Pick a Sky and Name It 11.30 19th October BBC Radio 4
Poet Momtaza Mehri recreates the childhood experiences that turned a young British-Somali girl living in the Middle East, into a published millennial poet. A house belonging to her grandmother is the closest Momtaza has come to having a permanent home. Aside from summer months in London, her family picked its way across Saudi, Syria and the UAE, following her dad’s work. Across a sea, another gulf, was the country her parents no longer called home.
The Driverless Car will soon be commonplace. We will be driven from the driver’s seat by new technology. In this Archive on 4, confirmed motorist Peter Curran looks at the last eighty years of car culture, the cult of ownership and life in the driving seat. Soon it will be time to hang up the driving gloves and make way for a safer greener vehicle that comes when you call it, takes you to your destination then goes away again. More of a taxi, really, not something you’ll own. But the car has driven itself deep into popular culture, so how easy will it be to let go of the steering wheel? Comedian and author Alexei Sayle gives a Marxist perspective.
Bespoke audio/podcasts for the University of Newcastle’s Thomas Nashe Project.
Nashe – University Wit and possibly Shakespeare collaborator, a pornographer and provocative pamphleteer when the term ‘professional writer’ was unheard of. This project aims to put him back on the timeline of literary history
The Driver and the Dictator. BBC World Service, The Documentary June 2017
February 1958, Havana, Cuba. The Driver – Juan Manuel Fangio – was a world famous star of Formula 1 racing. Legend had it he had an affair with Eva Perron. The Dictator – Fulgencia Batista – faced an unstoppable revolution. A true story of sabotage, intrigue, speed, death and forgiveness which shocked the world and is now forgotten, except by Stirling Moss, who was in on the action. The perpetrators themselves talk about their daring exploits nearly sixty years ago to presenter Arnaldo Hernandez Diaz. Recorded on location in Cuba. Listen here.
Father’s Day BBC Radio 4 Archive on 4, June 17th
Comedian, author, activist and father Mark Thomas has some trenchant Father’s Day wishes for fathers and their families, nuclear and otherwise, to mark this special day in the calendar
The Great Egg Freeze BBC Radio 4 March 2017 Fi Glover takes a personal look at a growing trend – egg freezing offered as a corporate work benefit. She speaks to women who have done it, as well as doctors and employers. Freezing eggs seems the ultimate in planning a family and a career – and Fi Glover considered it when she was living in the US almost a decade ago. Back then it was still a niche technology. Now a growing number of companies, including Apple and Facebook, are offering it as a benefit and some UK tech companies are also discussing the option. ‘Witty and Deft’ The Observer. More on Fi’s own experiences in her Radio Times piece.
Stephen Fry and Grayson Perry Discuss handwriting as art
Fry’s English Delight: latest series of Stephen Fry’s ever popular interrogation of this Lish we call Eng, February 2017 starts with Grayson Perry helping Stephen examine the physicality of text. All 33 are available here:
The Mumsnet Babies Podcast with Fi Glover. Also on itunes Parents are time-poor, and often too tired to function, let alone read. The Mumsnet Babies Podcast, sponsored by Fairy NonBio, gives answers to common parenting conundrums with no fluff or fuss – all packaged in a format that’s perfect for the 3am feed or a snatched half-hour when the little one is (finally) down for a nap. Advice from Mumsnetters who’ve come out the other side, and tips on ten subjects from experts to help demystify the issues at hand – alongside a healthy dollop of Mumsnet’s trademark humour provided by Presenter Fi Glover.
Eating and Watching. Peter Curran investigates the century old link between munching and movies. The humble lettuce helps tell the story
Listening and Driving. 26th January 2017 1130am Laura Barton explores a common cultural experience that people take for granted – the music we choose when we’re in the car
Clockface 2nd February 2017 1130am Why has the old fashioned clockface survived? Comedian and presenter Aatif Nawaz assesses an ancient interface measuring something valuable yet intangible – time. He’s helped by Suzanne Wong of Revolution magazine
Next Stop: Mariachi Plaza: May 2016 BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio BBC World Service
The mariachis of Boyle Heights, East LA, hang around on Mariachi Plaza to pick up work, under the watchful eye of their patron, Our Lady of Guadalupe (pictured). But Boyle Heights is changing, as Evalngeline Ordaz finds out on a night out with the musicians.
