Radio 4: Archive on 4: Fangirls and Teen Hysteria

Fifty years ago a viewing balcony at Heathrow Airport collapsed under the weight of fans desperate to see The Osmonds land. Ten thousand had turned out. Eighteen girls were injured. It marked the start of a UK tour where “Osmondmania” peaked.

The press used the word “hysteria” and David Dimbleby hosted a TV debate on whether The Osmonds were bad for the UK’s youth. Donny Osmond says “That hysteria and adulation will never happen again, ever, I don’t think for any artist. Even Harry Styles, Justin Bieber. Yes, it’s crazy but it’s a different kind of hysteria. Social media has changed everything. There’s no mystique. That hysteria of ‘I can’t get it, but I want it’ will never happen again because you can get it now”. Is Donny right? As teens have changed, has the nature of fandom changed too?

Tracing the history of teen idols, Josephine McDermott opens her own teenage diary for the first time and considers how her adulation for Take That compares to what went before for The Beatles and the Bay City Rollers, and what comes after with Harry Styles and social media influencers. Contributors include psychologists Dr Linda Papadopoulos, and Dr Rebecca Tukachinsky Forster from Chapman University in the United States.

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Witness History: Osmondmania

On 21 October 1973, American heartthrobs The Osmonds were met by hysterical crowds when their plane landed at London’s Heathrow Airport. A surge by some of the 10,000 fans caused a viewing balcony to collapse. Eighteen people were injured. Four fans were treated in hospital. The term “Osmondmania” was used across the newspapers. Donny Osmond shares his memories of it with Josephine McDermott.

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Witness History: Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bath

Vogue’s war correspondent Lee Miller found herself in Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment when the news broke that he was dead.

Earlier that day, she and fellow photographer David Scherman had witnessed the harrowing scenes at the liberated Dachau concentration camp.

Lee Miller’s son and biographer, Antony Penrose, explains to Josephine McDermott the significance of the photograph taken in the final days of World War II in Europe.

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Witness History: Singapore executes Filipina maid Flor Contemplacion

Flor Contemplacion. Credit: Russel Contemplacion

In 1995, the execution of Flor Contemplacion caused protests, a government resignation and a diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Singapore.

Flor, who worked in Singapore, was convicted of killing another domestic helper, Delia Maga, and the four-year-old boy Delia looked after, Nicholas Huang. While Singapore stood by the conviction, millions of Filipinos believed Flor was innocent and had been let down by their government as an overseas worker.

Flor’s daughter Russel Contemplacion, who was 17 at the time, and Flor’s lawyer Edre Olalia give Josephine McDermott their account.

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Witness History: World War II victory in North Africa

Peter Royle, 103, endured a month of solid fighting in the hills outside of Tunis in 1943. Eventually the Allies prevailed and took more than 250,000 German and Italian prisoners of war. They declared victory in Tunisia on 13 May. Peter came close to dying many times. He recalls how he once hummed God Save the King to prevent himself being shot by friendly fire. He was under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, fresh from victory in the North African desert, and recalls him being inspirational to the troops.

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Witness History: When the Queen ‘jumped out of a helicopter’

How did an estimated 900 million people come to witness Her Majesty the Queen apparently parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond? Frank Cottrell-Boyce who wrote the scene for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games explains how it came about. Josephine McDermott hears how corgis, a clothes line and the Queen’s dresser all played important parts.

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