immigrants and full employment.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

02Nostalgia2013120920140205

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In our digital, global age, we look back with misty eyes to a 'golden age' of community in the 1950s. But our anxiety about lost community is nothing new.

In 1836, Augustus Pugin published Contrasts, a book of architectural drawings comparing the buildings of the medieval community with those of the industrial revolution. In response to what he saw as the urban decay and social rootlessness created by the industrial revolution, Pugin set about re-inventing the architecture of medieval community, initiating the Gothic revival. This wasn't simply about highly decorated churches with pointy arches, it was a wholesale programme of social and moral reform - a return to some imagined 'golden age' where people lived at ease with each other in stable and religiously engaged communities with shared values.

Giles travels to North Staffordshire, often known as 'Pugin-land' because of the high concentration of Pugin's buildings, to explore how many in the 19th century wanted to return to medieval forms of community. He argues that this is not dissimilar to the nostalgia many people feel today in response to globalisation and social churn.

And in the struggling former pottery town of Stoke on Trent he talks to MP Tristram Hunt about contemporary anxiety over community, and challenges a former BNP councillor nostalgic for a past with few immigrants and full employment.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

03 LASTReconstructing Community20131216

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In this final programme he asks what lies at the heart of community. Is it possible to intervene to make communities stronger?

Giles visits the RSA project in Bristol, Social Mirror. Its aim is to combat a growing plague of loneliness, especially amongst older people. Gaia Marcus, who runs the project, believes that a lack of social connectedness can impact heavily on mental health, well-being and life prospects. Social Mirror offers 'social prescriptions' to people visiting their doctors' surgery - including bingo, walking, tai chi, gardening and drama - forging links between individuals and building social networks.

Social geographer Jane Wills explains the role of social organising in strengthening communities. An idea born in America and made famous by Barack Obama, it is gaining currency here.

David Goodhart from the think tank Demos and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the opening ceremony of last year's Olympic Games, discuss the role of national identity.

And, in an increasingly secular age, Giles asks theologian John Milbank and priest and broadcaster Richard Coles whether there still a role for the church in building our communities.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

03 LASTReconstructing Community2013121620140214

03 LASTReconstructing Community2013121620140214

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In this final programme he asks what lies at the heart of community. Is it possible to intervene to make communities stronger?

Giles visits the RSA project in Bristol, Social Mirror. Its aim is to combat a growing plague of loneliness, especially amongst older people. Gaia Marcus, who runs the project, believes that a lack of social connectedness can impact heavily on mental health, well-being and life prospects. Social Mirror offers 'social prescriptions' to people visiting their doctors' surgery - including bingo, walking, tai chi, gardening and drama - forging links between individuals and building social networks.

Social geographer Jane Wills explains the role of social organising in strengthening communities. An idea born in America and made famous by Barack Obama, it is gaining currency here.

David Goodhart from the think tank Demos and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the opening ceremony of last year's Olympic Games, discuss the role of national identity.

And, in an increasingly secular age, Giles asks theologian John Milbank and priest and broadcaster Richard Coles whether there still a role for the church in building our communities.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

03 LASTReconstructing Community2013121620140214

Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.

In this final programme he asks what lies at the heart of community. Is it possible to intervene to make communities stronger?

Giles visits the RSA project in Bristol, Social Mirror. Its aim is to combat a growing plague of loneliness, especially amongst older people. Gaia Marcus, who runs the project, believes that a lack of social connectedness can impact heavily on mental health, well-being and life prospects. Social Mirror offers 'social prescriptions' to people visiting their doctors' surgery - including bingo, walking, tai chi, gardening and drama - forging links between individuals and building social networks.

Social geographer Jane Wills explains the role of social organising in strengthening communities. An idea born in America and made famous by Barack Obama, it is gaining currency here.

David Goodhart from the think tank Demos and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the opening ceremony of last year's Olympic Games, discuss the role of national identity.

And, in an increasingly secular age, Giles asks theologian John Milbank and priest and broadcaster Richard Coles whether there still a role for the church in building our communities.

Producer: Jane Greenwood.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.