Tina C's Global Depression Tour
Ed's note: Starting tonight at 11pm on Radio 4 Christopher Green's country music legend Tina C investigates the financial crisis and looks for a solution to the global recession with help from economists and financial journalists, including Will Hutton, Paul Mason and Gillian Tett -PM.
This is the fifth Tina C project I've made for BBC Radio 4. Tina has explored the UK, Europe, Australia and given her thoughts on the eve of the Presidential Elections. She gets around...
Back at the start of 2011 it seemed like a good idea to propose the notion of this country music global celebrity solving the financial crisis. Maybe it was just naïve to imagine that things wouldn't be a complicated or as genuinely depressing as they did in reality during the year. It was very easy to get obsessed with the small details of various countries economic woes, especially in Europe.
Once I started writing the series in October, I had realised that what I had to do was keep focusing the series back on the character of Tina C. She is a very useful tool for looking at what is going on in the world.
As a celebrity she has enormous influence, little education, huge naivety and fundamentally a good heart. This is a dangerous combination. And a not at all uncommon in the culture we have allowed to be created around us.
So Tina sets out to win a bet with three prominent US bankers and financial experts - which amounts to the same thing - as Gillian Tett points out in the first show Wall Street and Washington are both in thrall in to the same handful of guys who claim to know how the money markets work.
Tina is travelling the globe at vast expense to visit the poverty stricken and she genuinely wants to know how she can help. The series can't be topical in that it wasn't recorded on the day of transmission, so some things are kept deliberately vague. But there are many hours of research behind a very trite joke. I pride myself on such things.
There were two joys for me in making this series. One was setting myself the challenge to write at least two new comedy country music songs per show.
It turned out to be 14 songs about the global financial crisis. That's quite a specific challenge and testament to the way my mind works that I really enjoyed it. You can hear a bunch of the songs here.
My aim with the series was to get away from buzz words, and technical financial language. I think it is that kind of talk that allowed the crisis to happen in the first place.
For years we've been hearing the financial reports as part of the news and not really understanding what it means, sort of trusting it was all OK, signing up for mortgages with fingers crossed that someone understood the small print. Tina states several times that the series is "intellectually simple and emotionally complex". The songs allowed me to do that. Hopefully the listener is encouraged to look at greed, capitalism and need inside ourselves rather than as an abstract notion. Tina sums this up in the song I Have Therefore I Am in which she disses Descartes (though she likes his classy watches).
The second joy was getting to interview top financial journalists and ask them honest to goodness questions such as "Should I only get paid in cash from now on - and in gold?" We had fantastic contributors from some of the most influential names in the game and it was genuinely chilling being able to ask them about the ongoing crisis in the Euro zone, and to hear how close we are to things not being alright.
And that's all Tina really wants. She wants everyone to be alright. Because she is a nice person, and because she wants everyone to be able to buy copies of her albums, and for America to be powerful forever more.
To answer the question that most people ask me: I don't do interviews for radio dressed up in character. Maybe I should but I have always found that people are able to play along even if not distracted by the long legs and the high heels.
Martha Kearney interviewed Tina just before the Presidential elections in 2008 and it was more painful than hearing Palin and Couric, but Martha didn't need the short skirts to make it authentic. A lot of my work making interactive theatre is simply encouraging people to play in an unselfconscious way. All I had to do was simply to allow that to happen whilst getting my contributors to outline global fiscal strategies in a cogent and engaging way.
I can't tell you what conclusions Tina comes to at the end of her mission to save the world in six weeks. You have to go through the emotional rollercoaster with her - because, of course, there are no easy solutions. But how bad can anything seem when you're singing along with Lefty Frizzell's If You Got the Money Honey, I Got The Time?
Christopher Green is a writer, performer and creator of Tina C
- You can hear the first episode of Tina C's Global Depression Tour on Radio 4 at 11pm tonight, Wednesday 11 January and shortly afterwards on the Radio 4 website. The series will be on air at the same time each week for the next five weeks.