Jane Devine: Let’s leave Hallowe’en to the kids

Can we get rid of “Halloween” please? This year it all just feels wrong.
Kirsty Wark throws up her hands as she dances to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on Newsnight. Picture: YouTubeKirsty Wark throws up her hands as she dances to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on Newsnight. Picture: YouTube
Kirsty Wark throws up her hands as she dances to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on Newsnight. Picture: YouTube

As a child, I loved Hallowe’en (yes, that’s how you spell it): deciding on an outfit from things we had in the house; getting a turnip from the farmer up the road; getting my dad to carve it; going round all our neighbours’ houses with friends, telling jokes and singing songs; and getting sweeties, peanuts, money and tangerines as a reward for our efforts.

Now there are no neeps: in their place we have pumpkins you can carve, but not eat; we have trick or treating and not guising; visits to neighbours are arranged, co-ordinated and timetabled in advance; and we have perfect costumes from Tesco, complete with matching bags in which to store the haul of sweets.

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The fun seems to have gone but, not only that, Hallowe’en seems to be invading the adult world a little bit too much.

I was utterly astounded to see Kirsty Wark’s antics last week. The seasoned journalist and Newsnight presenter did not sign off the current affairs programme she presents in the usual way. Instead of saying “goodnight”, or even, if she felt it necessary, saying “happy Hallowe’en” on Thursday evening, she moved to the front of the set and jumped into a Michael Jackson Thriller routine, accompanied by a dance troupe.

To call it toe-curling doesn’t really cover it. Her pole-axed face, meant to portray someone in zombie mode, may have actually been close to portraying her true feeling about the skit, as I certainly would like to believe she was uncomfortable doing this. But who knows: surely she could have said no?

Everyone likes a bit of fun, but the fundamental point here is why? Was it to make a point? No. Was it to raise money, a bit of light entertainment in the name of charity? No. Was it to draw attention to an issue? No. It was Hallowe’en. That’s all. There was no point. There was no need.

Newsnight and Channel 4 News are probably the best news programmes on telly. Now with Kirsty Wark’s performance to add to the aberration that was Cathy Newman’s demonstration of the Gangnam Style dance routine, I think we need to ask what these programmes are doing. Are they so bored with news that they feel the need to shake things up?

I don’t watch these programmes for light entertainment; that’s what Britain’s Got Talent is for. I watch them for analysis and debate on important and serious issues. Forays into skits and sketches dilute the impact of these programmes and their presenters and presumably take valuable production time to organise and rehearse. It’s not necessary. Please stop and don’t be tempted to introduce Santa or the Easter Bunny – Hallowe’en was bad enough.

So to return to my original plea, can we go back to how Hallowe’en used to be: spell it properly, celebrate it in the traditional way and leave it to children?