From Twitter to Radio 4, Grace Dent subverts the dichotomy of high and low culture while challenging the dominant narrative of the mainstream media, all the while maintaining a level of cool verbosity and grace.
UPON JOINING Twitter in 2009 I was happy to be reunited with some familiar faces and voices of my teenage years. As an early adapter to Digital Terrestrial TV (not boasting, much) my world was opened up to an array of mid-afternoon and late night TV deemed too gratuitous for the average viewer of the regular channels one to five. My ‘digibox’, as we called it then, was a Christmas gift from my mum and the gods of trash TV in 2002. I introduced the box to my 14 inch, third-hand television which had a tendency to sporadically switch itself off, and connected the two through a portable indoor aerial from Argos. This aerial had to be placed and held at a very specific angle to receive a signal on some channels, and a very specific and different angle to receive others. Fortuitously, 2003 was a quite year for me in terms of social engagements and I was able to dedicate much time getting a signal for BBC Choice, ITV2 and E4 and enjoying them in the clear (but sometimes shaky) digital format. Occasionally from behind the TV while I held the aerial skywards and leered around the see what was going on. Or sometimes just listening to the sounds so as to not strain my neck. I was a pioneer. I was living.
A favourite show of mine was Liquid News on BBC Choice hosted by Claudia Winkleman and Paddy O’Connel. It was a facetious look at the day’s news with an angle of derision at celebrity and celebrity culture in early 2000s. Some guests who hadn’t understood that now just because you are Anthea Turner doesn’t mean you won’t be slighted on live television. The show was ahead of it’s time, really. Other guests were there to have an expert or insiders view on the news and these were the ones I like most.
During this period I have fond yet vague memories of Grace Dent appearing in my digital heaven. The context fails me but she made me laugh, she spoke fast and she was an erudite an exciting female voice of the digital times. I had since forgotten about her in the years leading up to 2009 and Twitter, but as I began to explore the site, there she was laughing and living a
nd working journalist and writer. I pressed follow immediately. Her acerbic wit and inane observations is what Twitter came to be for me. Grace was writing for the Guardian at the time as a TV critic and commentator on the modern world. Evaluating issues in politics, celebrity and society with humour and insight.
Coming from Carlise in the North of England (which I don’t) I could relate to Grace and her voice as a new type of woman (which I am not) living in London and working at the Guardian (which I don’t). Her perspective and accessibility was what I connected with. She was just an ordinary but extraordinary person at the same time with an insider and outsiders’ view. Close enough to the institutions to understand them, and separate enough to challenge them.
I was a little a distressed when I heard Grace was releasing a book called ‘How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop’ as I thought she actually enacted upon the title of the book. However, this book was essentially a guide to avoiding the pitfalls of living life on the internet coupled with wry observations of the types of twitterers out there. I was relieved and enjoyed the short book in one day. Grace now writes for the Independent in a similar role to her Guardian columns and is also as a food critic for ES Magazine with her ‘Grace and Flavour’ column. She is also an occasional contributor on Radio 4 with her documentary type shows ‘State of Grace’ in which she explored why not so many people are called Grace nowadays as well as it’s biblical roots and also ‘Blood, Sage and Grace’ where she profiles the author Lorna Sage and what her book ‘Bad Blood’ meant to her growing up.
Grace is not as prolific or as active on Twitter these days, perhaps as she’s busy in other areas. But, my goodness, she still makes laugh and brings me the run down issues, non-issues and TV which I no longer need to watch.
Follow Grace Dent on Twitter @gracedent
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