Weaver's Week 2020-02-23

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Caroline Flack


Caroline Flack


Caroline Flack was born on 9 November 1979, some minutes after her twin sister. Her parents were Christine and Ian Flack, and they already had two older children. After her father's promotion, the family moved near Thetford in Norfolk, where Caroline attended Great Hockham Primary and Wayland High School. She enjoyed dancing with local group The Gug, and appeared in the village's pantomimes.

After leaving school, she studied dance and musical theatre at Bodywork Company in Cambridge. She supplemented her funds by waitressing in Pizza Express. Her first television role was in the comedy sketch show Bo Selecta. She played "Bubbles", the totally human pet monkey of Michael Jackson (played by Leigh Francis).

Amongst other jobs in this time, Caroline voiced new links and interviews for The International Pepsi Chart Show. It took performances from Channel 5's chart show, and from ITV's CD:UK programme, and added fresh links and interviews. The budget for this extra footage was approximately some buttons, and Caroline's performances were seen on a handful of obscure stations in Norway – and Tahiti, for some reason.

Caroline continued to grow her skills, mostly in the less-viewed parts of television. She was a reporter on Fash FC, John Fashanu's series for the Bravo channel. Next came the European Poker Tour, and extra coverage of The Games on E4.

File:Fash fc caroline flack.jpg The pitchside reporter for Fash FC.

"We are just adults having a very good time on live television!"

There was spark and potential in Caroline Flack, and she was recruited for some high-profile CBBC series. Comic Relief Does Fame Academy saw her present alongside Jake Humphrey, then brought good feeling on Escape from Scorpion Island with Reggie Yates. Three series of TMi with Sam and Mark, going out on Leicester Square for any reasons, getting dunked in a swimming pool of gravy, and having a series-long will-they-won't-they kiss with Sam.

Channel 4's cook-and-chat show Something For the Weekend lured her away, and there was a primetime gig on Gladiators for The Satellite Channel, and The Whole 19 Yards on ITV. Onwards and upwards, ITV2 came knocking and put Caroline on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! Now, and then for The Xtra Factor.

2014 proved to be a crowning year of awesome, as Caroline competed on Strictly Come Dancing, and came through a weak start to win the entire series. Onwards and downwards. ITV2's Viral Tap wasn't much of a success, and her move to host The X Factor coincided with a weak and ill-received series.

ITV2 still saw a lot of potential in Caroline, and appointed her host for the revived Love Island in 2015. Whatever caused Love Island to take off – 200,000 viewers when it began, over 4 million for the series last summer – Caroline Flack was associated with a massive hit series. Other shows came begging for her to appear, hoping that a little bit of stardust would rub off on them.

Caroline chose to use some of her star power for the theatre. She toured as Irene in the musical Crazy for You, and played Roxie Hart in a West End production of Chicago. She always worked very hard, and always put the client ahead of her personal needs. Her on-screen persona was "big sister who's seen a lot of the world."

She saw a lot of the world on charity efforts. Filming in Rwanda for Sport Relief, Caroline toiled in tomato fields – picking the crops, basket on her shoulder and then loading the truck. She'd listen to stories with concentration, like the person she was speaking to was the only one in the world.

TMi Building up the tension with Sam Nixon.


She also had a high-profile love life. At various points, she was "romantically linked" with Harry Styles the singer from One Direction, with Jack Street the pop manager, with Andrew Brady from Celebrity Big Brother, and with Lewis Burton the tennis player. She was also a "friend" of Harry Windsor, but broke off the connection when their friendship became public.

Ultimately, Caroline was defined – at least in part – by her relationships. She's a proven broadcast talent – she was able to make sense of the over-confusing Escape from Scorpion Island. And she's got experience at love, and loving in the public eye. She could empathise with the contestants, she had been there and done that, literally.

Last December, Caroline Flack was arrested and charged over an assault against her then-boyfriend. She would have stood trial this week. Immediately following her arrest, ITV suspended her from the job hosting Love Island. Caroline's body was found last Saturday, no-one is suspected of killing her.

