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Preview: Radio 4 Choice

Seriously...



A rich selection of documentaries aimed at relentlessly curious minds, introduced by Rhianna Dhillon.



 



The Dawn of British Jihad

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

Before 9/11 British attitudes to partaking in faith-inspired armed combat were... different. British Muslims travelled freely to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burma and Kashmir for a few weeks or months, and then returned home to their day jobs or studies - few questions asked. In this programme, Mobeen Azhar sheds light on the people and organisations involved in this early wave of British involvement in Jihad - the youth organisations which helped send hundreds of young Brits to fight overseas. The programme also reveals reports featured in magazines published in the 1990s by Lashka-e-Taiba - the terrorist group behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Within its pages are detailed reports on how its leader Hafiz Saeed came to Britain in the mid-90s to spread the word on fighting a holy war, find recruits and raise money. The programme hears from those who answered his call - the British Muslims who built bridges with militant groups in South Asia and beyond. Many of these 'pioneers' came from Britain's Salafi community - followers of a strict, literal interpretation of Islam. Since 9/11 the Salafis - sometimes known as Wahhabis - have often been named as the key influencers in the global jihad, but is that accurate? The programme also explains the nuances of Salafism and how this early period of British involvement in Jihad was itself hugely divisive within the British Salafi community, creating a schism between a peaceful pious majority, and those who chose to take up arms. Producers: Richard Fenton-Smith & Sajid Iqbal.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05v0sp4.mp3




Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

Rhianna Dhillon brings you another seriously interesting story from Radio 4. This week, luck. Whether we believe in luck or not, we do use the word- a lot! More as a figure of speech than an article of faith perhaps but some do pray for luck, others fantasise about it - and bad luck or misfortune is a staple of comedy Can luck be said to exist as some force in our lives and if so, what is its nature? How have people thought about luck in the past and what's changed today? Can you bring good luck upon yourself - there's a school of thought these days that thinks you can without appealing to the divine or supernatural. In Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University looks at notions of luck in gambling, traces the origins of how we think about fate and fortune, the religious and psychological view of luck and how the emergence of theory of probability changed our view of it. He is convinced by the philosopher Angie Hobbs that there is one form of luck it is rational to believe in and by psychologist Richard Wiseman that there is a secular solution to bringing about good fortune in your life. Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter, is presented by David Spiegelhalter and produced in Salford by Kevin Mousley.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05tkv01.mp3




Why the Moon, Luke?

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

Luke Jerram is that rare bird, a genuinely popular yet acclaimed contemporary artist. And he's obsessed with the moon. So he's made one: seven metres wide featuring 120dpi detailed NASA imagery, and he's taking it around the world. This is his story, as well as the moon's.. Every day Luke Jerram cycles to his studio across the river in Bristol and watches its dramatic changes. It has the second highest tidal range in the world and it's the moon that makes this happen. Luke's become fascinated with finding out everything he can about the cultural, artistic and poetic significance of the moon, and the latest scientific developments around it. It both reflects our culture and inspires it. Being colourblind he's interested in all forms of light, and moonlight is fascinating and has very particular properties. The fact we see 'the man in the moon' is a perceptual and optical illusion. But again, different cultures see different imagery - in China they see the Hare in the Moon. Luke presents his own story of making these works and hearing people's responses to them, woven in with the new soundtrack he's commissioned from composer Dan Jones. We talk to fellow contemporary moon obsessives James Attlee and Jay Griffiths, but it's all filtered through the very particular consciousness of one artist and his imagination, and the hard slog of his creative process. Producer Beth O'Dea.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05t5t13.mp3




The Far Future

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

How do we prepare for the distant future? Helen Keen meets the people who try to. If our tech society continues then we can leave data for future generations in huge, mundane quantities, detailing our every tweet and Facebook 'like'. But how long could this information be stored? And if society as we know it ends, will our achievements vanish with it? How do we plan for and protect those who will be our distant descendants and yet may have hopes, fears, languages, beliefs, even religions that we simply cannot predict? What if anything can we, should we, pass on?


Media Files:
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Lenny Henry on Richard Pryor: The Making of a Satirist

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

Lenny Henry retraces the late comedian Richard Pryor's seven month stay in Berkeley, California - a crucial moment in his artistic development. Richard Pryor is often hailed as the greatest stand up comedian of all time. For Lenny Henry, it was Pryor's fearless act in the mid 70s and 80s that inspired him as a young comic. And he remains Lenny's comedy hero to this day. But the Richard Pryor that Lenny knows and loves had a very different act when he first started out in 1960s New York. A self-confessed Bill Cosby clone, charming audiences with his 'white bread' humour. It's the stuff of legend how Pryor's biting social satires, salty language, and character-driven routines like The Wino and The Junkie came about after he threw away a lucrative job in Las Vegas and vowed to reinvent himself. But, for Lenny, the key to Pryor's artistic transformation lies in his short stay in Berkeley, California. When he arrived in February 1971, revolution was in the air. A hub for American counterculture, there were pitched battles in the streets between activists and the police. Berkeley was also home to the Black Panthers and a burgeoning black arts movement. Pryor made friends with a local radio producer who invited him on to the local station KPFA, gave him a recorder so he could brainstorm new material, and taped several of his performances around town. With these little-heard tapes, Lenny pieces Pryor's life together during his self-imposed exile. Pryor immersed himself in black history and culture, hanging out with intellectuals like Ishmael Reed and Cecil Brown. For the first time, Pryor was taken seriously as an artist and we get a fascinating glimpse him recording free verse poetry. We also hear Pryor experimenting with edgier material at local clubs. For example, we hear blistering attacks on police brutality and his response to the 1971 Attica prison rebellion - which sound remarkably modern even today. Contributors include: Novelist and poet, Ishmael Reed Former poet laureate of California, Al Young Richard's widow and keeper of his archives, Jennifer Pryor Comedian and director, David Steinberg Actress and comedian, Liz Torres Author of Becoming Richard Pryor, Scott Saul Producer: Victoria Ferran A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05rmbcs.mp3




Thinking Outside the Boxset: How Technology Changed the Story

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0000

For centuries tales were shared around the camp-fire; modern settlements share data via wi-fi. But what hasn't changed across the ages is our passion for histories and information - we shape and make sense of our lives by telling stories about what has happened to us, and relax by reading or seeing fictions about the lives of imagined characters. From cave-dwellers to millennials , stories have been organised in pretty much the same way - with a beginning, middle and end, although, in contemporary culture, now less frequently in that order. All storytellers have used techniques of tension, delayed revelation, surprise twists. But - now - the art of narrative is being fundamentally changed by new technologies, which offer fresh ways of telling stories and different places for them to be told, redefine narrative genres, and allow audiences unprecedented opportunities to inter-act with and even co-author the content. In this, the first part of a new three part series, Mark Lawson speaks with some of the leading figures in British TV - including showrunner Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty), producer Nicola Shindler (Red Productions) writer Paula Milne (The Politician's Wife, Angels), Charlotte Moore (BBC Director of Content) - to examine how the stories being told on television in the digital age have adapted to the advent of streaming services, binge-watching and catch-up TV. Mark also visits a cinema in Macclesfield to watch the live broadcast of 'Follies'- staged simultaneously in the West End. He talks with Kwame Kwei-Armah, soon to begin as the Young Vic's Artistic Director, about how the technology involved has brought top-level theatre to a whole new audience and redefined the idea of live spectatorship. Presenter: Mark Lawson Producer: Geoff Bird.


Media Files:
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The Power of Sloth

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, Lucy Cooke, unleashes her inner sloth to discover why being lazy could actually be the ultimate evolutionary strategy. The explorers of the New World described sloths as 'the lowest form of existence', but sloths are actually some of the most enduring of all tropical mammals. They make up one third of the mammalian biomass in rainforests and have survived some 64 million years - outliving far flashier animals like sabre tooth tigers. The secret to the sloth's success is their slothful nature and their suite of energy-saving adaptations. In fact slothfulness is such a successful strategy, that there are examples all over the animal kingdom, including, surprisingly, worker ants. Recent studies in humans have shown the many health benefits of adopting a slower pace of life. Sleep itself is universal amongst the animal kingdom. All animals do it, but why remains a mystery. What is clear though, is that unleashing your inner couch potato is no bad thing, be you sloth or human. Lucy discovers the genius behind the sloths laid back attitude and fights the corner for laziness. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.


