BRITAIN’S longest-running public debate programme came to Accrington when BBC Radio Four’s Any Questions was broadcast live from St Christopher’s High School last week.
The show, which first aired 60 years ago this month, and later inspired television’s Question Time, went out live from the Queens Road West C of E school, which is itself marking its Golden Jubilee year, last Friday evening.
Jonathan Dimbleby chair-ed the panel, which featured Justice Minister Jack Straw, along with Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps, Manchester University physicist Professor Brian Cox, one of the principal scientists working on the CERN Large Hadron Colider in Switzer-land, and Jude Kelly, the artistic director of London’s South Bank Centre.
A lively audience of 300, including some 20 St Christ-opher’s pupils and representatives from each section of the community, fired questions about military funding, science, Hyndburn’s prospects for the looming recession, and education, with the new Accrington Academy being discussed by the panellists.
The show also included lighter moments, and the panel was asked how long it would be before Blackburn Rovers were in the same league as Accrington Stanley.
Rovers fan Jack Straw replied: "Never".
But Brian Cox, who, in his younger days was keyboard player with D:Ream, whose hit Things Can Only Get Better was adopted as New Labour’s election anthem, wondered if the people would really want the likes of Ronaldo "swanning around in Accrington".
Managing editor of BBC Radio Lancashire, John Clay-ton, said: "I know that the team was made to feel very welcome. They went away with really positive feelings towards both St Christopher’s and Accrington."
After the broadcast, the panellists stayed around for another two hours to mix with audience members in the school library.
St Christopher’s headteacher Alasdair Coates said: "It was a really interesting broadcast and we thought it went really well. The audience asked some really good questions. The whole evening was not very partisan politically and neither was the audience, although everyone felt involved."
But he added: "You never expect politicians to answer some questions and our expectations were fully met’’