And those are the facts.

The Whole 19 Yards Studio reporter on The Whole 19 Yards.

There has been a lot written about Caroline Flack's case, much of it contradictory. Some have blamed the prosecution service, suggesting that the charges weren't likely to succeed without the victim's participation. But we're very uneasy about stopping cases on the victim's say-so. It wouldn't work with the victims of domestic violence, making it easier for the perpetrators to put pressure on their victims? On this small point, there are no easy answers.

Nevertheless, those who work in legal circles have said that the system simply does not care. The legal system gives no regard to the emotional health of people who are charged. A stressful time – not knowing if you'll get a criminal record, with impact on your work and the rest of your life – is not aided by the delays and failures in the underfunded courts.

The Crown Prosecution Service, the organisation preparing the case against Caroline Flack, says that it was doing its job, and is not to blame.

Some have said that there's a toxic culture in the press, where people are built up then knocked down again. Particularly if they're women, particularly if they're women in the entertainment business.

It's an absolute no-win situation: whatever you do, there's always someone to snipe at your love life / clothes / presenting style / haircut / handbag. The press comes across as engaged in target practice, doing things to raise hell. It's not sport, it's bullying, and it's somehow profitable to them.

The editors of the press say that they were doing their job, and are not to blame.

The independent press regulator says nothing.

Some has questioned whether ITV yet provides decent aftercare for participants on its reality shows, and Love Island in particular. Caroline Flack is the third person from that series to die young, and we don't know what ITV does behind the scenes to help its show's stars. Perhaps they forget the maxim: no television show is more important than a person's life. Light entertainment that goes so badly wrong is no longer entertainment.

The X Factor On The Xtra Factor with Olly Murs.


Some have argued that throwaway comments, words tossed out without thinking, can be taken as more deep meanings. What's intended as a quick laugh might be interpreted as deeply wounding. None of us ever know when someone will get "the wrong end" of the stick. This is true.

We do need to remember that "kind" and "nice" are two different ideas. One can be pleasant and polite and generally affable to people while still being the most fearsomely selfish boor, as exhibited on Good Morning Viewers with Photocopiers Click-Change-The-Channel.

We as individuals can review our own conduct: are we assuming that the other person is acting in good faith, will our contribution give more light than heat. Would we be comfortable having Big Brother read this back in an emotionless voice? We don't need to police other people, criticise them for being angry.

And let's not weaponise being "nice" – or being "kind". We are all human. Even this column is going to be snarky at someone from time to time, whether Photocopiers Click-Change-The-Channel deserves it or not. When we ask someone angry to tame their speech, we ask them to be complicit in silence about their trauma, and that only stores up greater problems for the future. When we insist on being "neutral", we may end up siding with the more powerful lobby.

There is only so much that we as individuals can do. Much change needs to come from The Facebook, The Twitter, The Google. They control their algorithm, and they believe that outrage and conflict is the road to profit.

It's up to us to prove them wrong, and to promote a diet of calm and consensus.

Back to Caroline

Strictly Come Dancing

Caroline Flack joined the dots of the early twenty-first century popular culture. She was there: CBBC, X Factor, I'm a Celebrity, the royals, One Direction, Love Island. She got there through skill and through hard work – a combination of fun and adventure and putting in all of the effort. She was known to so many people, she was someone we knew and liked and trusted.

The reaction to her death last weekend has been social mourning. As with Jade Goody, this resonated deeply, it's someone we identified with, someone we liked.

Is part of this a reflection on who we are? How we're all guilty about reading the breathless updates, following the rollercoaster of Caroline's turbulent love life? Why is there so much money to be made from intruding into private lives – what does that say about the culture?

There is almost certainly a deeper meaning behind Caroline Flack's death. Whatever it is, we don't see it right now. This column, like so many people, is somewhere close to the anger phase of grief.


We can't do better than repeat the tribute from Laura Whitmore, a close friend of Caroline's.