Producer: Tamsin Hughes
Scenes From Student Life
18th April 2016 1.45pm
series available here
Ten part series, each programme depicting a scene from student life, starting in the 14th century and ending now. Presented by recent graduate Ellie Cawthorne (above). For more info go here
Working Class Heroes and Poverty Porn
16th April 2016 Archive on 4 8pm BBC Radio 4
Stuart Maconie tries to link the working class heroes in the books, theatre and movies of the fifties and sixties with the lives of those portrayed in what seems to be a new genre of television – ‘Poverty Porn’. He’s helped by actor and writer Maxine Peake, who has played a prince (Hamlet) and a pauper (Veronica in Shameless); Matthew Sweet, cultural historian and Peter Flannery, creator of Our Friends in the North. Mainly made in the North.
BBC Radio 4 29th December 2015
Rainer Hersch enjoys a bit of a tinkle. Some of the very first acoustic musical sounds we hear and make are those on toy instruments that ‘tinkle’. Especially tiny pianos. How and why are these kind of sounds so evocative? And can music on tiny tinklers be played seriously? Tiny pianos sound tiny. We hear them in our minds’ ear and see them in the mind’s eye as tiny. This is mini-synaesthesia. Some sonic materials can sound ‘pure’ – which is why the concert metal glockenspiel’s double resonance (childhood, purity) makes you think of angels, cherubs or elves
Jay Rayner Pigs Out Archive on 4
BBC Radio 4 26th December 2015
This hour long pigfest crackles with controversy. Pigs in politics, on the plate, on the page, on the operating table and on our conscience. Animal lovers beware: Jay Rayner’s snout to tail investigation is not for the faint hearted. There isn’t a pig-part that Mr Rayner doesn’t handle.
My Big Fat Documentary
BBC Radio 4 17th June 2015
When performer and artist, Scottee, decided to invent a fat pride talent show and beauty pageant, he wanted to find the most successful, beautiful, glorious fat person ever. And he wanted to celebrate people he was sick of hearing described as sad, lazy and a drain on the NHS. So he created Hamburger Queen. His investigation leads him and us to reconsider attitudes to fat. Is the world ready for Scottee’s personal brand of fat activism? You be the judge.
‘Scottee was worth his weight in gold on an excellent documentary’ Miranda Sawyer, Observer.
‘There’s no clear winner in the debate around fat and health, but that doesn’t make the beliefs voiced here any less powerful’ Hanna Verdier, Guardian
BBC Radio 4 – March 12th 2015 11.30
How we humans really like to consume our culture. FRAMING DEVICE with Sarah Cuddon looks at that staple of the domestic interiors, the picture frame. Framing decisions made by artists and mere mortals in suburban framing shops can draw attention to, detract from or even radically alter the nature of the object within. Which in our programme could be a human ponytail or an oil painting. (Photo Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography)
EXIST THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – presenter Nick Baker – looks at the way in which museum gift shops have become a central part of the visitor experience, and how purchases in museum and gallery gift shops connect with the content of the exhibitions. These can include anything from a miniature Liverpool wheelie bin to a replica of part of the Elgin Marbles.
ON A PLATE The questions this programme asks are as much related to egg cups claiming ‘Best Mum in the World’ as they are to rare Willow Pattern tea sets. How the design, familiarity, choice and condition of the stuff people really eat off affects the experience of consumption -literally and metaphorically. Jack Monroe – more associated with what’s on the plate – presents
TOO MANY BOOKS (listen to it below) depicted our struggle with a glut of the written word. Presenter Sarah Cuddon, Producer Tamsin Hughes
BBC World Service November 2014, available here
Nick Baker and Anglo Cuban journalist Arnaldo Hernandez Diaz get to grips with modern Cuba and its people. A vivid snapshot of Cuba in three parts:
Above: Arnaldo Hernandez Diaz, Jose Augustin (soon to be Adela) and Nick Baker
CUBA OFFLINE – Broadcast just before news of the normlisation of the USA and Cuba: Most Cubans can’t afford to get online, but there are ingenious ways to circulate downloaded material. There are also benefits of not being connected. And dissent online….
CUBA LGBT Fransisco had to ‘come out’ to his wife and son. Mercedes is a lesbian activist. Jose Augustin, exiled from family, awaits sex change surgery. Despite a homophobic past, Cuba’s keen to liberalise attitudes thanks to the efforts of Mariella Castro, the President’s daughter, who explains why Cuba funds free transgender surgery.
