tragedies


tragedies
   While there have always been mass tragedies, since the development of radio and particularly television, our perceptions of such tragedies have taken on a more ‘national’ and intimate perspective. The immediacy of coverage, which in some cases has been contemporaneous, also allows the viewer a voyeuristic position of an unfolding tragedy. An early example that touched the public’s conscience was the Aberfan disaster in 1966, where the mid-Glamorgan town’s coal waste heap collapsed onto a school and houses, killing 144 people including 116 children. There have been a number of other events that have taken on the mantle of national tragedy and have been the subject of mass grieving, and in some cases, moral panics. Such tragedies have not been confined to any one area of life but have encompassed travel, community life and sites of recreation. Examples of the first include the 1988 fire at Kings Cross station and the aircraft crash onto the town of Lockerbie following an on-board explosion. The Aberfan disaster is an example of the second, as are the mass shootings by a lone gunman at Hungerford in the 1980s and Dunblane in the 1990s. The latter event attracted widespread national and international attention as all but one of the victims were primary schoolchildren. Both these events led to a tightening of gun control, though after the tragic incident at Dunblane the government was criticized for not learning the original lessons of Hungerford. Prominent examples of tragedies relating to leisure activities have occurred at football grounds. On 15 May 1985, a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground claimed fifty-six lives, and a riot described as ‘being like the battle of Agincourt’ at Birmingham City’s ground killed one fan. These were overshadowed by two further events both involving Liverpool supporters. First, at the 1985 European Cup final in the Heysel stadium in Belgium, thirty-nine Juventus fans were killed when terracing collapsed following disturbances between the opposing fans. The second incident took place at Hillsborough, the ground of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, on 15 April 1989 at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Overcrowding at one part of the Liverpool end coupled with perimeter fencing, itself a product of the hooliganism of the 1980s, led to the crushing to death of ninety-six supporters. This tragic event spawned massive media coverage and some of the issues remain largely unresolved.
   GUY OSBORN
   STEVE GREENFIELD

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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