As the youngest of five, I grew up a lifelong people watcher / people listener, so my favourite tv shows have always been interviews. I was a teenager when Michael Parkinson’s Saturday night interview programme started. Back then, Parkinson’s interviews were an hour long and usually with just the one guest. I loved this. It seemed a real privilege to be let into people’s lives in a meaningful way and discover who they were through conversation. It’s not so usual nowadays to experience a long interview and I miss that.
Fast forward forty years and along comes Grayson Perry with a completely new approach, that instantly hooked me right in, as he combines meaningful conversations with deeply important topics around identity, and then creates art. I like Grayson Perry’s art but I have huge admiration for him as a person. His presence, his courage, his self awareness, his acceptance and his interpersonal skills are remarkable. In the All Man series he engages with, and relates to men: cage fighters from the North East, police, drug dealers and council residents involved in turf wars, traders and hedge-fund managers in the City of London. He takes risks. He acknowledges how the words and situations affect him. He makes eye contact with you the viewer as he stares into camera with his reflections. Then he exposes his innermost feelings and perceptions about these experiences, through his art, to the people who featured in the programme. He watches. He listens. He processes. He creates.
I still watch interview programmes even though they are fairly superficial and mainly light entertainment these days. Grayson though, has taken connecting with people, and connecting people, across the media and through different media, to a whole new level. A different kind of privilege as a viewer.