Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, Romeo Echo Delta (2011)

Why it should be pleasant to imagine aliens are invading planet earth is not clear. But the only clear result of a recent hoax broadcast from BBC Radio Merseyside was listening enjoyment.

The Halloween transmission may have confused a few people, but it was nothing like the famous Orson Welles stunt of 1938. There are no reports of widespread panic in Liverpool.

A caller called Mavis who phoned the station in the immediate aftermath of the show said, “I couldn’t believe that was a play.” She sounded thrilled by her anxiety attack.

Indeed, realism is just what made the hoax good listening. As reports of a red beam of light came in, the cheery presenter moved steadily from amusement to dire concern.

Those who lived in the vicinity of Birkenhead could step out their front door and see the reported invasion of red light. And for many that was worth tweeting about.

But that was all it was worth. There are few things to be taken seriously in our age of irony. We have moved from the society of spectacle to that of debacle, perhaps.

The best sociological insight of the night came from, and this was a brilliant touch, an interviewee on the interrupted show: Maria Lawson, X-Factor finalist in 2005.

Lawson, a psychology graduate, pointed out that the story was feeding on itself. It was a story about tweets and phonecalls as much as anything else.

This proved doubly true in the bigger scheme of things when the BBC and Liverpool Post were able to report on a bona fide media phenomenon the following day.

You can find their reports here and here, and read a local blog post on the evening’s entertainment here. It was a cracking show.

Romeo Echo Delta can be enjoyed in the safety of Kate MacGarry, London, between 10 November and 17 December 2011. See gallery website for details.

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