The State We're In: Everything you need to know about Scottish broadcaster Darren McGarvey

Author, musician and social commentator Darren McGarvey is behind new BBC documentary The State We’re In.
Darren McGarvey's latest documentary will air on BBC Scotland. Image: GettyDarren McGarvey's latest documentary will air on BBC Scotland. Image: Getty
Darren McGarvey's latest documentary will air on BBC Scotland. Image: Getty

Born in Glasgow, Darren McGarvey’s career has always leaned into social commentary.

Also known as Loki, the name which he raps under, McGarvey has won multiple awards for his work both on television and in writing.

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Released in 2017 his book Poverty Safari, which partly describes his own experience of growing up in impoverished, explores issues surrounding the subject with his Bafta award-winning 2022 documentary exploring his issues with addiction.

McGarvey will return to television screens with The State We’re In, a three-part documentary series which will air on BBC Scotland at 10pm on February 27.

Here’s everything you need to know about Darren McGarvey.

Who is Darren McGarvey?

Darren McGarvey is an author, activist, rapper and social commentator who focuses on issues such as poverty and addiction.

He rose to prominence as a rapper using the stage name Loki, a reference to Norse mythology, in the early 2000s. He became one of Scotland’s most influential hip-hop artists with his work including concept album Government Issue Music Protest (GIMP) which was released in 2014.

In 2015 he served as the “rapper-in-residence” with the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit in a position which looked to help tackle knife crime and gang culture.

Speaking on the role, he said: “I’m under no illusions that somebody like me can solve this whole problem, but if I frame it in a language those young men understand, I can get the cogs turning in their heads.”

Having grown up in Pollock, McGarvey’s life has been shaped by his experiences living in the area as a child.

His mother, McGarvey says, was a violent alcoholic who “ruled me with fear”.

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In an interview with the Guardian he described one incident from his early life.

Darren McGarvey is behind new BBC documentary series The State We're In. (Pic: John Devlin)Darren McGarvey is behind new BBC documentary series The State We're In. (Pic: John Devlin)
Darren McGarvey is behind new BBC documentary series The State We're In. (Pic: John Devlin)

“She had a cruel streak. I remember when I was a wee boy of five, I was refusing to go to my bed. There were people downstairs drinking, friends of hers, my aunties, uncles. She lost the plot. She ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, chased me up the stairs, knife to my throat. Then I saw her getting pulled from behind, by my dad, away from me, and I got picked up and taken away.”

His mother left when he was ten, and McGarvey was raised by his electrician father from the age of 10 alongside his siblings.

In a later interview McGarvey shared: “Not every single day was like Trainspotting.

“My story begins with my mother being a victim of various forms of violence, and being so traumatised that she can’t get it together. I would never want people to think my mum was an evil person. She was so damaged.”

His sense of empathy has made him especially adept at tackling subjects such as addiction and poverty on television, with his broadcast career including documentaries such as Darren McGarvey's Scotland, Class Wars and Addictions.

Having dealt with many of the issues which are at the heart of his work, McGarvey has built a successful career for himself as a broadcaster, journalist, writer and activist having won awards such as the Scottish Bafta for best Factual Series as well as the Orwell book prize.

Despite this, in an earlier interview with The Scotsman he described himself as “still close in proximity to the quicksand”.

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He said: “I’m the most affluent person in my family now but one relapse, one poorly judged tweet and I get a sense of the fragility of my social position. Class is not necessarily defined by what’s in your bank account, but by how stable your position is, and a lot of my social connections, family and friends are still living the way I was before.”

McGarvey shares two children with his partner musician Becci Wallace. His most recent book The Social Distance Between Us: How Remote Politics Wrecked Britain was released in 2022 and described by a reviewer for The Scotsman as "vital and indispensable".

What is The State We’re In about?

Darren McGarvey’s The State We’re In will see the broadcaster examine the UK’s public services, travelling the length and breadth of the country.

McGarvey will delve into the justice system, education and health service among other issues, with a tough but compassionate viewpoint. As a campaigner who is well known for his working class background, he will bring his own perspective into the picture to analyse what is happening within prisons, schools, and hospitals.

The series will visit Barlinnie. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA WireThe series will visit Barlinnie. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
The series will visit Barlinnie. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

With privileged access within these establishments, the new documentary will examine the UK’s state services as well as looking to radical examples in countries such as Scandinavia for ways to evolve these systems.

The first episode focuses on the justice system, through the eyes of those who live and work within it. With overcrowding within prisons, and long processes for cases to reach court, issues such as public trust in police and knife crime will be explored.

In addition, McGarvey will spend the day in Barlinnie; Scotland’s oldest and biggest prison. There, he will face the reality of prison in the 21st century in the UK before heading to Norway to witness how a system which favours shorter prison sentences and focuses on rehabilitation works.

Where to watch Darren McGarvey: The State We’re In

The first episode of Darren McGarvey: The State We’re In will air on BBC Scotland on Tuesday, February 27 at 10pm.

In addition it will be broadcast on Thursday, February 29 at 9pm on BBC Two.

All episodes are currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.



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