Saturday 21 September 2019

New BBC drama imagines divided UK dissolving into bitter civil war

Writer Martin Jameson believes the UK is woefully under prepared for such events.

First World Problems is loosely based on the Syrian civil war and the Balkans conflict (Danny Lawson/PA)
First World Problems is loosely based on the Syrian civil war and the Balkans conflict (Danny Lawson/PA)

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

The UK will descend into a bitter and chaotic civil war in a new dark satire created for BBC Radio 4.

Penned by Martin Jameson, First World Problems will see the Queen no longer on the throne as a post-Brexit United Kingdom is split up.

The drama will be told through the eyes of an asset-rich, cash-poor middle-class family from Greater Manchester who are attempting to survive the chaos in a struggle loosely based on the Syrian civil war and the Balkans conflict.

Airing on Radio 4 in June, the five-part series was commissioned off the back of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, writer Jameson said.

Royal wedding

He told the Press Association: “I’d been interested in the idea of the UK descending into civil war for some time and what’s happened is the zeitgeist has caught up with me.

“Along came interesting political events and a sense of an uncertain nation in many ways and suddenly people got a lot more interested.”

Jameson revealed his research – which included speaking to a survivor of the Balkan conflicts, civil contingency planners and conflict response experts – led to him discovering how fragile the UK’s infrastructure is.

“The sophistication of our infrastructure is what makes us vulnerable,” he said.

“I have asked around, all sorts of people, quite senior people, what is your plan for there simply not being an electronic financial system? And if there is a plan no one has been able to tell me what it is.

“It’s really quite interesting and I’ve asked a lot of people and people who should know and they just go silent on me.”


He added: “The plus side is it’s a bloody good reason for the state not to fall apart.

“I think in the current climate there’s a general failure to understand how much the infrastructure, the state, the civil service, how incredibly important those things are just to keep the food in the shops.”

It is part of Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions season which sees contemporary takes on future dystopia, starting on June 4 with Louise Erdich’s new novel Future Home Of The Living God.

Set in a world in crisis, evolution has gone into worse with fewer babies – or their mothers – surviving to full term.

Shadowbahn, airing on June 9, is set in 2021 and sees The Twin Towers reappearing in South Dakota in a divided and dangerous America while Forward Presence, written by Hugh Costello, is a drama inspired by recent UK-Russia tensions.

Jeremy Howe, Radio 4 Commissioning Editor for Drama & Fiction, said: “When we started Dangerous Visions several years ago the intention was to do science fiction, but since then it can feel like the world is catching up with the future musings of the best sci-fi writers, and some of the dystopic imaginings of Dangerous Visions can feel alarmingly close to home.

“The wonderfully bold First World Problems is inspired by what it must be like to be a family caught up in the tragedy that is the Syrian civil war – an ordinary family – but transplanted to a civil war happening in Britain now.

“It is real, it is gripping and it is a truly terrifying Dangerous Vision.”

First World Problems will air across five afternoons from June 11 until June 15 on Radio 4.

PA Media

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