"She was bubbly and for such a small stature, commanded a room. She loved to laugh and had the most infectious chuckle. She also had many struggles, I am not going to pretend she was perfect. She lived every mistake publicly under scrutiny.

"Caroline loved to love, that’s all she wanted. Which is why the show Love Island was important to her.

"The problem wasn’t the show, the show was loving, caring and safe and protected. The problem is, the outside world is not. Anyone who's ever compared one woman against another, knocked someone else's appearance, invaded someone else's privacy, who have made mean unkind comments on an online forum need to look at themselves.

"To the press, the newspapers who create clickbait, who demonise and tear down distress – we have had enough.

"I have seen journalists and Twitter warriors talk of this tragedy and they themselves have twisted what the truth is. You don’t have to tear down someone to feel good about yourself.

"To listeners: be kind. Only you are responsible for how you treat others and what you put out in the world.

"I have had messages and been harassed for doing my job, and this is where the problem is. I want to use my platform to call people out because it's gone too far. Your words affect people.

"To paparazzi looking for a cheap sell, to trolls hiding behind a keyboard... Enough. I would to thank BBC and ITV for the support that I have had.

"And those who supported my decision to come in today as I felt it was the right thing to do. To my boyfriend, the kindest man I know, to the whole Love Island family who are mourning for their colleague and friend, and have been a great support in the last few yours.

"I love you. To everyone, be kind in what you say."

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.ie or jo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

In other news...

At the age of 98, we mourn the death of Pearl Carr, a regular performer on Crackerjack in the 1950s, and (with Teddy Johnson) half of the BBC's entry to the Eurovision Contest of Popular Songs in 1959.

The competing broadcasters have been announced for this year's Eurovision Young Musicians contest, to be held in Zagreb on 21 June. HRT will be joined by CT, ERR, WDR, ERT, PBS, NRK, RTVSLO, SVT, UA-PBC, and regular Eurovision winners TVP. There's no entry from the most recent hosts, BBC.

BBC1 is developing an entertainment show it describes as The Masked Singer crossed with Hell's Kitchen. The working title is Rat In Mi Kitchen, and it set us wondering: what other UB40 songs could turn into game shows?

  • One in Ten – meet ten people, find out about them, then answer questions on just one of those people.
  • I'll Be Your Baby Tonight – Robin and Ali Campbell set people up on blind dates, where there's no expectation of a follow-up.
  • Red Red Wine – in this six week series, a class of wannabe sommeliers tour vineyards to learn all about fine drink. Victoria Coren Mitchell hosts.
  • Many Rivers to Cross – the travelling show, where they plot a route from Here to There with points for crossing rivers, but penalties for being slow.
  • Sing Our Own Song – a performing show where people write their own tunes. Alistair Griffin can host, and mentor, and probably be the entire audience.
  • Breakfast in Bed – a masterclass in hotel management, Fred Sirieix shares his knowledge.

Masterchef (BBC1, Mon, Wed, Fri) makes its annual return, but so does Hell's Kitchen (ITV2, Tue, Wed). It's the final of Love Island (VM1 and ITV2, Sun). The BBC reveals its entry for the Eurovision Song Contest next Thursday morning (Radio 1, Radio 2, BBC1). More pertinently, it's Can i Gymru (S4C) on Saturday: Elin Fflur and Trystan Ellis-Morris host the festival of Welsh song. Rob Brydon narrates Saturday Night Takeaway (VM1 and ITV). Catchpoint (BBC1) is back, with a couple of Sports Relief specials, and a new endgame.

We don't intend to publish next week, so here's your sneak peak for the first week of March. Ready Steady Cook returns on BBC1, with Rylan Clark-Neal as the host with the most shopping. The crossover where people first shop for their goods then cook 'em, is already on air – Corner Shop Cook-Off on BBC Scotland. We've the finals of Win the Wilderness (BBC2, 1 Mar) and The Greatest Dancer (BBC1, 7 Mar).

Photo credits: BBC, Zigzag, Endemol, Syco / Talkback Thames. Thanks for ideas this week: Adam Wagner, Millie, Polly Vernon.

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