Ian McMillan: Let the news be read in a northern accent

Humberside Police resident poet Ian McMillan at a press conference in Hull, where he began his appointment as official poet w
Humberside Police resident poet Ian McMillan at a press conference in Hull, where he began his appointment as official poet with the Humberside police force. * Mr McMillan believes his stint with the force will help bring a new understanding of the police's work and also help with his mission to make poetry part of everyday life. The 46-year-old is due to undertake a number of roles, including patrolling Hull's busy centre on a Friday night and observing at the Scunthorpe United versus Rochdale Nationwide League Division Three clash.As well as composing his verses as he steps out on the streets, Mr McMillan plans to write a more considered collection, and also help officers with their own compositions. Mr McMillan's time with the force is being filmed for two half-hour programmes to be broadcast on regional television later in the year.

Barnsley poet Ian McMillan has urged broadcasters to employ newsreaders who speak with a northern accent.

Writing in the Radio Times, he said that although the North is now central to the news agenda, people from the area “can’t be trusted with t’autocue”.

He added that while TV commissioners understand the importance of representing the North in drama they are hesitant to employ people with northern accents to read the news.

He said: “Seismic and nuanced shifts in political culture are happening at the top end of England and this historic earth tremor will be rattling the pots on the sideboard for years to come.”

McMillan added that “the North is a ventriloquist’s dummy and the South is in control of the speaking mouth”.

“Newsreaders from the North aren’t reading the news about themselves because, well, there aren’t any,” he said.

“And there haven’t been since the sainted Wilfred Pickles, unmistakably from Halifax, last read a bulletin on the Home Service during the Second World War.”

The full interview is in this week’s Radio Times (Radio Times/PA)

The poet said that people from the North should not just be limited to appearing on local broadcasts.

“So come on, people in charge: let a northern voice read the news, and not just the news about the North,” he said.

“Let’s pervade the airwaves like bindweed on an allotment.”

He added that the lack of northern voices on the news is nothing new.

McMillan said: “This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course, the idea that the flat vowel equals a flat cap equals a flattening of gravitas, and that in the words of the late, great Scottish writer Tom Leonard, the news can’t be read by ‘wanna yoo scruff’.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times.

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