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The Age of Emulsion: with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explores the social history of DIY home improvements, from Chintz to Changing Rooms and beyond.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explores the social history of DIY home improvements, from Chintz to Changing Rooms and beyond.

The Age of Emulsion is a story about our changing attitudes to housing, consumerism, national identity, sense of individuality, class, politics, and relationships between the sexes.

Starting from the 1950s, Laurence draws on the rich TV and radio archive to show how DIY went from being a necessity after the Second World War, to a wholesome leisure activity, and a fully-blown national obsession.

What’s clear is that TV and radio played a pivotal role. Britain’s first hardboard hero was Barry Bucknell whose Do It Yourself TV series launched in 1956, attracting 7 million viewers. Magazines like Practical Householder advertised tools but also a modern lifestyle to go with it.

Over the next 50 years, TV and magazines would teach us practical skills and democratise interior design - from distressing, to rag rolling and stencilling. In the 90s, DIY became the new rock and roll, as reality makeover shows combined emotion AND emulsion. But what does our attitude say about us now? As DIY retailers struggle and millennials are blamed for their lack of skills, is this the end of the Age of Emulsion?

Laurence also sets two of his favourite interior decorating challenges to novice DIYers Mae-Li Evans and Calum Lynn

Producer: Victoria Ferran
Exec Producer: Susan Marling

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4

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57 minutes

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