09.01.2009 - 09.01.2009
For a small and very isolated community, St. Helena has a pretty good media service. Television arrived on the island in 1995, and offers 3 channels, though as yet no local programs. There are also 2 radio stations, which both broadcast 24/7 (though at night, Saint FM has no presenters and just uses plays a random selection of tunes whilst Radio St. Helena broadcasts the BBC World service). There are also two local newspapers, both produced weekly and published on Fridays, which are attached to the radio stations. Whilst the St. Helena Herald is pretty good, it can be a bit “safe” in its reporting, and - plus the fact I know the papers owner - so i prefer to read the Independent.
With a population of 4000, which obviously includes many family groups and people of all ages, the independent prints a staggering 1100copies a week. Put differently, if a paper in the UK printed as many papers, it would be about 17million, over five times the print run of the Sun, the UKs biggest current seller, and it would be the worlds largest circulation newspaper by a considerable of a good couple of million. In addition, both newspapers are available online, and the independent is free to download (except for Islanders in the first 3days) anywhere in the world.
Thus it was that whilst reading the 9th January issue and you can read it yourself if you so wish, i came across this ¼ page notice:
And, really, in a way, that sums up St. Helena nicely. It's 2009 and somebody is looking for a Betamax player.
St. Helena is not the worlds most modern destination. It's isolation, and time and cost required to import anything mean that the latest fashions, crazes and technologies can be slow to reach the island. That isn't too say that everybody still uses cassette decks and betamax: DVD players (and rentals) are quite common, and there are a surprising number of MP3 players around, especially amongst the younger people.
But it means that older technologies survive in large chunks, and perhaps more significantly, there is not the “disposable” mind-frame that now exists throughout the West. Items which would have been thrown away years ago, happily survive here, often after having had numerous DIY fixes over time. Saints are, out of necessity, incredibly resourceful people who can come up with any number of imaginative ways of extending the lifespan of items, or new uses for otherwise redundant goods.
And though it can initially be very strange, it is very much like living in a time warp. But you rarely actually miss any of the “so called” modern-conveniences and technologies, and certainly have no need for them. Sure, some of the islanders – and, especially, expats – would like to feel they were more up to date, but they don't actually need them and St. Helena is brilliant for it. I really hope it stays that way. If for no other reason than that mobile phones are still entirely unknown, and for me now just a distant memory (or, occasionally, a glorified watch). This truly is a place worth visiting.
((and I will again apologise for the lack of updates in the last couple of months. I have been very busy, and also trying not to spend much time online when there is so much else to see and do here. I hope to have a few entries in the next week or two to catch up))