EXPORT DOCTORS Tachira and Jo have just qualified as doctors. They’re Americans, among 20 students who trained for free this year in Cuba, promising to return to practice in poor communities in the US. US training would have cost $250,000. We hear about their experiences as ‘honorary Cubans’.
Blood Sage and Grace
BBC Radio 4 11th December 2014, 11.30am
Grace Dent’s personal take on Lorna Sage’s classic memoir, Bad Blood. It’s a story about how books can be passports out of the ‘hell’ of childhood.
When Grace first read it, it made a huge impact on her, forcing her to question her own childhood and her relationship with writing. Bad Blood tells the tale of a strange upbringing in a haunted postwar Britain. ‘I’ve never read anything which explores with such biting humor and energy the way rage and frustrated desire are passed down the family line. I’ve always felt I have a great memoir in me but I’d have to wait for a lot of people to die before I could write it,’ says Grace.
She visits the Shropshire vicarage where Bad Blood is set and talks to Lorna’s daughter Sharon and to close friends and colleagues including writers Marina Warner and Ali Smith who knew her well.
‘This is a fine programme, infused with gloom and mischief.’
David Hepworth, the Guardian
‘The Gospel According to Joan’
BBC Radio 3, October 26th 2014 is a 45 minute account of the working methods and influence of Joan Littlewood, Britain’s favourite theatre revolutionary, with testimony from Joan herself, as well as those who knew her and worked with her. It marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.
BBC Radio 4, 23rd October 2014. Nick Baker and Arnaldo Hernandez Diaz ask what happens when one of the world’s least connected countries, Cuba, gets the internet. On their travels they get stuck in a queue for mobile phone updates, meet one of Cuba’s first online estate agents and get stopped by the police – everything is controlled by the state in Cuba, but will things change when more people can get connected? A dissident blogger has the answer.
Speaking as a Member of the Public
BBC Radio 4 18th October 2014. Danny Wallace has been vox popping about vox pops and asking who is and who isn’t a member of the public, and what that well worn phrase actually means. With surprising contributions from Esther Rantzen, Nick Higham Alan Yentob and Henry Winkler and comedy observations from Dick Emery and Charlie Higson.
The Art of the Menu
BBC Radio 4, 29th September 2014. 1630miscellanist and language sandwich man Ben Schott studies the menu-maker’s craft and discovers an eater who kept – and annotated – every menu from which he ate for forty years. Can the art and design of the menu make you order more?
Information Age Exhibition. Producers Tamsin Hughes, Peregrine Andrews, Sarah Cuddon and Ellie Dobing have been creating audio for the new Information Age exhibition, with audio items about how the Coronation in 1953 introduced ‘appointment to view’ TV; Lyon’s Corner House’s revolutionary 1950’s computer, Leo and some moving testimony about how technology and humanity converge to make the Samaritans such an effective service.
State of Grace
BBC Radio 4 9th June 2014 “Patience is a virtue. Virtue is a grace. Both put together, make a pretty face.”The girls’ name Grace fell out of fashion in the1930s but has recently become very popular again. Grace Dent sets out to discover what makes her name – and the notion – so captivating, as she explores the modern state of grace.
Listen Without Mother
Archive on 4 BBC Radio 4 April 5th 2014. If you’re mum’s stuck in her ways about motherhood, best listen to this without her: Fi Glover gets stuck in to generations of mothers in the radio archive: Ambridge’s Jennifer Aldridge and her shockingly illegitimate baby; Kim Cotton the first official surrogate mother; Nicola Horlick the billionaire hedge fund supermum and Lesley Brown the UK’s first test tube mum. Fi also consults motherhood experts like Penelope Leach, Dr Miriam Stoppard and Gina Ford. This personal journey into the BBC archives critically tracks the changing concept and practice of motherhood over the last five decades. We hear how tone and advice have changed over the years and how (eventually) mothers learned to laugh at themselves and not be browbeaten.
Up the Workers!
Radio 4 Extra Saturday 29th March 2014. Nick Baker, working at home and presenting from his desk, immerses himself in a study of work, the workplace and the workshy. It’s hard work, but he will take a break to play with a Lego policeman and get a quick Greek lesson from the butcher round the corner. And tidy up. Over three hours, he’ll enjoy a choice staffroom edition of King Street Junior, hear about the careers consultant who hid from her job and feel nothing but sympathy for fellow homeworker Ed Reardon in an edition of Ed Reardon’s Week. So, hardly work at all really.
