The 1970s. Strikes, power-cuts, three-day weeks, inflation, Paki-bashing and the dead left unburied. Or, seen from another perspective, it was a period dominated by Morecambe & Wise, glam rock, detective fiction, club football, Get Carter and The Good Life. Actually, of course, it encompassed both those visions, and more. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Wealth inequality was at a record low, but industrial disruption was at a record high. These were the glory years of Dr Who and Coronation Street, but the darkest days of the Northern Ireland conflict. In 1978 London Weekend Television launched a new series, The South Bank Show, announcing that it would cover 'the consumed arts - cinema, rock, paperbacks and even television.' It was an acknowledgement that if you wanted to understand modern Britain, you had to look at popular culture. Crisis? What Crisis? follows that lead, telling the story of Britain in the 1970s through the soaps and sitcoms, the music and movies, the fiction, fashion and sport of the time. And it adds one crucial ingredient: politics considered as one of the consumed arts.
This is not an insider's account of the crises that wracked Britain in that decade. Rather it is the consumer's version, a world seen through the eyes of the mass media, in which Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher and trade union leaders jostle for space with David Bowie, Hilda Ogden and skinheads. Alwyn W. Turner is the author of The Biba Experience and Cult Rock Posters. He lives in London.
Alwyn W. Turner is the author of The Biba Experience and Cult Rock Posters. He lives in London. www.alwynwturner.com