Media Files:
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Iceland's Dark Lullabies

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Dreaming of a Dark Christmas, in Iceland At the darkest time of the year in Iceland scary creatures come out to play. Storyteller Andri Snær Magnason used to be terrified by his grandmother's Christmas tales of Gryla the 900 year old child eating hag and her thirteen troll sons - the Yule Lads - who would come down from the mountains looking for naughty children in the warmth of their homes. These dark lullabies partly hark back to a pre-Christian Christmas when people worshipped the Norse gods. As Iceland opens up to global influences after centuries of isolation Andri travels from farmstead to lava field and reflects on these traditions: whether the elves still crash your house to throw a Christmas party or the cows still talk on New Year's Eve; and what happens when you have to spend Christmas alone, locked inside Ikea? Featuring the Graduale Nobile Choir conducted by Árni Heiðar Karlsson Partially recorded in Binaural Stereo. Listen on headphones for the best effect. Additional sound design by Phil Channell Producer Neil McCarthy.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05rhyrt.mp3




The Unconscious Life of Bombs

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Historian and psychoanalyst Daniel Pick of Birkbeck College, University of London tells the story of how aerial bombardment - from Zeppelins to B52s, from H-Bombs to drones - has made the unconscious mind a field of battle. Daniel explores how, in the shadow of the First World War, Freud turned his analytical eye from desire to the 'death drive', and how psychoanalysts probed what might happen if another war came. Would survivors of mass aerial bombardment hold up psychically, or would they collapse into infantile panic? Or would they become uncontrollably aggressive? And why do humans come to be so aggressive in the first place? When the war - and the bombers - did come to Britain, it appeared that survivors were much more stoical and defiant than had been expected. But, as Daniel discovers, brave faces concealed a great deal of psychological damage. With historian Lyndsey Stonebridge, he visits the Wellcome Library to see - courtesy of the Melanie Klein Trust - the case notes of the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein on her analysis of a troubled ten year old boy, 'Richard'. What do Klein's notes, and Richard's extraordinary drawings, reveal about his attitude to being bombed? Daniel examines how, with the advent of the Cold War and the distinct possibility that bombs and missiles could destroy civilisation, technocrats trying to plan for the end of the world coped with staring into the abyss. Finally, Daniel shows how a radical new turn in aerial bombardment opens up this field anew. Nuclear weapons can destroy the planet; but what does it do to the mind to live under the threat of 'surgical' attack by unmanned drones? With: Derek Gregory, Peter Hennessy, Dagmar Herzog, Richard Overy, Lyndsey Stonebridge Producer: Phil Tinline.


Media Files:
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Mysteries of Sleep - Sleepwalking

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Why do some of us do bizarre things in our sleep? Like riding a motorbike, using a shoe to 'phone for a pizza or even having sex while sleeping? These are complex behaviours and yet sleepwalkers aren't aware of what they're doing and often have no memory of their strange night-time activities. These sleep disorders are known as non-REM parasomnias and include conditions like night terrors and sleep eating. So why does it happen? Sleepwalking usually occurs during deep sleep, when something triggers the brain to wake - but not completely. So the areas that control walking and other movement wake up, yet other parts, involved in awareness and rational thinking, remain asleep. What's confusing is that sleepwalkers look awake - their eyes are open - but they're really not awake. They're not really asleep either. The brain is awake and asleep at the same time. We have known this happens in some animals, who can sleep with half of their brain at a time. But recently, we have learnt that similar things can happen in the human brain. In the first of a three-part series, neurologist, Dr Guy Leschziner, talks to patients he's been treating at his sleep clinic at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London. They include Jackie who began sleepwalking as a child and continued her strange night-time behaviour as an adult, riding her motorbike whilst sleeping. We hear from James whose night terrors have become so violent his wife has begged him to get help; from Alex who rescues people from floods in his sleep. And we talk to Tom, whose recent diagnosis of sexsomnia has had a significant impact on his life. These remarkable sleepwalking experiences help us to understand the complex workings of the human brain. Presenter: Dr Guy Leschziner Producer: Sally Abrahams.


Media Files:
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The Glasgow Boys: Chaos and Calm

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 10:30:00 +0000

Byron Vincent joins the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow to see how they turn young men away from lives of violence and chaos. Three years ago, after he discussed his own violent and chaotic youth in a Four Thought talk on Radio 4, Byron was invited to come and speak at the VRU. Since then he has been back several times - now he experiences the unit's work directly. Byron spent two weeks embedded in two of the VRU's programmes, from watching the scheme's participants working in food trucks in the west end of Glasgow to joining the cast at the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. After hours, and with his powerful personal connection to their lives, Byron has extraordinarily candid conversations with the young men involved in the scheme about fear, insecurity, redemption, love, hope and the real reasons for spiralling violence. But what sacrifices will be required for them to make new lives, free from chaos and violence? Producer: Giles Edwards.


Media Files:
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Where Are All the Working Class Writers?

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 15:00:00 +0000

"The more we reinforce the stereotypes of who writes and who reads, the more the notion of exclusivity is reinforced. It takes balls to gatecrash a party." Kit de Waal, published her first novel, My Name is Leon, in 2016 at the age of 55. She has already put her money where her mouth is - using part of the advance she received from Penguin to set up a creative writing scholarship in an attempt to improve working class representation in the arts. Kit knows that - as a writer from a working class background - the success of her debut novel is a rare occurrence. Born to a Caribbean bus driver father and an Irish mother (a cleaner, foster carer and auxiliary nurse), Kit grew up in Birmingham and left school at 15 with no qualifications. She became a secretary with the Crown Prosecution Service and went on to have a career in social services and criminal law. In this feature she explores an issue that is deeply personal to her. She looks back at her own life and trajectory, and takes the listener on a journey around the country to find out what the barriers really are to working class representation in British literature today. "There is a difference between working class stories and working class writers. Real equality is when working class writers can write about anything they like - an alien invasion, a nineteenth century courtesan, a medieval war. All we need is the space, the time to do it - oh yes, and some way to pay the bills!" Kit talks to a range of writers, agents and publishers about what the barriers are for writers from working class backgrounds, including Tim Lott, Andrew McMillan, Gena-mour Barrett, CEO of Penguin Random House UK Tom Weldon, Julia Bell, Julia Kingsford, Ben Gwalchmai, Nathan Connolly and Stephen Morrison-Burke (Birmingham poet laureate and the first recipient of the Kit de Waal scholarship). Produced by Mair Bosworth.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05p050l.mp3




Close to the Edit

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Filmmaker Mike Figgis explores the story of edited film, audio and culture, and how the simple process of cutting and splicing has changed the way people view the world. We are living in an age of the edit. From the jump-cuts of Eisenstein and Hitchcock, to the fractured narratives of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, from the cut-and-paste sounds of musique concrete and hip-hop, to the sensibility of social media (to say nothing of the radio feature itself), it's the edit - the cut, the splice; montage and juxtaposition - that has ushered us into the present. To some, it's the stuff of life itself: chimps, for example, share 99% of our DNA; what matters is the sequencing, the edit. There's a year zero to this story of the edit. From the moment we get up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, the visual reality we perceive is a continuous stream of apparently linked images. That's the way we experienced the world for millennia. Then suddenly, just over a century ago, human beings were confronted with something else: edited film. But this isn't an exercise in cinema history. It's about our present culture. A culture in which the invisible mediating hand of the editor is ever-present. A culture of the 'creative commons' in which we can pull anything out of context and re-edit it (a gif, an internet meme, a mash-up, a parody of a political speech) and make the edit itself become an art form. Cutting, splicing, sampling -- it's all part of the way the world functions now. This is just the beginning. With Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us, Margie Borschke, Walter Murch and Will Self. Producer: Martin Williams.


Media Files:
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BONUS: Russia – 100 Years on from Revolution

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 20:30:00 +0000

A century ago, the Russian Revolution took place. It was a seismic event that changed the course of the 20th century. In this special, bonus episode of Seriously…, we visit four cities closely linked to the events of 1917. With Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg as our guide, we travel the 4000 mile journey across Russia, asking if the repercussions of Red October are still being felt today. Steve also reveals to Rhianna Dhillon more of the stories he discovered on his way from St Petersburg to Khabarovsk.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05m760b.mp3




Savitri Devi: From the Aryans to the Alt-right

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Savitri Devi-devotee of Hitler, proponent of Hindu nationalism, associate of both the British BNP and the American Nazi party-was a prolific author and energetic member of the international Nazi network after the Second World War. Now, her paeans to the mythical Aryan race and apocalyptic theories of history are circulating once again, revived by European white nationalists and the American alt-right. Born in France in 1905 to an English mother and Greek-Italian father, Savitri Devi moved to India in the 1930s, took a Hindu name, and married a prominent Brahmin. She believed that India's caste system had preserved the purity of the so-called Aryans, and that Hinduism was a living survival of the pagan religion destroyed in Europe by Judeo-Christianity. In her saffron-edged sari and large swastika earrings, she traveled the country promoting Hindutva, the Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by India's ruling party today. Devastated by the fall of the Third Reich at the end of the Second World War, she entered occupied Germany to distribute Nazi propaganda; convinced that Hitler was an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, she spent the rest of her life preparing for his eventual return. Maria Margaronis travels to India to meet Savitri Devi's nephews and former neighbours and explore the origins of her bizarre theories. Drawing on never-before-broadcast interviews with Savitri Devi herself and conversations with historians and activists, she asks what we can learn from this eccentric figure about today's extreme right movements, their strategies and their appeal. Produced by Shabnam Grewal Illustration inspired by photograph Courtesy of the Savitri Devi Archive.


Media Files:
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The Trainspotter's Guide to Dracula

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:00:00 +0000

"3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8:35 P. M, on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late." The first line of Bram Stoker's Dracula makes it clear what the novel will be about: trains. As the book begins, the English solicitor Jonathan Harker is travelling across Europe by train, en route to meet his mysterious new Transylvanian client, complaining all the way about the late running of the service. "It seems to me that the further East you go the more unpunctual are the trains. What ought they to be in China?" In the Trainspotter's Guide to Dracula, Miles Jupp uses Bram Stoker's novel as it has never been used before, as a train timetable, following its references to plot a route across Europe by rail to Dracula's castle in Transylvania. Will Miles be able to reach Dracula's castle more quickly than Harker did, or will his journey be dogged by discontinued services, closed lines and delays? Produced by David Stenhouse. Readings by David Jackson Young.


