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  • Writer's pictureCorinne Yeadon

Climate of Fear - Growing Up In The 1970's

I wonder how much information and events in the wider world affect our confidence, self belief and daily choices? The so labelled ‘climate of fear’ created by government and media is not a patch on the terror and doom bombarding us In the 1970’s and 80’s.

There existed a raft of public information films and campaigns warning us of peril. Some provided safety advice, others just to plain scare us probably in the belief that fear would protect us from making bad decisions. It’s a small wonder any of us set foot out of our front doors back then.

Wild swimming is a popular pastime, and the benefits are recognised, but clearly devotees of this activity are unaware of the ad featuring the grim reaper with Donald Pleasance’s booming voice cautioning of the danger lurking beneath the water’s surface. There were similar short productions highlighting the risk of playing around pylons and on railway lines, clearly to offset the reckless behaviour of The Railway Children and The Famous Five.

I recall fearful whispers in the classroom of spontaneous human combustion, being reduced to a pile of ash for no known reason with no warning. Similarly, there was the imminent fear and threat of acid rain causing us to melt if we played outside. Child friendly - ish cartoon adverts featured a sage cat called Charlie and his hapless owner who warned of a spectrum of danger from strangers to plug sockets and the importance of keeping your mum in the loop when out and about.

There was much talk of the threat of nuclear attack, the public information film Protect and Survive was undoubtedly created to do what it says in the title but mainly served to provide fodder for nightmares. There was also panic about being given a few minutes warning before a nuclear onslaught and the ensuing conversations of how we would spend those remaining precious minutes.

The home was a hotbed of danger, which probably wasn’t far off the mark, considering overloaded plug sockets in already dodgy wired houses and gas leaks aplenty. Chip pans were a fearful piece of kit, advice being to have a damp tea towel at the ready should it catch fire. This must have stuck as I am loathed to leave my air fryer unsupervised and have a tea towel on stand by. Making chips was a risky business from the get go, with the threat of Colorado Beetles ravaging our potatoes and lurking in our sacks of spuds.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, there was a resurgence of the health warning film. This brought to mind the ominous voice of John Hurt and the tombstone being depicted to raise awareness of AIDs. Similarly the early campaigns cautioning of heroin “screwing you up” were of a foreboding tone unlike the “Just say no!” hoopla.

I guess the biggest difference is that we question the information presented to us, no longer blindly accepting as truth or facts. There was faith that everything we were told was not only accurate but in our best interests. There is wider access to information and quite rightly outrage when those sat in the echelons of power and authority misstep, however there is no longer the protection there once was, misdemeanours of those in power are out there and subject to public opinion.

As information was restricted to newspapers and daily news bulletins, being appraised of the goings on were part of our lives. Now information is available from a variety of sources covering all political bases, which allows us to pick and choose. The biggest learning is knowing when to swerve it too. There of course was a cultural difference forty years ago with little regard or emphasis on public safety, health and wellbeing aside from tokenistic campaigns, so I guess where we are today is progress, although may not always feel so.

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