On Wednesday 30th August, Lumina attended the iconic Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road for a very prestigious event by the Royal Television Society.
Fresh from the critical acclaim of his most recent C4 series The State, writer & director Peter Kosminsky spoke to Channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji about his oeuvre, his life and his inspirations leading up to his latest project .
His answers to questions from both Fatima and the audience were eloquent and fascinating. As the evening explored the other projects from his career that followed the theme of The State (namely The Government Inspector and Britz), it became clear just what an important voice Kosminsky’s has been in recent years.
The State, broadcast on Channel 4 in four nightly instalments, follows the narrative of four young British Muslims as they descend down the road of radicalisation, travel to Syria and become members of Islamic State. In particular, Kosminsky explained that through the series, he wanted to try to break down the stereotype that Islamic radicals are simply ‘mad’, arguing “what better can drama do than make people challenge their preconceptions and prejudices?”.
He also wanted to explore the reality for Muslim families who discover that their children have gone away to Syria, and are at a loss to explain why they would do so. He argued that across British media in recent years, very little effort has been made to understand the situation, with prevalent short-sighted opinions that “there must have been something wrong in the home”. Kosminsky rejected this, and stated that you simply “can’t combat something unless you understand it”.
He praised the scheduling decision of Channel 4, stating that the feeling of outrage among viewers had roughly 24 hours to gather steam before dissipating, and that the consecutive nightly instalments allowed the narrative to stay prescient in the minds of its audience. Reactions on Twitter by the fourth night, he explained, were very different to the first night, with most viewers rejecting the idea that the drama made ISIS in any way seem glamorous or attractive.
The series attracted 2.3 million viewers – a high figure given the subject matter. Kosminsky suggested “think of the power of that – drama is mostly used for ‘escapist tosh’…drama is a powerful medium and should be used to ask questions of society”. On the topic of the genre, Kosminsky passionately felt that the constraints on the series were no different than in a factual program – with the main objective being to not mislead the audience. As such he employed painstaking research to back up the onscreen drama. As a former journalist, he is all too aware of the importance to remain impartial, and to protect his sources.
Asked if he felt if the conversation had changed since his last project (Britz), he conceded that he felt it has got “so much worse”. With Brexit and Trump in the White House, as well as what he termed a “vacuum of charisma” in the centre, Kosminsky felt he could understand why people were moving to the fringes. However, he did end on a glimmer of hope – arguing that despite our troubled times, we can simply hope that in coming years, the ‘light will outshine the darkness.’
Our thanks to the Royal Television Society and Channel 4 for presenting such a fascinating and timely event, and showcasing one of UK television’s finest talents.