Media Files:
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Political Violence in America

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:00:00 +0000

The events in Charlottesville were just one example of the sharp rise in the number of violent confrontations in America between far-right white nationalists and left-wing groups known as 'antifa' - short for "anti-fascists". Those on the right claim they're fighting to defend free speech or other deeply held American principles. But their opponents say they're promoting extremism and a brand of racial division far out of line with mainstream thought. Fights that once took place between the two groups online are now spilling out onto the streets of places like Berkeley, California and Portland, Oregon - liberal enclaves where far-right activists have held rallies and which have been turned into scenes of violence, and even murder. Mike Wendling has travelled to America's west coast to talk to underground antifa organisers and find out what they want - and what they're prepared to do to achieve their aims. Producer: Anisa Subedar.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05l3sgb.mp3




Who's Looking At You?

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Once upon a time, total surveillance was the province of George Orwell and totalitarian states, but we now live in a world where oceans of data are gathered from us every day by the wondrous digital devices we have admitted to our homes and that we carry with us everywhere. At the same time, our governments want us to let them follow everything we do to root out evil before it can strike. If you have nothing to hide, do you really have nothing to fear? In Who's Looking At You , novelist and occasional futurist Nick Harkaway argues surveillance has reached a new pitch of penetration and sophistication and we need to talk about it before it's too late. This is our brave new world: data from pacemakers are used in criminal prosecutions as evidence, the former head of the CIA admits 'we kill people based on meta-data,' and scientists celebrate pulling a clear image of a face directly from a monkey's brain. Where does it end, and what does it mean? Surveillance used to end at our front door, now not even the brain is beyond the prying eyes of an information-hungry world. The application of big data brings many benefits and has the potential to make us wealthier, keep us healthier and ensure we are safer - but only if we the citizens are in control. The programme uses rich archive to illustrate how the 'watchers' have adapted to technology that has super-charged the opportunity to snoop. It examines the arguments of those who claim the right to keep their secrets while demanding that we the people give up more and more of ours. Transparency for the masses? Or simple necessity in a chaotic technological future? What happens to us, to our choices under the all-seeing eye? One thing is certain: if we don't make choices about surveillance, they will be made for us.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05k4fbh.mp3




Dads and Daughters

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000

The relationship between fathers and daughters has been the subject of countless cultural explorations down the centuries, from Elektra's distress to Bonjour Tristesse. Some of them are idealised ('To Kill A Mockingbird', 'All the Lights We Cannot See'); some highly damaging and dysfunctional ('This is England', 'The Beggar's Opera'); some, as any A'Level pupil who's studied 'King Lear' can attest, are both. What is clear in all these cases is just how particular and powerful the relationship can be, and in this highly personal programme Lauren Laverne heads home to team up with her own dad, Les, to talk about their relationship and how it matches up with some of these cultural imaginings. Among anecdotes about growing up in Sunderland and later on Les playing roadie to Lauren's gigs with the likes of the Ramones, we also hear from artists who in one way or another are engaging with the dad/daughter relationship now, including Helen MacDonald, Glyn Maxwell and The Unthanks. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Geoff Bird.


Media Files:
http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p05jr689.mp3




It's Just a Joke, Comrade: 100 Years of Russian Satire

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:00:00 +0000

The Russian Revolution unleashed a brand of humour that continues to this day. In this two-part series, comedian and Russophile Viv Groskop explores a century of revolutionary comedy and asks how it continues to shape the national psyche. The series will rediscover comedy of the Revolution: Bolshevik satire, early Communist cartoons and jokes about Lenin, as writers, satirists and comedians recall the jokes and cartoons shared by their parents and grandparents. Viv will investigate the birth of the 'anekdot' and trace the development of dark humour through the purges. She will look at how dissident humour in the late 1950s influenced comedy in London and New York, and meet contemporary comedians to gain an understanding of the shape and sound of the comedy circuit in Russia today. Producer: Georgia Catt


Media Files:
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Passing Dreams

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 14:00:00 +0000

A portrait of singer, songwriter and truck driver Will Beeley. The myth of the road is deeply rooted in America - it's the thing that delivers escape, promises freedom, fuels new hopes and, once upon a time at least, thoughts of a new nation. And it provides its own opening onto the vastness and variety of the country today. The distances can be dizzying. And these days Will Beeley spends more time on the road than he does at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city in the desert, with Route 66 running through its heart. In another life Will Beeley was a musician - a singer and songwriter - an anxious romantic at the end of the 1960s and a smooth-voiced folkie ten years later. He played gig after gig, made records and, for a while at least, hoped for the big time. But now, like a different road taken, a different stop along the way, he spends his life behind the wheel of a hulking truck, sharing the driving with his wife, as the highway and the days blur by. It's a unique vantage point. And as America spools past outside, framed by the huge windscreen, does he - like all of us now and then - think of times gone by, of unfinished business, of what might have been? Or is his attention fixed ahead on the road as it rolls towards him, flowing beneath his wheels? Producer: Martin Williams.


Media Files:
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My Muse: Lynne Truss on Joni Mitchell

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Not everyone appreciates the tonalities, lyrics or even the shrieky voice of Canadian artist and musician Joni Mitchell but in a dusty class room in 1971 Lynne Truss decided she loved the writer of Woodstock, Big Yellow Taxi and Both Sides Now. It was a bond forged in the face of the frosty indifference of fellow pupils in Miss Cheverton's music class at the Tiffin Girls School in Kingston Upon Thames. Even Lynne is slightly mystified when she was asked who was her muse that, as a person mostly famous for writing a book on punctuation, she replied; Joni Mitchell. Lynne explores why a series of albums from Ladies of the Canyon to Heijra taking in Blue, Court and Spark and The Hissing of Summer lawns' has wrought such influence over so many. For her aficionados Joni Mitchell is more than a song writer. Lynne observes that for some the attachment goes beyond the personal; its a complete identification with the struggles of dealing with high emotion and how to cope. In the programme she speaks to the poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, the author Linda Grant, Elbow's front man Guy Garvey, her latest biographer the Syracuse University academic David Yaffe and Gina Foster the singer with the UK act Joni's Soul, which she insists is not a tribute but a celebration act. Lynne contends that despite at the time being overshadowed in favour of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and others Joni Mitchell will come to be regarded as the greatest exponent of the art of singer-song writer from that era and concludes that what makes her a muse can be found less in the brilliant lyrical summations of eternal questions like love, loss and freedom but more in her absolute commitment never to compromise her art - to remain true, above all else, to her own muse.


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Art in Miniature

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Tiny bathers relax in a puddle of oily water on a pavement; a galleon sails on the head of a pin, a dancer twirls next to a mote of dust under a microscope - Dr Lance Dann, lover of miniature worlds, crouches down on hands and knees to better observe the world of tiny art. Prompted by advances in technology, and the enduring wonder of things created on a really, really tiny scale, Lance Dann follows his own obsession with the miracle of miniature art. Knocking on the tiny doors of creators from street artist Slinkachu, whose mesmerising cityscapes are created, photographed and abandoned in the street, to the collection of antique miniature portraits in Sotheby's where expert Mark Griffith Jones delicately reveals the hidden treasures that span from over 500 years of art history. The 21st century has experienced a revival of the small in art Desiree De Leon has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers for her Instagram account of small doodles, whilst the 'the chewing gum man' Ben Wilson, has gathered a loyal following for his hidden gems scattered about the London streets. Every morning Ben gets up and starts creating tiny tiles on which his innermost feelings are expressed - and then he leaves them on the Underground for people to find. Then there is the barely visible - Willard Wigan MBE - the poster-boy of microscopic art, a dyslexia sufferer who has found relief in the creation of tiny art works. Recognised globally, his sculptures, which are small enough to fit on the head of a pin, sell for six-figure sums. "I work between my heartbeats. I have one-and-a-half seconds to actually move. And at the same time I have to watch I don't inhale my own work." Then there is the nearly invisible - Jonty Hurwitz - who sculpts with Nano-technology, and sometimes loses sight of it in the process. "When I found the sculpture it was one of the most moving moments of my life, you see all these grotesque pieces of dust as the microscope is moving around and suddenly there's a woman, dancing" What is the enduring appeal of the miniature in art, and where has this revival come from? To discover where it hides, why it appeals, and how the artists' work on such delicate objects, Dann plays with scale, sound and voices to bring a closer, more microscopic focus on the art world. Presenter: Lance Dann is an associate member and former sound designer of The Wooster Group, a writer and director of a range of radio dramas including podcast "Blood Culture", commissioned by The Welcome Trust, and won a Prix Marulic for his production of Moby Dick for BBC Radio 4. Producer: Sara Jane Hall iPlayer photograph: Slinkachu.


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My Secret Wig

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Lots of people wear wigs, and go to great lengths to keep them secret - but why? Perhaps it's because the hair on top of our heads means so much to us. It's a crucial part of our identity, the person we see when we look in the mirror, so what happens when it's not there? It's a question Brian Kernohan has asked himself. Yes, his hair's thinning a bit on top, but it's his secret - until his hairdresser points it out. Brian wouldn't dare suggest a wig - even though he's always wondered if he could try one? Brian investigates the secret world of wigs with the help of alopecia sufferer Geraldine, who runs a secret wig shop which ensures discretion for all her customers. He explores the stigma attached to wig wearing, and finds out how tastes have changed since the 17thcentury when Louis XIV put wigs at the cutting edge of fashion. He meets cancer patients who have learnt to "embrace your inner bald", as 16-year-old Sophie puts it, the wig shop owner who surprises customers by wearing her own stock, and meets the opera singer who loves to wear wigs on stage. But still, Brian is nervous when he is fitted for a wig, and is even more terrified when he has to wear it in public. What if someone realises he's wearing a secret wig - and why does he care so much? Producer: Freya McClements.