BBC Radio 4 Monday 24th March 2014. They’re called co-working spaces. Open space, rent-a-workstation complexes for young sole traders, often in beautiful “recovered” buildings in the UK and round the world. And there’s one opening near you, offering new entrepreneurs hope at a difficult time. They nurture technological, artistic, creative, charitable socially enterprising and often surprising ventures. A new, optimistic beginning for the world of business and work? We visit spaces in London, Wales and Berlin to find out whether co-working spaces are the future for small business people with big ideas.
Grace Dent’s Guide to Growing Up a Girl
Radio 4 Extra Sunday 23rd March 2014. 1300 – 1600. Messy bedrooms, friendship bracelets, brownie guides and a Grease sing-along. Grace Dent is ‘in’ to champion girls on the radio because she’s “not going out dressed like that.” Memories flood back as she returns to inhabit the childhood bedroom–in-her-head, with a selection of listening that celebrate growing up a girl. Over three hours, Grace stomps about with Pippi Longstocking in The Strongest Girl in The World, escapes into the 1950’s world of girls’ comics with 43 Years in The Third Form featuring Rosanna: Schoolgirl of Mystery, and Angela: The Air Hostess! Decades later, Grace also discovers: What Is It About Judy Blume?
Jay Rayner Gets Stuffed
Radio 4 Extra Saturday February 8th 2014. 9am, repeated 7pm
In a personal selection of deliciously fat-drenched, gut-busting grub-related radio, critic and writer Jay Rayner looks back at some ear-food and celebrates decades of radio nosh.
Jay’s choices include a generous helping of loudmouth chef Anthony Bourdain; a rare appearance from Elizabeth David on The Food Programme; Keith Floyd starring as a Roman chef in a late night R4 comedy and Nina Myskow talking to essayist David Sedaris, children’s author Judith Kerr and dancer Carlos Acosta about what they really eat.
There’s a funny dash of Miles Jupp as Damien Trench, In and Out of The Kitchen and a pinch of sarcasm with The Sunday Format on ‘Gastronimity’. We hear from a Philadelpia deli in award-winning documentary One Big Kitchen Table and from the world of competitive American barbecuing with Russell Davies in You Is What You Eat …“Hog lard, of course that’s what killed my grandfather…at 94” says a pork-loving chef from the American South.
BBC Radio 4 7th January 2014. 11.30am. Some moving stories involving pianos, their owners, and their transporters. There’s nothing more likely to refresh a piano-owner’s feelings towards a piano, than having to move it up or downstairs – or from one continent to another.
Siobhan is faced with shifting an old family upright into a new first floor flat. Alison is overseeing the removal of a Steinway B from the home of her late employer, a famous orchestral conductor. We follow their progress as pianos are lugged sweatily upstairs or craned out of windows, suspended temporarily 30ft above the street. And we hear about a difficult experience moving a piano. Lesley lost more than her dignity in an ill-fated piano moving exercise.
And there’s Penny, organiser of the Two Moors classical music festival, who watched as a nine foot Bösendorfer grand – twenty six grand, to be precise – fell off the back of a lorry and thirteen feet into a Devon ditch.
So, forget the chimps, Laurel and Hardy and Bernard Cribbins. Piano movement is a serious business
A Taste of Funny… with Denis Norden
Radio 4 Extra Saturday 30th November 2013. 9am, repeated 7pm
Denis Norden curates three hours of personally-chosen comedy listening, with Nick Baker.
After poring through his own collection of comedy albums and wading through nine decades of accumulated radio memories, he’s come up with A Taste of Funny, in which he catalogues the assorted flavours of listening that have shaped his personal tastes.
If you’re one of those people stuck with the image of a lanky Denis Norden fronting a TV out-takes show, clip board in hand, think again. Wait a minute, hold the lanky bit. Because he has a story about that. According to Mel Brooks, writers cannot be tall. Directors are tall, writers are short. So when Mel (short) met Denis (tall) he was surprised to hear he was a writer. “Does that mean you know?” Brooks asked.
Denis knows. As a listener, writer, performer, producer, consultant even. He and his long term partner Frank Muir were the first ever official British comedy consultants and advisors, with an office in BBC TV Centre and everything. Together they invented comedy’s first truly dysfunctional comedy family, the Glums. And Denis has performed in panel shows, written in Hollywood, and been involved with radio’s first ever improvised show, performed by Peter Ustinov and Peter Jones, long before impro’s 80’s heyday. He has been there, done that and could certainly come up with an excellent slogan for the T shirt, if asked.
