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Episode 1 of 3
Giles Fraser has left a glittering job as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and is now working as the priest of a run-down parish in Elephant and Castle. This has set him thinking about the nature of community, which he investigates in this very personal series.
Community has become one of those warm and fuzzy notions about which it feels impossible to complain. But Giles thinks our presumptions about community should be challenged.
His parish in inner London is rich in diversity, but many people survive in bedsits on short-term lets and have little in common with their neighbours. Their communities have become very thin and they struggle to find common ground.
Nowhere is that common ground more apparent than in our nostalgic ideal of community - embodied in the picture postcard English village. Here is the ultimate 'thick' community - everybody knows everybody else's business, some people still leave their back doors unlocked, and locals are broadly similar in their worldview.
To examine this rural idyll, Giles travels to Northamptonshire to talk to his parents. He has no desire to live in this sort of place, but he's really interested to try to get under the skin of a close, cohesive and un-diverse community and to get a sense of the real benefits and disadvantages of living there. He also goes to nearby Finedon to talk to the vicar - Rev Richard Coles. He asks what it's like to live in a place like this if you're not quite the same as the majority - perhaps because you're gay, an immigrant, or simply plain different.
Producer: Jane Greenwood.
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.