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BORGEN and QUEEN. Unlikely soft power bed fellows?

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This weekend BBC TV Channel 4 excelled.  The usual Celebrity Loser rubbish was replaced by back to back brilliance: Borgen and Queen.

Borgen, for the uninitiated, is a Danish drama series set in the world of Denmark’s coalition government. The series has been sold to TV in more than 70 countries; audiences and critics from Sydney to Paris, New York to London, rave about it.  Its lead actress, the lovely Sidse Knudsen, won a TV Bafta and an Emmy nomination last year. Prominent politicians in several countries are avid fans: Hillary Clinton sent the producers a warm message about the show, while the French President François Hollande is an addict; Saturday nights are reportedly Borgen nights for Ed Miliband 

'It never occurred to me that this series would travel abroad,’ Knudsen says. 'I mean, it’s about Danish coalition politics.’ But travel it did, and in Britain the 20 hours of its first two seasons have been eagerly devoured. Viewing figures grew and grew, finally rising above the one million mark – unheard of for its channel, BBC Four.

I love it. It has become compulsive viewing.

But immediately after the double bill last Saturday night came another treat.  BBC showed rock gods ‘Queen’ live in concert in Budapest, Hungary, in 1986.

1986?  That of course is some 3 years before the Berlin Wall came down and Hungary was very much still part of the Warsaw Pact. I wonder therefore what they must have made of Freedie Mercury coming on wrapped in the Union flag:image

and then of course turning to reveal, to a massive roar, the hungarian tri-colour:


I wonder what those 80k young hungarians thought?  Perhaps that Britain must be a wonderful place to have allowed such brilliance to flourish and prosper - perhaps they kind of place they would like to see, maybe even live?  But the very loud roar for their flag also showed their innate pride for their own country.  

So too Borgan which seems to have done much to put a very small country (if you don’t count Greenland!) on the global map.  

When we think of influence we tend to forget the osmosis of culture and values but it is strong and enduring.  I am quite sure many now middle aged Hungarians will still remember that Queen gig and watching Borgan has certainly encouraged me to find out more about Denmark, a country that I have visited often but which i knew surprisingly little about.

There is also a negative side to this. I wonder how long China’s rather stingy donation of just £60k to the Philippines relief effort will stay in people’s memories?  

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