“Three hours of wireless magic” Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph
BBC Radio Young Writers: 25 Years On
BBC Radio 4 Extra 12th – 18th October 2013. It was a call to arms for young writers, aged between 15 and 30, to send in their scripts to BBC Radio Drama and write for radio for the first time. By way of celebration of its 25th anniversary, drama producer Jeremy Mortimer has put together a season of ten specially chosen plays from festivals over the years, for BBC Radio 4 Extra.
He also went back to talk to some of the writers involved: Benjamin Zephaniah (Hurricane Dub), Hattie Naylor (The Box), Abigail Docherty (Listen to my Inside Mind), Roy Williams (Homeboys), Craig Warner (Great Men of Music) and Andrew Wallace (Burn Your Phone). He spoke to directors, Claire Grove and Jeremy Howe (now Drama Commissioning Editor) and the former Controller of Radio 4, Michael Green.
As part of the season, BBC Radio 4 Extra is also rebroadcasting the comedy show that launched the first festival, in 1988: The Word Made Fresh. It was compered by Alan Cumming and Forbes Masson, and features an early radio appearance by Steve Coogan.
The National Theatre at 50
BBC Radio 4 Extra, 19th October 2013. National Theatre Official biographer Daniel Rosenthal conjures up stories and scenes from five decades of a unique national institution. We hear from some of the National’s biggest names including Dame Judy Dench and Sir Peter Hall and we go backstage to hear from the unsung heroes working in wardrobe, as prop designers, puppet makers, stage managers and front of house people. You’ll hear:
- How an episode of Radio 3’s Private Passions inspired Alan Bennett when he was writing The History Boys.
- Why the National once sent copies of Mozart’s fruitily-written private correspondence to PM Margaret Thatcher.
- What happened when Paul McCartney was asked to write the music for an all-male production of As You Like It.
- How an actor’s thumb – mistaken for another part of his anatomy – helped defend the National against a serious prosecution.
The Show to End all Wars
BBC Radio 4 12th September 2013. 11.30. Simon Russell Beale on the ground breaking musical Oh What a Lovely War, now marking its 50th anniversary. With contributions from the cast and an exclusive interview with its co-creator Charles Chilton who died last year. Did the show’s originality change the way we viewed the First World War?
Hersch on Herschel
BBC Radio 4 July 8th 2013. 4pm. Musician and comedian Rainer Hersch on the life of near namesake William Herschel – a German-born British composer and astronomer who discovered Uranus, and infrared radiation. Herschel also composed 24 symphonies. In Rainer Hersch’s spare time his is a keen amateur astronomer with, like Herschel, a telescope in his back garden. Hersch has a German background and is a serious and highly trained musician who has turned to Astronomy in his spare time. The timing of this documentary will mark the end of the life of the Herschel Space Observatory (the largest telescope ever launched into space), which has been observing the Universe in the infrared part of the spectrum. An entertaining reflection on astronomy and music.
Those Radio Times: 1953
BBC Radio 4 Extra June 1st 2013. 9am, 7pm
Nick Baker introduces a three hour selection of programmes from BBC Radio’s coronation year. It was the year the nation bought into the television miracle, if only to “look-in” to see the new queen being crowned.. Our image of radio of the time is that it was a bit grey and dowdy – an unadventurous medium that would soon be eclipsed by TV pictures. Nick sets out to show this is wrong – with a feisty interview with Evelyn Waugh, a revealing Have a Go from Ramsbottom, with Wilfred Pickles and some risqué material from Twenty Questions (“Do they wobble while they do it?”). TV didn’t have big names to call its own yet, and these entertaining three hours celebrate the radio stars of 53: Pickles, Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, a young multi-voiced Johnny Morris and the famously grumpy Gilbert Harding among them.
Pictured:Multi-voiced Johnny Morris
What is it about Judy Blume?
BBC Radio 4 Monday April 1st 2013. 4pm. In the Seventies and Eighties young girls’ shelves were filled with books by American authors like Paul Zindel, Betsy Byars, M.E. Kerr, Paula Danziger and specifically, Judy Blume. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Deanie, Blubber, Tiger Eyes and the infamous Forever sold in their millions. Writer and Judy Blume fan, Sarah Cuddon goes in search of the British readers who embraced American teen, and pre-teen, fiction. Girls, in particular, were no longer Little Women and the coming of age novel was experiencing a kind of coming of age itself. Why did we devour these titles voraciously? What was it about Judy Blume? And how did reading about the emotional trials and tribulations of a bunch of slightly mixed up American kids help get us through our teenage years?