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PowerPointless

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000

With more than 30 million presentations being given around the world every day, PowerPoint has become the single most ubiquitous tool for presenting ideas. Yet it's the software many of us love to hate - vilified for simplifying the complex and complicating the simple. 30 years on from its commercial launch, Ian Sansom asks, 'What's the real point of PowerPoint?' as he embarks on what surely must be a world first - a PowerPoint presentation for the radio. How do I move this on to the next slide? There we are. Thanks. Armed only with an auto-content wizard, some zippy graphics and a hefty set of bullet points, Ian ventures forth to assess the true impact of this revolution in communication. He speaks with the software's pioneers, meets some of its notable detractors and asks how PowerPoint has influenced corporate life and spilled out into some improbable areas of our culture. As he discovers how science-fiction is helping to inform the next generation of presentation technology, Ian asks if PowerPoint has empowered the individual - or if our boardrooms, lecture halls and even our spiritual affairs are to be forever condemned to the fate that has come to be known as 'Death By PowerPoint.' What do I do now? Press escape? No, I want to bring it back to the start. F6 I think. Where's the remote thingy..? Producer: Conor Garrett.


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Queens of Chapeltown

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000

After the violence directed at black people in Nottingham and Notting Hill in the 1950s, and the naked racism expressed in Smethwick during the 1964 general election, a group of pioneering West Indians came up with a simple and defiant riposte: Carnival. In Queens of Chapeltown, Colin Grant goes behind the scenes of Carnival to its Leeds West Indian HQ in Chapeltown - amidst the glue guns, sequins and feathers - to capture that moment of extraordinary transformation, 50 years on: the birth of a tradition which, for one weekend in August, would wash away the bad taste of anti immigrant sentiment with a burst of colour and flash of exuberance that would forever change Britain. Grant travels to Leeds to talk with the pioneers and celebrate the endurance and growth of Carnival. Produced and presented by Colin Grant.


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Diana: A Life Backwards

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 05:00:00 +0000

Marking the 20th anniversary of her untimely death, Archive on 4 presents a unique and moving portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales - her life documented in reverse chronology. Diana, Princess of Wales was arguably the most famous - and most photographed - woman in the world. Her life has been exhaustively discussed and disassembled in the media both before and since her untimely death on 31st August 1997. As the anniversary of that tragic event approaches, is there anything truly new for us to learn about her remarkable, turbulent, and short life - and how the way we reacted to it changed our society? Drawing from hundreds of hours of footage, Archive on 4 presents a unique, unmediated portrait of the Princess - starting with the sombre events of her funeral and taking the listener on a journey backwards through her life and times: from the remarkable public outpouring of grief that followed her passing; the almost unbearable press intrusion into her private world in her last months; her new life as a single woman; her divorce, her married life and the public jubilation surrounding the Royal Wedding of 1981; right back to the announcement of the 19 year-old Diana's engagement to Prince Charles. Unpresented and unmediated, the programme offers a unique audio montage of the events of, and reaction to, one of the most extraordinary lives of the 20th century. Featuring contributions from the archives from Piers Morgan, Andrew Neill, Jennie Bond, Richard Kay - as well as several of Diana's closest friends, and members of the British public. Produced by Steven Rajam and James Roberts for BBC Radio 4 Contributors: Andrew Neill Arthur Edwards Barbara Daly Bea Campbell David Emanuel David Starkey Denis Lawson Eammon McCabe Earl Spencer Elizabeth Emanuel Glenn Harvey James Naughtie James Reynolds James Whitaker Jennie Bond Jeremy Paxman John Humphrys Ken Lennox Martin Bashir Michael Shea Patrick Jephson Penny Juror Piers Morgan Rosie Boycott Tim Graham Tom Cruise Tony McGrath Archive: All Things Considered, BBC Radio Wales Archive on 4 - A History of the Stiff Upper Lip, BBC Radio 4 A Royal Recovery, BBC Radio 4 BBC News Special - Diana: 10 Years On, BBC News 24 Capturing the Royals: The Story of Royal Photography, BBC2 Decisive Moments: A Rough Road, BBC2 Diana: The People's Princess, BBC1 Great Britons: Diana, BBC2 Heart of the Matter, BBC1 Fifty Years with the Firm: Prog 5: Doom & Gloom, BBC Radio 4 Mediumwave, BBC Radio 4 Memories of Diana, BBC1 Modern Times: The Shrine, BBC4 Newsnight, BBC1 Panorama, BBC1 Proms, BBC1 The Princess's People: A View from the Crowd, BBC2 The Reunion: The Wedding of Charles & Diana, BBC Radio 4 The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed: Remembering Diana, BBC Radio 4 Top of the Pops, BBC1 Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4.


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The Edge of Life

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Suicide is the number one killer of men under-50 in England and Wales. A 'zero suicide' approach to prevention first devised in Detroit is now changing attitudes to care in the UK. Merseyside is leading the way. Radio 4 gains exclusive access to a healthcare authority being transformed from the inside-out in a bid to treat suicide as a preventable condition and to bring lives lost down to 0% by 2020.


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Grayson Perry: En Garde

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Grayson Perry goes backwards in the archive in search of the moment the avant-garde died. It's a century since Marcel Duchamp submitted his artwork called Fountain to an exhibition staged by the Society of Independent Artists in New York. Fountain was a urinal -- not a painting of a urinal or a sculpture, just a urinal, bought from a Manhattan hardware store and signed R.Mutt. The Society of Independent Artists rejected Duchamp's provocation and the original object was lost. Nowadays Duchamp's urinal is canonised as the fountainhead of conceptual art and the high water (closet) mark of the avant garde. Replicas of the Fountain grace museums around the world - emblems of the avant-garde spirit of experimentation and confrontation. Somewhere in the intervening years though, something changed - contemporary art lost its ability to shock and critique. We're still hopelessly drawn to the idea of art that's 'cutting edge', 'ground-breaking', 'revolutionary'. But is that possible at this point -- haven't we seen it all before? Maybe the death knell was sounded when the Saatchi Gallery opened on the South Bank? Or with the advent of protest and radical chic in the 1960s? Maybe it was when the CIA funded the abstract expressionists? Or when the post-war art market began to reign supreme? Or when the Museum of Modern Art opened its doors in 1927? Or maybe it was all a matter of style the very moment Duchamp's Fountain was conceived? Featuring Brian Eno, Kenneth Goldsmith, Nnenna Okore, Cornelia Parker, and Sarah Thornton. Producer: Martin Williams.


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Driving Bill Drummond

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Bill Drummond is many things. As well as an artist, a writer and former pop-star - he's the owner of an old curfew tower in Northern Ireland which he runs as an artists' residency. Last year some poets from Belfast's Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry stayed there and Bill published their collected work in a little black book called The Curfew Tower is Many Things. Except for a poem the award-winning Belfast poet Stephen Sexton wrote. Apparently that one went missing. So Bill has left two pages blank in the book for Stephen to fill in with poetry as they drive through all of Ireland's 32 counties in 5 days in a white Ford Transit hire-van, giving out copies as they go. But what exactly is driving Bill Drummond? Producer Conor Garrett is there to find out. As they cross the Irish border and over each county boundary, Conor is becoming increasingly concerned he may not have a good enough story for his radio programme. It's a problem further complicated by the fact Bill won't talk about his chart-topping '90s pop band who once famously set fire to a very large pile of their own cash. Then, when a narrative arc does eventually develop, Conor can't be sure how authentic it is. And what's all this stuff about eels? Producer: Conor Garrett.


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A Brief History of the Truth

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000

It's time to travel down the rabbit hole of truth as American satirist Joe Queenan explores a murky world of fake news, prejudice and alternative facts. "Recent politics have shown that the truth is no fun," he explains. "It's like a vegetable your mother makes you eat. Yes it may be nourishing, but it tastes terrible." With archive contributions from Donald Trump, Doris Lessing, Jeremy Corbyn, Peter Mandelson and Theresa May; plus new interviews with Mark Borkowski, Edith Hall and Julian Baggini, author of a Short History of Truth. This is Joe Queenan's follow up to previous editions on Blame, Shame, Irony and Anger. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.


