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Radio review: My Name Is . . . AnnaFaith, Hope and Glory; and The Documentary: World Wide Waves: The sounds of Community Radio

19 February 2021

erin english/creative commons

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, often referred to as Michfest, played a central part in an analysis of the trans wars in My Name is . . . Anna (Radio 4, Monday of last week)

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, often referred to as Michfest, played a central part in an analysis of the trans wars in My Name is . . . A...

IT IS a world of terfs, cervix-havers, and birthing people. Enter at your peril. The consequences of a misstep are ugly: a dung-heap of abuse, and death threats thrown in for good measure. Welcome to Anna’s world. Anna is, her enemies say, a “terf” — which, if you don’t speak identity politics, stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”. I don’t dare attempt a summary of Anna’s belief-system; and, besides, she gives a good enough account of herself in My Name is . . . Anna (Radio 4, Monday of last week).

This nasty coinage was forged in the heat of debate around the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, often referred to as Michfest; and the story plays a central part in Anna’s conscientiously open-minded analysis of the trans wars.

Established in the 1970s as a gathering intended to allow women a safe environment in which to express themselves away from the oppressive gaze of men, Michfest made the decision in the early 1990s to exclude trans women. In protest, a “Camp Trans” was set up next door, an enterprise that itself fell into factional dispute between the pre- and post-operative trans communities. As one bewildered resident admitted plaintively: “I’m 67. . . I’m not so evolved as to be able to transcend the penis issue.”

And then it got really complicated. In interview with a cis-gendered woman and trans man, Anna herself seemed to be struggling with the concepts, despite the couple’s insistence that it was not difficult to extend your language to include such granular distinctions of identity and expression.

I suppose we might choose to enjoy this era of linguistic expansion. Not since Shakespeare have we seen such a rich proliferation of insult.

It might, on the other hand, make you nostalgic for a time when there were no aggressions, just plain prejudice. Faith, Hope and Glory (Radio 4, weekdays last week) is an ambitious series of dramas which promises a history of modern Britain through the lives of a network of Afro-Caribbean characters. Starting in the immediate post-war period, the challenges for them are familiar. Even the unnamed waitress who appears in Thursday’s episode, full of gratitude towards her colonial cousins for their contribution to the war effort, doesn’t get it. Why, she asks, would “you lot” want to stay in England, now the war is over? Surely you prefer palm trees to bomb craters.

For all its good intentions, and the prestige that the playwright Roy Williams brings to the project, this is a series that has as yet failed to launch. The three monologues that opened the series lacked the poetry and panache required to sustain interest; and we lacked any sense of the bigger picture.

Not an accusation that one could bring against The Documentary: World Wide Waves: The sounds of Community Radio (World Service, Sunday), which celebrated World Radio Day by profiling five local radio stations from as far afield as Tamil Nadu and Bolivia. Anyone in doubt about the relevance of radio in the 21st century might usefully have a listen.

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