BBC Radio 3 In Tune 11th -15th March 2013. 5.30pm. Comic Relief and BBC Radio 3 have borrowed Testbed’ s Nick Baker to write a series of five comedies portraying the side of Baroque music you don’t usually hear about. Includes Death By Chocolate (Henry Purcell), The Full Monteverdi and Handel with Care. Stars Simon Russell Beale. Directed by Dirk Maggs
BBC Radio 4 8pm 29th December 2012. Stephen Fry salutes much-loved actress Margaret Rutherford. The comic roles she played were as nothing to the incredible true crime stories that shaped her life and career.
Margaret Rutherford: She was a benign battleaxe, chin wagging like a windsock, famous as Miss Marple, Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit and for her roles in Passport to Pimlico, The Importance of Being Earnest and an Oscar-winning performance in The VIPs. Stephen Fry looks back at the life and work of one of our finest comedy actors and one of Britain’s best-loved box office stars.
The comic and dramatic roles Margaret played were as nothing to the astonishing true crime stories that shaped her life and career. She was a regular visitor to a young offenders’ institution, had a family secret that she never revealed and murder was to play a part in Margaret’s life, beyond the role of Miss Marple.Producer Tamsin Hughes
‘Riveting’ The Observer
BBC Radio 4. 4pm 17th December 2012. Actress Rachael Stirling reveals the Stage Door’s secrets, its unwritten rules and routines, and we get a glimpse of what happens in the moments before and after crossing the threshold, past and present. Staking out the stage door, we hear from ‘stage dooring’ fans and autograph hunters as well as actors, cast members and crew. In the middle is the stage door keeper, determining who goes in and what stays out, organising its transitory residents and protecting the performers when the show comes in.
Producer Tamsin Hughes
Duration Duration Duration
BBC Radio 4 4pm 1 October 2012. Pop songs are three minutes, TV programmes thirty (or multiples thereof) commercials 30 seconds and movies, on average 95. Independent newspaper columnist Grace Dent looks at how duration shapes culture. It’s not just how much audio fits on a 45rpm record, or how much film fits on a reel. We have to take into account attention span, ambient temperature and how quickly the average seated bum goes numb. So what happens to duration when we can download and listen/watch at our leisure?
Preparing a Piano
BBC Radio 3 22nd September 2012. 12.15. As a tribute in the centenary year of John Cage and in perhaps the first DIY programme ever to be broadcast on Radio 3, the inimitable pianist and comedian Rainer Hersch learns how to prepare a piano, with help from B & Q and the Royal College of Music His teacher is the master of the art Richard Bunger Evans who first met Cage in 1967 and was entrusted with the editing of Cage’s early manuscripts. Cage coined the term ‘prepared piano’ and was undoubtedly the composer who made the technique famous.
Mr Jupitus in the age of Steampunk
BBC Radio 4 3rd September 2012. 4pm. Phill Jupitus descends into the clanking world of Steampunk – a growing subculture devoted to an anachronistic world in which Victorian and Edwardian arts and sciences get a modern twist. An adherent might be seen in a tweed cape, industrial work boots, flaunting the rakish air of Lionel Jeffries. Perhaps carrying a digital pocketwatch, a mahogany laptop or a brass iPhone on a chain. They’re also likely to have a deep knowledge of HG Wells, and a fascination with early valve technology. Would you know a steampunk if you saw him or her?
Fry’s English Delight Series 5
BBC Radio 4, starts August 16th 2012. 9am. David Hockney joins Stephen Fry to talk about the language of colour in the new series of the ever popular Fry’s English Delight. For more on the series as it unfolds and bonus audio from all the programmes click here.
Whatever Happened to the Chemistry Set?
BBC Radio 4 1st August 9pm. Dr Kat Arney lays out the history of the chemistry set and assesses its impact on a generation of scientists, charting reasons for its decline in the final decades of the 20th Century. In its heyday, the chemistry set fuelled the imagination of young amateur scientists, some of whom became Nobel prize winners. It was a powerful if smelly recruiting tool for all that chemistry had to offer. With academics claiming that a lack of hands-on experience leaves students ill-prepared for practical work in industry and higher education, she asks how the Chemistry Set might make a comeback.
The Man Who Saves Life Stories
Friday 8th June 2012. 11am BBC Radio 4. Dr Irving Finkel collects ordinary people’s lives, in diary form, hundreds of them. But Irving – by day Assistant Keeper of the Department of Asiatic Antiquities, British Museum, has a problem. How to make his lives accessible to a wider audience.