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The Pigeon Whistles

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 14:00:00 +0000

The sound of music flying through the air, carried on the tails of pigeons. "I knew it was a noise maker, but it was the only thing in the museum that I had no idea what it might sound like. Because it works in a way no other instrument does. No other instrument physically moves around you in space, flying overhead, and that seemed like magic". Inspired by the Chinese pigeon whistles in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Nathaniel Robin Mann decided he wanted to revive the ancient art of pigeon whistling, a tradition possibly thuosands of years old, in which tiny flutes are attached to pigeons in flight. His experience with birds, however, was limited and he needed a bird expert. "None of the pigeon racers wanted to get involved in a music project. Then someone said, 'Well, there's this guy in Nottingham who has a loft made of an old hutch that he straps to the back of his scooter. They call him Pigeon Pete.'" Enter Pete Petravicius, Nottinghamshire ex-miner and steeplejack. A life-long passion for pigeons makes him the perfect trainer to teach the birds how to fly with their unusual musical attachments. We follow Nathan and Pigeon Pete as their friendship, and their understanding of the pigeon whistles grow. From the gloomth of the Pitt Rivers Museum, to the creation of a modern day 3D-printed whistle for Pete's pigeons. Finally, we hear a pigeon's flight described in sound across the sky, creating a haunting, undulating chord cloud, accompanied by Nathan's hypnotic voice, singing songs he has discovered about pigeon culture. Producer: Sara Jane Hall About the presenters: Nathaniel Mann is a composer, singer and performer. As Sound & Music's Embedded Composer in Residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford Contemporary Music, he discovered the world of Pigeon Whistles, and started to explore their potential, supported by PRSF, a foundation helping new musicians make new work. His eclectic projects chart diverse worlds of sound and culture, from bronze foundries and popcorn, to donkeys and Trafalgar Square - each has found a voice through Mann's work. Pete Petravicius is unique in that he is the only man in the UK who trains his birds to return to a mobile pigeon loft. The birds can thus travel across the country, flying in formation and returning to their small motor home/coop. He's also an ex-miner and terrific raconteur who loves his Birmingham Rollers. The Pigeons are cared for in strict accordance to guidelines and regulations laid out by the DEFRA & the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). The use of Pigeon Whistles has been deemed as not causing stress or harm to the birds by independent animal welfare advisors and Pigeon Fancing experts. 3D Pigeon Whistles modeled and printed by Joe Banner at Printrite, Nottinghamshire. About the music : The Pigeon Bell Words/Music: Mann - after poems by Mei Yaochen (1002-1060) & Zhang Xian (990-1078) - as translated by Wang Shixiang The Pigeon Words: Trad. Music: Mann Adapted from 19th Century Broadside Ballad "The Pigeon" Found in Bodleian Library's collections Shelfmark: Harding B 21(14) The Pigeon Chase After 'Uke Uke' - Fox Chase - as sung by Dee Hicks of the Cumbe[...]


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And Then There Were Nun

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:00:00 +0000

What is life like for nuns and monks today? With a lack of new blood coming into the traditional monasteries and convents, Bishop Martin Shaw supports some of these aging communities in their painful final days as they are forced to leave their homes. His role as an official visitor, is also to receive the vows of any new nuns and monks joining religious orders, and to hear the concerns and complaints from each community. Sister Giovanna, Sister Clare and Brother Samuel, who are all from different religious communities, recount what life is like for them today. They also share their experiences of dedication over the years - from that first day in the chapel and hearing Gregorian Chant to outside keeping bees and pigs in the orchard, from teaching young children in inner cities to supporting the bereaved in hospitals. We get a glimpse of life in this unique and rarefied world of devotion and commitment, and hear how these communities have changed over the decades. Bishop Shaw has also witnessed these changes, but although monastic life as it has traditionally been lived is unlikely to survive, there are signs of new religious life beginning to emerge within the Church. Produced by Luke Whitlock.


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999 - Which Service Do You Require?

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000

999 was the first emergency telephone number in the world when it was launched on June 30th, 1937. Within the first week, more than a thousand calls were made to the service with one burglar arrested less than five minutes after a member of the public had dialled 999. Impressive stuff. But there were teething problems... In the early days, only those wealthy enough to own a telephone could hope to avail of the service. Exchange room operators complained of stress caused by the raucous buzzers which alerted them to 999 calls. Advancing technology connected with the system began to alter the relationship between public and police. Almost unbelievably in hindsight, the 999 service wasn't made fully available across the nation until 1976. Exactly 80 years after it was introduced, Ian Sansom dials up the remarkable story of our three digit emergency number. Between rare archive, real life-or-death emergencies and interviews with call handlers on the front line, Ian takes a personal look at the evolution of 999 and asks what the future holds for this pioneering British institution. Producer: Conor Garrett.


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Port Talbot Paradiso

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Actor Michael Sheen explores the history of Port Talbot's Plaza Cinema. A beautiful art-deco building , first opening in 1940, the Plaza was the heart of cinema entertainment for the people of Port Talbot for decades - a place where Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins watched everyone from George Formby to Bogart and Cagney and where, growing up in Port Talbot in the 1970s and 80s, Michael Sheen had his early encounters with the film industry in which he would thrive. But as well as charting the onward march of the multiplex which lead to the Plaza's eventual demise, and talking to the last projectionist and cinema manager who fought so hard to make it viable, Michael Sheen explores the importance of places like the Plaza to towns and communities all over the UK. Is it possible to turn it around, find a new use or even see crowds return to the elegant interior, or is the Plaza now only a monument to a past life , rich in nostalgia but which can no longer provide what a modern community needs ? Michael also hears from two other Plaza goers and children of Port Talbot - Rob Brydon and the Opera Singer Rebecca Evans. Producers: Joanne Cayford and Tom Alban Photographs: Copyright John Crerar.


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Butterbeer and Grootcakes

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Aleks Krotoski takes her seat at the table to explore the amazing world of fictional food made real. Food is not a new force in fiction, but increasingly fictional food is finding its way onto the table. And fan communities from the new breed of modern cultural canon aren't just nibbling on Laura Esquivel's devastating quail in rose petal sauce from Like Water for Chocolate, but also tucking in to fried squirrel and raccoon from The Hunger Games, Sansa's lemon cakes from Game of Thrones, or downing a frothy glass of butterbeer from Harry Potter. Now Aleks gathers together three people who know a lot about fictional food to discuss its appeal for fans, authors and food creators alike. Together, they will make, and eat, a meal of food from fiction, and discuss some of the interesting questions it raises. Joanne Harris is author of several novels where food is almost a character in its own right - most famously Chocolat, which was turned into a film of the same name; she also co-created a cookbook, The Little Book of Chocolat, for the many fans desperate to make the concoctions they had read about in her novels. Sam Bompas is co-founder of creative food studio Bompas & Parr, who recently helped create Dinner At The Twits, inspired by Roald Dahl's book. And Kate Young brings together her passion for food and literature in her blog The Little Library Café, where she creates recipes for food found in fiction, and many of them will be included in her first cookbook, The Little Library Cookbook. The programme also includes music played on the flavour conductor - a working cocktail organ, conceived by Sam Bompas for Johnnie Walker. The music is composed by Simon Little. Producer: Giles Edwards.


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When Women Wore the Trousers

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Laura Barton explores the little known story of a pioneering group of women who unknowingly challenged conventional notions of femininity and their working roles. The Pit Brow Lasses worked within the collieries of 19th century Wigan, Lancashire. Their unique re-appropriation of men's 'breeches' worn underneath hitched up skirts was originally adopted as a functional response to working within mines. These early adopters of trousers reached a similar degrees of notoriety that street-style stars do today. When Women Wore the Trousers explores the history of trousers in the workplace and in fashion and discusses the impact that this every day garment had on society. Women were liberated by their work in the munitions factories and on the land during both World Wars but there was a fear that these 'new men' would continue donning trousers and become too independent. Coco Chanel famously appropriated sailors tops and trousers to create work-wear in its most elevated form and the fashion for utilitarian clothing continues to thrive today as discussed by fashion designers Faye and Erica Toogood. What do modern working women wear in the work place in the 21st Century? Chef Angela Harnett wears a uniform of a white shift and baggy trousers in her restaurant kitchen but it is a look that could be seen as fashionable in a different context. With readings from the actor Maxine Peake, a discussion with Pit Brow Lass, Rita Culshaw about her choice of clothing in the pits and interviews with fashion curators Amy de la Haye and Fiona McKay and Wigan historian Alan Davies, we discover how women have worn trousers as a means of empowerment and the enduring appeal of work-wear in contemporary fashion. Producer: Belinda Naylor.


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Miss Simpson's Children

Fri, 12 May 2017 14:00:00 +0000

The story of how one woman offered refuge to leading intellectuals fleeing from the Nazis, helping transform the cultural and intellectual landscape of Britain and the United States. Shortly after Hitler came to power, an organisation was set up in Britain to help academics who were being thrown out of their jobs in Nazi Germany. It was called the Academic Assistance Council. The council's assistant secretary, Esther Simpson, became its dynamic force. She called all the refugees she assisted her 'children'. Sixteen of them ended up as Nobel Prize winners. Many would later admit that they owed their lives to her. David Edmonds tells the unknown story of Esther Simpson and the brilliant minds she saved. Producer Mark Savage. (Photo credit: The Lotte Meitner-Graf Archive).


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The Invention of the USA: Borderlands

Tue, 09 May 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Just two centuries ago, no one had a clue where the borders of the USA actually were. Hemmed in by the Atlantic, the Appalachian mountains and Canada to the north, early Americans could only dream of the massive territory Donald Trump and his government control today. So why is the border with Mexico where it runs today? For that matter what fixed Canadian border? The answer to both questions is war. Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel across Texas and into Mexico to find out what defined the USA in the south. This is fringeland where multiple cultures collide. Local response to the President's wall proposal is not what you'd expect. With contributions from Andres Resendez, Kate Betts of the Bullock State Museum in Austin and Clive Webb on the history of the line in the south; plus Margaret MacMillan, Kathleen Burk and Alan Taylor on the numerous wars that shaped the frontier in the north.


