'Despite occasional interference ...': Simon Armitage's poem 'Transmission Report' celebrates 100 years of the BBC
The poet laureate, Simon Armitage, has published a poem to mark 100 years of the BBC. ‘Transmission Report’ was broadcast on the BBC’s The One Show, which was rebranded The 100 Hundred Show for a week. The poem, below, is performed in a video by Armitage, along with Jodie Whittaker, Professor Brian Cox, Carol Kirkwood, Clara Amfo, Jay Blades, Huw Edwards, Ralf Little, Craig Revel Horwood, Romesh Ranganathan, Fiona Bruce, Adrian Dunbar, Michelle Visage and stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK Krystal Versace, Ella Vaday and Kitty Scott-Claus, Ross Kemp, Chris Packham, Clive Myrie, Sir Michael Palin, Liz Bonnin, Alex Scott, Ade Adepitan, Zoe Ball, and Dame Mary Berry accompanied by composer Patrick Pearson and The BBC’s Concert Orchestra.
Armitage’s poem says that despite “occasional interference”, the Beeb produces “deep vibrations in my brain cells, tear ducts and funny bones”. He adds, or rather news and Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce does in the video: “As a bonus, it annoys the hell out of tyrants and moguls.”
I found the poem and video extremely moving. For all its faults, and its current nervousness concerning those that try to control it, those politicians that regularly traduce the BBC will never have or understand its warmth, its wit, its humanity. Long live our BBC!
by Simon Armitage
It’s the year two thousand and twenty two
on planet Earth, apparently, and I’m careering
through time and space, careening
between galaxies, scanning the frequencies.
The weather is mostly cosmic drizzle,
and the media mostly celestial drivel,
but for a century now I’ve picked up a station
called ‘the BBC’. And despite occasional
in my brain cells, tear ducts and funny bones.
As a bonus,
it annoys the hell out of tyrants and moguls.
But what is it, this BBC, this corporation
with nothing to flog, this soul of the nation?
If there’s some world order it’s trying to favour
then it’s a complete failure:
just recently I learnt all there is to know
about the sex life
of the natterjack toad,
then witnessed war,
then considered the meaning of meaning of life,
then deep-dived beneath Antarctic ice.
Then watched a pride of lionesses
make a football stadium’s grassy plain
its natural terrain.
Above gridlocked airwaves
and channels jammed with cross-talk and static
I set my clock and steer
by a signal that pulses keen and measured and