Listening to the wireless in 1928

In the late 1920s Evan Llewelyn Harry wrote a university dissertation about Badsey titled A Survey of a Rural Parish. This short extract describes the impact of the new medium of radio in the village. The BBC received its Royal Charter in 1927.

There are one hundred and forty households in the village with wireless sets. In the winter all sets are in working order; but as the winter passes and the day lengthens many fall into disuse until at mid-summer scarcely more than half are in working order. The chief reason for this is the increase in the amount of work to be done.

Sets have been installed, for a variety of reasons. When wireless sets were first erected in the village, neighbouring households copied each other; if one household had a set another would follow suit. In other cases some member of a household would erect a set while the remaining members would exhibit only slight interest in the project in the first instance. Curiosity and emulation combined are by far the strongest forces which have brought wireless enthusiasm to the village.

Once established some other explanation for the continued interest in wireless is necessary. Numerous explanations can be offered, none of which are complete, but different members of the same household show very marked diversions in taste.

Taking the village population as a whole sports news is the most popular and that is chiefly confined to association football. Other branches of winter sport are interesting to isolated individuals. Interest in horse-racing is intense where it exists but it is not extensive. Of course men show a greater interest than women in football news; curiously enough women's interests seem to follow closely those of men as regards football; at any rate they fail to show an interest in any other single form of sport.

Men and women, both young and old, are interested in wireless music; the majority in jazz music. Indeed there are few who listen to the better class music which is given. There are individuals who like to hear good music but of the whole village population they form a small proportion.

Lectures and talks on all manner of subjects are extremely unpopular, whether they are about general topics or vocational topics. Even members of the Women's Institute fail to avail themselves of talks given specially for their benefit.

Weather reports are less popular than is generally assumed. When the weather is good and suitable to the needs of the market gardening industry the wireless can say what it likes, not half the gardeners listen to it. But let a break in the weather occur, e.g. frost, then many gardeners will listen to the weather reports. The price of their perishable produce rises during adverse weather conditions; and the chances of spoiling produce not ready for market is a sources of much annoyance and suffering. If a gardener has no wireless lie will listen-in to his neighbour's set or ask him of the prospects. When the critical weather period is over only the ardent weather report listeners pay attention to wireless weather forecasts.

Market prices and weather reports fall into much the same category. Both are items of vocational news.

Market price reports are seldom listened to with any regularity. On the contrary, marked irregularity is the listener's chief feature relative to this news item. The reason is that gardeners will get exactly the same price for produce whether they listen to the report or not; moreover if the price they get is much lower than the price reported on the wireless, it is far more a source of mental mortification than anything else. Insufficient experience exists as yet, to quote moderately reliable price forecasts for market garden produce before sowing, and shrewd gardeners ascertain from agents of seed firms the amount of seed ordered of various kinds in the locality in which the agent operates. But such information is for the "elite" only, and the small producer gets NO information. Under existing circumstances it is improbable that growers will have much use for market price quotations until there be a closer relationship between wireless reports and prices actually received.

General news items are always interesting, but no great news listening public exists in the village except when there is some startling bulletin - King's illness or surprise item - curiosity.

Of the total population, children and adolescents are the most regular listeners, and the nearer to school-leaving age the adolescents the better and the more refined is their taste.

Children and adolescents constitute the higher class reading public of the village and the connection between the demand for books from the village branch of the county library is closely linked up with wireless talks.

Boys read books on the scientific side of wireless and are instructed in many cases to erect their own sets. Girls read the B.B.C. booklets and pick out the topics they like best. Both boys and girls follow up what they hear on the wireless and get the further study books recommended from the local library. This connection between wireless and the demand for books is growing very fast, and it needs to be emphasised once more - especially among the school children in the top standards, and those who have recently left school. It seems that wireless will help future villagers to plan useful cultural and perhaps vocational reading courses; unless the influence of home gains the ascendancy over the influence of the school. Whatever happens wireless is helping to bring the spice of a better life into the village. But it is yet too early to draw any definite conclusions on the educational impetus given by wireless to the village school child and adolescent.

Edited by Maureen Spinks & Richard Phillips.

See also Valerie Magan's The Wireless comes to Badsey.


Updated 20 February 2014. Contact email: History@Badsey.net