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The Organ Beauty Pageant

Fri, 05 May 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Is it fair to find your own kidney donor on the internet? UK patients who need new organs are using social media to advertise their plight and appeal directly for a Good Samaritan who's willing to share their spare kidney with a stranger. As Lesley Curwen discovers, the development of such appeals on social media has caused consternation among some in the transplant community. They fear a competition to attract donors amounts to an unsavoury beauty contest, in which only the most plugged-in and tech-savvy can participate. But for Nicola Pietrzyk from Leicester, turning to social media and Facebook was a no-brainer. Her 11 year old son, Matthew had been spending 12 hours a day on dialysis, waiting for years for a possible donor from the NHS list. She's convinced that if she hadn't launched A Million Likes for a Kidney for Matthew, a kind-hearted stranger would never have offered her son a new kidney, potentially saving his life. The campaign prompted several prospective donors who weren't a match for Matthew to go on to donate to others and Alison Thornhill tells Lesley Curwen why she went on to do just that. But the likelihood that individuals, motivated by a particular story on social media, will in fact be a match for their intended recipient is slim, and Lesley hears from transplant teams frustrated that NHS resources are sucked up by high profile campaigns that attract many volunteers, all of whom need to be tested, most of whom won't turn out to be a possible match for the recipient. Dr Adnan Sharif, consultant nephrologist at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, was closely involved with several high profile media campaigns and he admits that he and his team were at times completely overwhelmed by the demands that multiple volunteers, each offering to donate a kidney to a named individual, placed on the unit. While he acknowledges that such social media campaigns are legal and after the guidelines were changed, were accepted by the transplant community, he admits to mixed feelings about the outcome. He and his team are delighted for the individual who has a new kidney, but uncomfortable about diverting resources from patients who are waiting for an organ through the traditional routes, from deceased donors or through the NHS Living Donor Scheme where altruistic donors place their trust in the transplant authorities to pick the best match for the kidney they've donated. So the transplant community in the UK has come to terms with social media campaigns for organs from strangers, even though there's a clear preference for the NHS altruistic donor scheme. But Lesley discovers another internet innovation: websites that allow kidney patients to advertise for a prospective donor, have been frozen out as clinical teams have voted with their feet and refused to deal with them. An American website, matchingdonors.com, launched in the UK in 2012 and sent policy makers and clinicians in the organ transplant field into multiple huddles. The final rulin[...]


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Trump at Studio 54

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 14:00:00 +0000

Frances Stonor-Saunders explores how the young Donald Trump stormed into Manhattan from the outer boroughs in the late 1970s and headed straight for New York's most outrageous nightclub. He didn't dance, didn't drink, and didn't take drugs. So what was he doing in the cocaine-fuelled hothouse of the Disco revolution? And what was the link to Roy Cohn, infamous attack dog of the McCarthy era, go-to Attorney for the Mob and the man Trump was happy to call his mentor? Producer: Fiona Leach Research: Serena Tarling.


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A Woman Half in Shadow

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 05:00:00 +0000

Zora Neale Hurston. You might not recognise her name. She was an African American novelist and folklorist, a queen of the Harlem Renaissance and a contemporary of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. But when she died in 1960 she was living on welfare and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her name was even misspelt on her death certificate. Scotland's National poet Jackie Kay tells the story of how Zora became part of America's literary canon. Alice Walker wrote in her collection of essays 'In Search of Our Mother's Gardens': "We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. And if they are thrown away, it is our duty as artists and as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children, and, if necessary, bone by bone." And that's what Alice did: travelling to Florida in search of Zora's grave where she laid down a gravestone declaring Zora "A Genius of the South". That was in 1973. Now Zora is claimed by many of America's leading novelists including Maya Angelou, Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, as their literary foremother. Eighty years since the publication of her greatest work 'Their Eyes Were Watching God', Jackie Kay tells Zora's story. Interviews include author Alice Walker, the poet Sonia Sanchez, The Guardian's Editor at Large Gary Younge and Zora's biographer Valerie Boyd. Readings by Solange Knowles. Photo: Carl Van Vechten Producer: Caitlin Smith.


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Rock Transition

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:00:00 +0000

For centuries musicians have defied gender boundaries to create some of the most evocative and provocative art and music. Journalist and culture critic Laura Snapes joins the dots of a fascinating musical history that encompasses musical icons such as Ma Rainey, Little Richard, Lou Reed, the Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Madonna, and looks at how today's musicians use music and performance to express who their own gender and sexuality. In recent years the issue of gender and identity has been a hot topic in the musical landscape and beyond. From niche publications to tabloids and political debate, issues surrounding gender identity and how it influences both personal and social life have been widely publicised. Amid the deeply complex personal world of gender identity and the often ruthlessly myopic world of the music industry, a new generation of artists are using music for fearless expressions of their gender and sexuality that break beyond the archetypes set by their forebears. Rock Transition speaks with artists such as garage maverick Ezra Furman, Canadian pop stars Tegan and Sara, musician and author CN Lester, and musician and activist Ryan Cassata to understand why music offers an exciting platform to express and explore gender identity and sexuality - and asks how these artists can resist being marginalised and commodified by an industry keen to capitalise on a hot topic.


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The Mind in the Media

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:00:00 +0000

If you ask the author, Nathan Filer, when he first came into contact with mental illness, he'll tell you it was in 1999 when he first became a psychiatric nurse. But, like many of us, he'd actually met it much earlier : through film, drama and the news. Like many of us, his understanding had been shaped by how the media chose to portray it. But he quickly realised how very different real life was to fiction and the reports. Now he asks what does that difference do to us - both as a society and to us as individuals, when many of us have experienced mental health disorders in our every day lives, either personally or to close family and friends. How does story-telling in the 21st century influence public understanding and our sympathy or condemnation for those experiencing mental health disorders? Times are changing. As Alastair Campbell says, in the 80s, if you'd suggested to the newsroom a piece on depression, it just wasn't on the agenda. But although mental health is becoming more common as a storyline or story, many myths still prevail about violence, treatment, diagnosis, recovery. Looking back through archive, Nathan Filer tells the story of the way we've framed mental health and illness across all media over the last few decades, and he talks to those with knowledge to explore its effect. Featuring Alastair Campbell; Professor Graham Thornicroft of Kings College London; Jenni Regan, senior editorial advisor at Mind; Dr Sarah Carr; Erica Crompton; and author Ramsey Campbell, among others. The producer is Polly Weston. For information and support on the subjects discussed in this programme visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1NGvFrTqWChr03LrYlw2Hkk/information-and-support-mental-health.


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Moving to the Red Planet

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 15:00:00 +0000

As we dream of sending humans to Mars, the psychological problems of a mission loom large. As part of Radio 4's Mars season. Claudia Hammond investigates the mind-set behind the desire of those of us who want to colonise the red planet. What does it take to survive the confines of a 9 month journey and the enclosed pod-like environments that mission leaders envisage will be the housing needed to occupy this inhospitable planet? Claudia meets the wannabe Martian explorers who've been sampling similar long term simulations here on earth and the psychologists who've overseen the design, selection and planning for future communities in space. Producer Adrian Washbourne.


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1917: Eyewitness in Petrograd

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Emily Dicks visits St Petersburg to trace her grandfather's teenage memories of the excitement and fear of the 1917 Revolutions - as preserved on a never-previously-revealed tape. This extraordinary recording - kept in family archives - describes the lives of ordinary people caught up in the political turmoil between the two Russian Revolutions of 1917. Henry Dicks was the son of an Estonian-based Englishman, sent to school in Petrograd during the First World War. He recorded his memories in an interview with his son in 1967. The tape covers the period immediately after Rasputin's death and the fall of the Tsar, all the way through to the Bolshevik attack on the Provisional Government's Winter Palace in October 1917, which Henry saw first-hand. Henry remembers the joy after the Tsar's fall when "the whole population seemed to be in the streets", servants became "much cheekier" and his schoolmasters shed their uniforms. But then the Bolsheviks strengthened their power and Henry describes the unnerving feeling in metropolitan Petrograd that they were "getting away with it". One October morning when, as he remembers, "the air was thick with foreboding", Henry watched the attack of the Winter Palace. Once the Bolsheviks had seized power, Henry describes "a kind of terror beginning" and he eventually fled via Finland, where he was marooned in a hotel amid a civil war... With: Helen Rappaport, Stephen Lovell Producer: Phil Tinline.


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Writing a New Caribbean: Under the Surface

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 15:00:00 +0000

A picture of the Caribbean, as seen by a new generation of writers and poets. Elisha Efua Bartels talks to Trinidadian writers Sharon Millar, Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, and Andre Bagoo about the sense of place in their work. For Sharon Millar, author of the short story collection 'The Whale House', the landscape and colour of Trinidad is always the anchor, and she often explores the cultural interaction and foot traffic between the island and Venezuela, only 7 miles away. Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw delves under the surface of Trinidadian society in her novel 'Mrs B', set during the 1990 coup in Port of Spain and inspired by Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary'. In Andre Bagoo's poetry, locations in the city become symbolic of the state of the nation, both in their beauty and disgrace. Elisha looks at the ways in which these writers capture Trinidadian landscapes and cityscapes in their work, and how they address what lies beneath. Featuring readings from: Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw - 'Mrs B', Peepal Tree Press Sharon Millar - 'The Whale House', Peepal Tree Press Andre Bagoo - 'Burn', Shearsman Books Elisha Efua Bartels - 'Woman is Boss' from 'Trinidad Noir' - Akashic Books Sonia Farmer - 'The Best Estimation in the World'.


