Big Brother isn't watching you? 

Let’s start with a joke; A tourist in Africa pulled out his video camera and proceeded to take pictures of a local tribe going through a tribal dance. Immediately the headman rushed up to the interpreter and started shouting and gesticulating at the cameraman. The interpreter went up and asked the tourist to stop filming. “Why?” asked the tourist, “are they afraid that I’ll capture their spirits in my little box or something?” “No”, smiled the interpreter, ”they’re under contract to MGM and you’re breaking Copyright.”

A long time ago when I was visiting Rotterdam, apart from the beautiful clean streets, one thing fascinated me. In the suburbs most of the houses had at least one mirror set up outside the house about the size of a car wing mirror. I thought it looked like a pretty good idea as it meant you could see who was coming up the street from the front room providing, you sat at the right angle. I suppose we’d call it ‘curtain-twitching’ but lets face it what’s wrong with keeping an eye on your own street?

Recently there was some furore about the right to view the videotapes from the CCTV cameras in Withernsea. As I understand it someone has to be paid to constantly monitor the cameras and report any crime etc., Why bother? Why not save some money, and transmit an extra channel to all the local T.V.’s? Maybe ‘Coronation St’ would have to take back-stage for a week or two as people suddenly realised they could tune in to their own town streets. Just think of the advantages of the system. We would not have to pay someone to sit monitoring and taping several cameras. If you saw ‘Uncle Fred’ coming down the street you would have ample time to put the kettle on… or hide, whichever you wanted.

People would be able to check that shops were open and the shopkeepers, that they were safe. I suppose some enterprising stores would start to display price lists in full view of the cameras. Mothers would be able to see whom little Johnny was playing with. Granted, we may get the odd flasher but in this enlightened age they’d probably start awarding Oscars and a “Pick of the Week” slot. Who knows, the idea could save thousands of pounds on tape and personnel as, someone somewhere would probably be taping the channel? Think of the “Witness” potential and the number of people that could easily pick up the phone should they see a life-threatening scene.

Look at the kudos, the national papers, “Big Brother in Withernsea” well, not so much “Big Brother” more like “Little Sister”, “Aunt Aggy” and a whole host of relatives who will be rather interested in what goes on down the street. Perhaps if we all became potential ‘curtain-twitchers’ this way we could make a difference. I suppose this sort of scenario would not appeal to everyone and sooner or later the ski masks would start appearing. I wonder how the average shopkeeper would react to the sight of a customer wearing a ski mask? Then again, wouldn’t it be very obvious that you were either extremely shy or you were planning to offer a bit of exciting “live” TV. “Stand by your ‘phones folks, this looks like a good one.”

O wad some pow’r the giftie gie us…….”
All things considered maybe the idea wouldn’t work. Have you noticed how people can be very funny about being on TV? At one end you have the crowd jumping up and making faces for the camera and on the other end, people hiding their faces as they scurry quickly away. Of course, you also get the aggressive ones that wave sticks and threaten people, you’ve seen Roger Cooke? It’s a strange world,

I was looking at a very old photograph of Queen’s Street the other day. The picture was filled with people posing with their new bicycles or perambulators. Today if you pull out a camera you get the impression that the street would suddenly empty, like Dodge City at High Noon. The question is do we really want to be so anonymous? Most people spend a lifetime trying to get noticed, be recognised or leave a mark of some kind even if its just “Kilroy” on the loo wall. Suddenly along comes someone with a camera and it’s….” Big black box steals spirit.”

Why are we so camera shy? What have we got to hide? I Suppose the idea of an “open Withernsea “ is a little too avent garde but who knows it could catch on. Until then I suppose we’ll just have to be satisfied with the out-of-date footage they use on ‘Cops’ where most of the people suffer from “giant black heads”.

Yes, “Open Withernsea”. We could really cash in on that. Now with the advent of the Internet and strange devices like ‘web-cams’ it’s possible to ‘curtain-twitch’ in some of the strangest places. Just visit any search engine and search for the word ‘cameras’. Chances are you’ll get quite a few web-cams that are pointed at streets.

Even if we never overcome this fear of being seen by others on CCTV we could probably benefit from the cameras. We could expand the current system and start putting a few cameras on the Internet (web-cams). We could have one pointing at the beach, a must for the fishermen. Another at the top of the lighthouse on a robot arm so Internet users could swing it around the town, like the one in Helsinki.

One could be aimed at the market place to show the world just what a busy little place Withernsea is. There’s a ton of ideas that could be explored using web-cams that would advertise the town. Traffic-cams showing the state of the streets. In New York one taxicab has a camera showing the road he’s going down. Maybe we could attach one to the local milk float? Seriously though folks, rather than become a nation of secret camera viewers why don’t we become a more “open society” and share our information? Who knows what a little advertising would do? Perhaps one day someone would take one look at this little town on the Internet cameras and say, “That’s the perfect spot for my next multi-million dollar centre.”