Song by Song London
BBC World Service 23rd June 2012. Robert Elms is searching for the musical soul of London, celebrated in over a century of song. He finds it in the characters of street sellers, wartime entertainers, and the songs that were played in East End music halls. He maps the music shaped by Mayfair ballrooms, Soho basements and afterhour’s clubs in Ladbroke Grove. What do Robert’s personal musical highlights reveal about the history and geography of the capital? Featuring songs by The Clash, David Bowie, Lord Kitchener, Gert and Daisy, Lily Allen, The Kinks and more…
Audio specially created for Gransnet, the surprisingly youthful and extremely useful website for grandparents. Starting with broadcaster Fi Glover regretting her own Granlessness, and Which Money Editor James Daley talking about finance for generous grand parents and author Penelope Lively on hernew book.
BBC Radio 4 Extra
For June Bank Holiday, six hours of Horrible Histories, Directed by Dirk Maggs for Testbed and written by Terry Deary and Nick Baker with a full comedy cast. Originally (and still) available as CD and download. Groovy Greeks, Rotten Romans, Measly Middle Ages, Terrible Tudors, Vile Victorians, Woeful Second World War.
Balalaika Born Again
17th April 2011. 1130 am. Recorded in Dubrovnik and Moscow, this music documentary follows the fingertips of Russia’s most unusual virtuoso – Alexey Arkhipovsky. He has reinvented the balalaika with a sensitivity that ignores labels like classical, world music and jazz. Have a listen to some of his music:
Stephen Fry Does the Knowledge
Saturday 19th November 2011. BBC Radio 4 also on CD and download. The quest, aboard a diesel powered metaphor, to identify what knowledge is and how we define, store, value, share and understand it.
Stephen does the knowledge on Saturday 19th November in Archive on 4: Not literally, despite his known connections with the black cab. This archive programme charts the history of knowledge, how technology changes our relationship with it and how we know what we know. Cab drivers, quiz contestants, philosophers, memory champions and members of the Brains Trust on knowledge, general and specific. If Ty Phoo put the tea in Britain, should we take the piss out of epistemology?
‘ Hugely entertaining’ Laurence Joyce, Radio Times
BBC Radio 4 Sunday 20th November 2011. 16.30. It is one hundred years since the American poet Hilda Doolittle came to live in London. She lived through explosive changes in twentieth century culture with her dramatic life often overshadowing her work. Considered for decades as Ezra Pound’s Imagiste acolyte, she held her own through psychoanalysis with Freud, travelled extensively, had numerous long term relationships with both men and women, and an intense emotional and artistic connection with DH Lawrence. Yet it was her poetry that was the core of her being. Though her early Imagist poems are her best known work, it was World War 2 that saw her at the height of her powers. Writer and broadcaster Diana Collecott is our guide to the world of Hilda Doolittle and Sara Kestelman reads a selection of her poetry.
Series 4, broadcast summer 2011 is available as CD and download. More of Stephen’s expeditions into the tongue we call mother. In this one, an examination of the mouth, a reflection on class, a celebration of brevity and an anatomy of persuasive language. So listen, right? A new series is scheduled for the new year.
Producers Ian Gardhouse, Sarah Cuddon, Nick Baker
‘I used to think I’d had enough Stephen Fry to last a lifetime. I was wrong. His return to Radio 4 yesterday morning with Fry’s English Delight – talking about the mouth, its multiple functions and miraculous construction – arrived like sunshine after constant rain.’ Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph
BBC Radio 4 11.30 Thursday 8th September 2011. ‘Paki’ has always been a charged word. Yet, in Jan Needle’s book for teenagers My Mate Shofiq, it’s used freely by the characters, in its original nasty context. The result, in 1978 was a storm of protest. Needle and writers like him were reflecting a gritty world of dole offices, casual racism and uncaring schools – and they were doing it for kids’ consumption. The same kind of realism that had dawned on English fiction and movies in the 1950’s came late to children’s fiction, but when it came, it had a massive impact. The world of the midnight feast in the dorm, the idyllic holiday cottage and landscapes begging for dogwalking and picnics were replaced by bikesheds, sports halls and back ginnels. Fantasy and mystery were replaced by tensions between races, sexes and generations. In Comp Lit Nick Baker meets key authors of the era and argues that the new kind of fiction, aimed at and depicting a comprehensive slice of young life had far reaching consequences on education and the media.