Media Files:
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Radioactive Art

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Radioactive waste can remain dangerous to humans for 100,000 years. Nations with nuclear power are building underground storage facilities to permanently house it, but how might they mark these sites for future generations? The nuclear industry is turning to artists for creative solutions. How might artists create a warning that will still be understood and heeded so far into the future? Radioactive Art meets artists whose work deals with issues around nuclear legacy, and visits the nuclear agency in France that has sought their input. Presented by Gordon Young and Produced by Beatrice Pickup. With contributions from: Jean-Noël Dumont - Memory Division at ANDRA, the French nuclear agency Stéfane Perraud - Visual Artist and creator of the 'Blue Zone' Aram Kebabdjian - Writer and creator of the 'Blue Zone' Mari Keto - Art jeweller and creator of 'Inheritance' Erich Berger - Artist and creator of 'Inheritance' Ele Carpenter - Curator of the Nuclear Culture Project funded by the Arts Catalyst and curator of the 'Perpetual Uncertainty' exhibition at the Bildmuseet in Umeå, Sweden Richard Edmondson - Operations Manager at Sellafield Ltd Tim Hunkin - Cartoonist and Engineer, owner of Novelty Automation in London.


Media Files:
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Mark Steel Does Hip Hop

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Mark Steel loves Hip Hop in foreign languages. Even though he can't understand a word; he loves the energy and attitude. In this programme he hopes to persuade you that far from the violent, misogynistic 'anti-music' it is sometimes thought to be by its critics Hip Hop is where it is at for young people all over the world today.The simple combination of a beat and words has proved itself endlessly adaptable and it has taken root in cultures from Iceland to Iran from Tanzania to Taiwan. When pop and rock burst upon the world in the 50's it was the voice of rebellion but became so closely aligned with English that for decades young people around had little choice but to look to people who sang in an alien tongue if they wanted to join the party - lacking the confidence or means to compete with the soft power of Anglo American musicians. Hip Hop and the internet has changed that; The big American record companies are no longer gate keepers to music that they once were and the simplicity of 'rapping' in a vernacular has proved a powerful combination that's given birth to vibrant hip hop scenes in most countries in the world. In this programme we visit Iceland and then hear from artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America where Hip Hop has become the dominant form of music through which young people talk among themselves about the big and small issues in their lives.


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A Brief History of Lust

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Does what makes the heart beat faster really make the world go round? Oh yes. Welcome to a new history of lust presented by the American satirist Joe Queenan. From Helen and Paris of Troy to Bill and Monica via Rasputin, Edwina Currie and John Major, this is a tale of life as a bunga bunga bacchanal. With contributions from historian Suzannah Lipscomb, classicist Edith Hall, plus Agnes Poirier, Joan Bakewell (of course), Caitlin Moran and Richard Herring on Rasputin; a specially composed new poem on lust from Elvis McGonagall; and music from Prince, T Rex, Bessie Smith and Cole Porter. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.


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A Brief History of Failure

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal," said Winston Churchill. The American satirist Joe Queenan thinks he might be wrong. In this archive hour follow up to his previous programmes on Blame, Shame, Anger and Irony, Queenan rails against the very idea of failure. His sharpest attack is reserved for the supposed romance of defeat. From Braveheart in Scotland via the heretic Cathars in France to the pretend soldiers in Virginia still re-enacting the American Civil War, Queenan explores whether there may be something noble about losing a war. "I'm in the south, at one of the many re-enactment battles of the American civil war that go on every year. Thousands have turned up to re-fight a war they lost. We don't do this in the north - it would be odd, and divisive, perhaps even inflammatory. But the memories of a conflict that took place over 150 years down here - they don't go away." This is the first of two archive programmes from Joe Queenan, with A Brief History of Lust coming next week. Failure features archive contributions from classics professor Edith Hall; historian Geoffrey Regan; writer Armando Iannucci; former political correspondent and Strictly star John Sergeant; plus music from Laura Marling, Viv Albertine of the Slits and rock and roll's greatest failure, John Otway. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.


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Late Returns

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

The writer Nicholas Royle is a passionate supporter of libraries and a devoted bibliophile. As a young man his passion for books was so strong, in fact, that some of the books he borrowed from libraries didn't manage to find their way back to their homes on the library shelves. Now, over three decades on, Nicholas is finally doing the right thing and returning the books to the places he first encountered them - Manchester, Paris and London - hoping to avoid any hefty fines in his attempt to straighten his accounts. Along the way he considers his evolving relationship with both books and libraries, meeting other writers such as Vahni Capildeo and Polar Bear to hear about books they have neglected to return because they loved them so much; he also speaks with others who would never dream of failing to take their books back, such as AL Kennedy. Nicholas also meets a successful journalist who went to the same school as him and was one of the last to borrow the novel before Nicholas himself took it on extended leave. Producer: Geoff Bird.


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Tunes from the Trash

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Just outside the Paraguayan capital city of Asuncion lies the town of Cateura. It's an impoverished settlement ranged along the banks of a stinking, polluted river, in the shadow of a giant landfill site. Many of its inhabitants scratch a living by reclaiming objects from the endless ocean of garbage to sell. Recycling of a kind. But for the last ten years the residents of Cateura have been part of a recycling project of a much sweeter sort. La Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura -- the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura -- use materials from the landfill site to create musical instruments. An oil drum for a cello, a pipe for a flute, a tin can for a guitar. They've toured the world and recorded with the likes of Metallica. As the Orchestra leader Favio Chávez says, "The world sends us garbage. We send back music." The BBC's South America Correspondent Wyre Davies visits Cateura, meets Favio Chávez and other members of the Recycled Orchestra and learns how trash, and lives, are being transformed by music. Readings by: John Norton James Murphy-Johns Lila Smith Yahlini Smith Producer: Martin Williams For more information about the Recycled Orchestra: http://www.recycledorchestracateura.com/ The Recycled Orchestra have been the subject of a recent documentary film: http://www.landfillharmonicmovie.com/ And an illustrated children's book: http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/Adas-Violin/Susan-Hood/9781481430951.


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Meet the Cyborgs

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Frank Swain can hear Wi-Fi. Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in 'Hack My Hearing'. Since then, Frank has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones to detect and sonify Wi-Fi connections around him. He joins a community around the world who are extending their experience beyond human limitations. In 'Meet the Cyborgs' Frank sets out to meet other people who are hacking their bodies. Neil Harbisson and Moon Rebus run The Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, which welcomes like-minded body hackers from around the world. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies. Frank meets the creators of Cyborg Nest, a company promising to make anyone a cyborg. They have recently launched their first product - The North Sense - a computer chip anchored to body piercings in the chest, which vibrates when it faces north. "I'm a 51 year old bald guy, with no tattoos or piercings" says co-founder Scott Cohen. "This was never a place I thought I'd end up in. Everyone's talking about machine learning, but what we're trying to do is make our brains smarter." Of course, the marriage of technology and biology is commonplace in medicine, from pacemakers to IUDs. But now 'citizen hackers' are modifying their medical equipment to add new functions. Dana Lewis from Seattle has created her own 'artificial pancreas' to help manage her Type 1 diabetes and released the code online. But should limits be placed on self-experimentation? And will cybernetic implants eventually become as ubiquitous as smart phones? Features music composed for The North Sense by Andy Dragazis. Presenter: Frank Swain Producer: Michelle Martin.


Media Files:
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Generation Grime

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Radio 4 explores why the music genre of Grime has blown up in the UK in the last few years by following Wales' Astroid Boys on their recent UK tour. Once just the sound of the London underground, Grime's popularity has spread all over the country and is now the biggest youth culture since Punk. Cardiff's Astroid Boys are set to become Grime's next big thing - they've just signed a record deal with Sony imprint Music For Nations and their track Dusted has been picked up by wrestling giants WWE as their new anthem. The band and their fans tell us in their own words how this very British music scene has influenced their lives and given them a much needed voice.


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Laura Mvula's Miles Davis

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Singer-songwriter and composer Laura Mvula meets jazz musicians Jason Yarde and Laura Jurd, and music broadcaster journalist Kevin Le Gendre, to discuss her musical inspiration, the visionary American jazz musician Miles Davis. 'He has always been and will always remain one of the greatest inspirations of my musical life. To me he was and is an icon, a pioneer, the unique innovator. He never held himself back - maybe that's what first attracted me to him and his sound'. Picking up on these opening remarks, and in the company of three contributors with contrasting perspectives on the man and his music, Mvula and her guests consider the impact and legacy of Miles Davis, a unique musician who repeatedly reinvented himself musically, and single-handedly shape-shifted the language of jazz, for nearly half a century. With glimpses of music from Miles Davis's vast discography, the programme paints a unique and personal portrait of one of the 20th century's greatest musical creators and iconclasts. Laura Mvula is one of the most exciting music talents to emerge in Britain in recent years. Growing up in Birmingham's Kings Heath to parents from Jamaica and St Kitts, Mvula cut her musical teeth singing in and directing local church and gospel choirs, and performing with soul group Judyshouse, before going on to Birmingham Conservatoire to study composition with, among others, composer Joe Cutler. After working as a music supply teacher in Birmingham schools, she sent demo recordings of her songs to record labels; the result has been spectacular international success that ranges from touring the world with her band, to composing for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Laura Mvula cites Miles Davis as one of her greatest influences - first urged by her father to watch documentaries about him, then given albums by a relative, her initial puzzlement grew into unbounded admiration for a black musician who refused utterly to be bounded by musical style or social position. His appetite for musical innovation and experiment, his dismissal of the idea of musical mistakes, his vision for successful creative collaboration - all of these characteristics and more combined to create a template for the sort of musician Laura Mvula has aspired to become. In this documentary feature, Laura sounds out her thoughts in the company of three guests, all of whom are equally great admirers of Miles Davis, but who approach him from different perspectives. Mvula's guests are: Kevin Le Gendre is a journalist and broadcaster with a special in[...]


