BBC4 recently presented a new kind of TV programming - All Aboard! The Canal Trip was a two - hour journey down the Kennet and Avon Canal filmed in real time at a marvellous 4 mph. A camera, strapped to the front of a barge, filmed boats, changing scenery and the occasional passer-by walking along the towpath. It contained no commentary or voiceover narrative, no music and no presenter; instead birdsong, dogs barking, the rippling and lapping of water and the gentle chugging of the engine accompanied the moving image of the canal. We were lulled by the comforting rhythm of a bygone era.
The show was part of BBC4’s Go Slow season, a selection of ''unrushed programmes giving audiences the chance to sit back…unwind’. It has proved an unlikely hit, doubling BBC4’s average figures. Some may argue that BBC4’s viewing figures are tiny, and hardly representative of the mainstream, which is true (though the figures are for real time viewing and don’t include catch-up). But, bearing in mind today’s multi-channel environment and BBC4’s very niche target audience of mid-life professionals, the figures are impressive.
What a strange phenomena that a film, described as ‘a rich and absorbing antidote to the frenetic pace and white noise of modern life’, should capture the imagination of so many. There’s no doubt about it; BBC4’s Go Slow season has struck a national chord. An unsustainably competitive, adrenalin-fuelled lifestyle is taking its toll and a significant number of us, asset rich but time poor, are beginning to reassess. Time is the only asset that can be spent and not replaced: is watching a barge float down stream time wasted? Or is watching a barge floating down stream time well spent; an intention to stop and listen to the self? One tweet finished with ‘Never been happier #whoknew?’ Never been happier than when watching a barge floating down river? This may be hyperbole in the cool of the moment, but it surely invites exploration.
Education should allow the rhythms of the natural world to help young people slow down and start listening to the self. How else will they hear what their hearts and intuition are telling them? In his Stanford Commencement Speech Steve Jobs warns us not to waste time living someone else’s life or allow ourselves to trapped by the dogma another person’s thinking. Our growth depends not on how many experiences we devour, but on how many we digest. From a strong self all great things will grow.