Too Many Books
Radio 4 2nd November 2011. 11am. It’s something that most of us have to do, from time to time: get rid of old books. People moving house, someone whose partner has died, those simply needing more space in the kitchen find that their bookshelves just aren’t big enough. Writer and presenter Sarah Cuddon examines the difficult decisions behind the seemingly mundane choices we make when deciding which books stay and which books go. Amongst the people she talks to are Brian, who lives in Dorset. One shelf at a time, he wades through, weighing up a Delia Smith against a book about Spike Milligan. Does it stay on the shelf? Should it go in the box? Angel is contemplating a vast and varied collection of valuable volumes left after the death of her husband. Whilst Trevor in South East London peruses each title, skimming, pausing to reflect on his attachment to Boswell, Hunter S Thompson and James Lee Burke. They all stare at their shelves and start making painful decisions, based on their human relationship with individual books. How can they be saved from the pulp mill?
Producer Tamsin Hughes
‘Sarah Cuddon’s 30 minutes, with some great interviewees, were fascinating, and managed to cram many of our dilemmas into a short time without overload.’
‘In short, a gem’. Euan Ferguson, Observer:
Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph.
The Music Group
BBC Radio 4. The music conversation programme with three records and no luxury, presented by Dr Phil Hammond. Guests in this series include comedian Stewart Lee, poet John Cooper Clarke, actress Samantha Moreton, presenter Konnie Huq and celebrity lawyer Mark Stephens.
Almanacs: The Oldest Guides to Everything
BBC Radio 4 22nd July 2011. 11.30. Ben Schott, Britain’s foremost Almanac maker, charts the history and influence of a pocket book encyclopaedia and self-help manual that rivalled the bible as a bestseller. With optional advice on amateur surgery. With over 400,000 sold annually, 1 in 4 households owned an almanac. Combining the characteristics of calendar, self-help manual and pocket encyclopaedia, almanacs contained utilitarian information on just about everything: feast days and holidays, good and bad weather, when to sow crops, let blood, how to write an IOU, even advice on amateur surgery and do-it-yourself abortion.
‘a snappily produced programme, with lots of atmospheric detail: creaking doors, jaunty music as a backdrop to the sillier quotations, and rich visual clues from casual asides… well told, and illustrated with cracking material’
Elizabeth Mahoney, The Guardian
Put Your Hands Together
BBC Radio 4, 17th June 2011. The anatomy of the ritual hand clap, with recordings made in China, Fiji, Spain and the UK. From chimps in the jungles of Borneo to delegates at the trade union congress, the hand clap has an attention-seeking variety of meanings that provide rich clues to the origins of language.
‘Water cooler friendly’ Chris Campling, The Times
Crime Scene Insects
BBC World Service Friday 11th June 2011. Welcome to the world of a forensic entomologist. Amoret Whitaker is a scientist called in to help on murder cases where it is difficult to determine the time of death, since rigor mortis may have long since set in. The body has started to decay yet is full of life. Insect life. These insects are Amoret’s ‘best friends’ as they give her all she needs to know. As a body decomposes, it gives off different chemical signals which attract different insects at different stages of composition.
Read more and listen here.
Back to the Hellespont.
Presenter Doon MacKichan. BBC Radio 4 May 9th 2011. 4.30. This poetry programme follows in the ‘swim strokes’ of Byron who made the first recorded swim across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia in 1810 and sent a wave of swimming mania across nineteenth century Europe. Every year, in honour of Byron, a Hellespont race attracts world attention. Shipping stops, and some swimmers immerse themselves in their own poetry.
“Fascinating” The Observer
Internet Café Hobo
BBC World Service. A unique global project which aims to draw a map round the world, using Internet Cafes and the stories of the people who use them. The first two documentaries were broadcast on BBC World Service on 15th and 22nd December at 23.06 GMT. Countries covered so far: UK, USA, China, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Benin, France. Listen to them here. The third in the series of documentaries was broadcast on BBC World Service starting 11th March 2007 – with material from Australia and Fiji.Pictured: Michael, proprietor of a café in a working class area of Nairobi.
Have a look at the map.
In the Beginning was the Nerd
BBC Radio 4. When Stephen Fry presented this Archive on 4 on BBC Radio 4, he started a small controversy. Was the Millennium Bug a genuine threat to our digital world ten years ago, or was it simply a case of panic stations? Read more and listen to an interview with a man who believed the latter was the case.