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I, by the Tide of Humber

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

BBC coverage of Hull City of Culture will be extensive across 2017. At its very start, the award-winning poet Sean O'Brien reflects upon why his native city, its waterscape and landscape, have inspired poets past and present. The programme features a specially commissioned new poem from Sean - a three-part memory-piece, which is also a love-song for Hull, its surroundings and their metaphorical resonance: ........The great void Where the land loses track of itself, And the water comes sidling past at the roadside Awaiting the signal to flood, is a kind of belief Where there is no belief, is the great consolation Of knowing that nothing will follow but weather and tides, Yet also that when the world ends There must be a Humber pilot keeping watch As the great ships are passing silently away Through the estuary's mouth and the saw-toothed marriage Of river and sea, and out past the fort at Bull Island And over the edge, and away............. Sean also celebrates the work of poets who have made the city their home: Andrew Marvell, a line from whose 17th Century poem, To His Coy Mistress, gives this programme its title; Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith and others. He brings in an eclectic range of music, including his personal favourite, Dirty Water, by local band The Fabulous Ducks. He hears from the Hull-based geographer Chris Skinner, and poet Sarah Stutt. Starting with memories of digging holes in the garden of the house where he grew up, via flood-cellars, culverts and drains, the smaller river Hull and the great estuarine river Humber itself, this highly-textured programme culminates with Sean at the top of the disused lighthouse at Spurn Point, gazing out into the North Sea. Producer Beaty Rubens.


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On a Knife Edge

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

This hospital based youth violence work is taking place in the four London major trauma centres and Producer Sue Mitchell was given exclusive access to follow what happens. The charity, Redthread, now has teams in each of the trauma centres and their youth workers will be alongside victims from the point that they walk, or are stretchered, in. They're away from their communities and alienated from peers and this surreal period - 'the teachable moment,' as it's known - is seen as being an effective time because the young person is vulnerable, shocked and forced to confront assumptions of invincibility. Becky Calnan is a Redthread team leader at one of the London trauma centres and allows listeners to follow her work with nineteen year old Liam. He's been attacked on the street and turns up at Accident and Emergency with blood soaking into his coat and trousers. He tells her that he's been punched, kicked and stamped on as he was making his way to court for a scheduled appointment. She knows him already: just months earlier he was stabbed in his legs in a planned attack. Becky's been working with Liam ever since. His latest injuries don't surprise her: "He doesn't eat properly; he doesn't sleep as he's out at night, and he's paranoid because of how he's living: this all feeds into making these incidents much more likely to happen." Liam tells listeners about his life of court appearances, street violence and lack of ambition. He traces the start of his problems back to 2010, when he moved to a new area of London with his Mum and sisters. He knows he could make something of himself if he puts his mind to it, but there's too much daily pressure for him to even try: "I don't know what can happen next. There are young youth running around with big knives and my Mum and Nan are scared. I'm not scared. I spat blood on them when they attacked me." But Liam's bravado cracks slightly as he acknowledges the work that Becky's doing: "She's helped me, I do appreciate that. If there are things I need to get off my chest she listens and she doesn't judge me. I don't have anyone else like that to talk to." For Redthread the work is aimed at interrupting the cycle of violence which all too often sees the victim become the perpetrator. Liam describes being stabbed, jumped on and other attacks with a calm that would be more normally placed describing a shopping trip, say, not repeated street violence. He thinks he will end up dead unless he can change, but it's a hard task. Alon[...]


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Exonerated

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

John Toal meets former death-row inmates Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle at the retreat they have set up in rural Ireland to offer restorative treatment to other victims of wrongful conviction in order to help them back to a normal life. Peter Pringle was sentenced to be hanged in Ireland in 1980. Sonia 'Sunny' Jacobs was sentenced to the electric chair in the United States in 1976. Sunny was accused of killing two police officers at a highway service area in Florida. Peter was accused of killing two police officers in rural Ireland during a botched bank robbery. Both had their sentences commuted to life and were later exonerated of their crimes. Peter and Sunny spent over 15 years each in prison for crimes they didn't commit. After their release, life in the outside world was tough. They struggled to re-integrate into society. Practical things like crossing roads, opening doors or even being touched joined a long list of everyday challenges. Neither could escape the feeling that they had re-joined a society that had moved on without them. In 1998 Peter heard Sunny give a talk about her death-row experience. Traumatised by her story and shocked by how similar their experiences were, Peter offered to drive Sunny to her next speaking engagement and their relationship grew from there. Now married, Peter and Sunny run the Sunny Centre in rural Connemara, a retreat for people from around the world who have been wrongfully convicted and who are trying to retrace a path back into normal life. For this programme, John Toal travels to the depths of the Irish countryside to hear Sunny and Peter's story. He hears how a combination of yoga, meditation, healthy food and the freedom to share their experiences with people who have been through similar trauma can assist those exonerated of dreadful crimes on their path back to normality ...and whether or not an exoneree can ever truly feel free again. Producer: Jennifer Goggin.


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Hiraeth

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Poet Mab Jones explores the concept of 'Hiraeth' in the poetry of Wales and further afield Hiraeth, a central theme of Welsh language poetry and song, is a feeling of something lost, a long time ago, whether national identity or a once-important language. It has deep roots - some link it to the loss of self-determination in 1282. It has no equivalent in English, often translating as 'homesickness', but incorporating an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to experience a deep sense of incompleteness. Longing and absence has infused Welsh songs and poetry for centuries, so perhaps in the national temperament there's a perpetual tension between staying and leaving, a yearning for something better, a grief for something left behind. But there are equivalents in other languages - in Portuguese, 'saudade' is an impossible longing for the unattainable, so there are occurrences of the sentiment across a wide cultural spectrum. But if the English don't have a word for it, does that mean they don't feel it, or that they don't need it? For some, like Mab's former Professor at Swansea, M Wynn Thomas, 'hiraeth' can function as a default nostalgia button, and a dangerous tendency to believe things were better in the past. It's an experience characteristic of the powerless, the dispossessed; it's the signature tune of loss, but is this hopeless and persistent longing holding this small nation back? Mab Jones is a poet and performer both humorous and deeply serious. She stands outside the Welsh language tradition, claims she doesn't feel hiraeth (not for Wales anyway - possibly for Japan), and for Radio 4 questions and pokes at the concept, visiting the National Eisteddfod for the first time in an attempt to put her finger on exactly what it is. Exploring the concept through poetry that expresses it, from the poets Menna Elfyn and Ifor ap Glyn she hears poems and songs that deal with aspects of Welsh history that might explain the continued existence of the word in Welsh - forced removals from much loved homes through industrialisation and military eviction. And she talks to writers who live between two worlds and struggle with a sense of belonging: Pamela Petro, an American writer who fell in love with the landscape of Wales in her twenties, and Eric Charles Ngalle, a Cameroonian poet and refugee, who made a life i[...]


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The Green Book

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:00:00 +0000

In the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, travelling in the United States was fraught with difficulties if you were black. At best it was inconvenient, as white-owned businesses refused to serve African American motorists, repair their cars or offer them hotel accommodation. At worst, travel could be life-threatening if you walked into the wrong bar in the wrong town. That's why in 1936 Victor H Green, a Harlem postal worker, published the first edition of The Green Book. The guide listed hotels, restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African Americans and was an attempt, in Victor Green's words, "to give the Negro traveller information that will keep from him running into difficulties and embarrassments". 'Embarrassments' seems rather a tame word for the outright hostility and physical danger which many black travellers experienced in segregation-era America. The Green Book became a catalogue of refuge and tolerance in a hostile and intolerant world. Alvin Hall hits the highway, Green Book in hand, to document a little-known aspect of racial segregation: the challenges - for mid-20th century America's new black middle class - of travelling in their own country. Alvin's journey starts in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was born and raised, takes him through Alabama and Tennessee and concludes in Ferguson, Missouri. The guide ceased publication soon after the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But, as Alvin discovers in Ferguson, many African Americans still feel far from safe as they drive. Alvin asks whether the Green Book ceased publication too soon. Interviewees: Carolyn Bailey-Champion, Dr. Charles Champion, Leah Dickerman, Jerome Gray, Prof. Allyson Hobbs, Ryan Jones, Maira Liriano, Ron McCoy, Robert Moman, Dr. Gwen Patton, Calvin Ramsey, Tiffany Shawn, Rev. Henry Steele, Bryan Stevenson and Rev. Starsky Wilson Producer: Jeremy Grange Archive audio courtesy of PBS, CBS and CNN Photos: Jonathan Calm.


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Bursting the Social Network Bubble

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Bobby Friction has started to realise that his day-to-day online activities are not only being monitored but in some senses manipulated. How often he interacts with specific friends, pages or sites sculpts and filters everything and everyone he comes into contact with online. Since the Brexit vote and the US election these bubbles have become a really big issue - with talk of fake news, post-truth politics and online communities increasingly divided. When, like Bobby, you decide you've had enough of living in a social media bubble, what can you do to change things? Is it possible for an ordinary person a user of social media to beat the system or is it only technology nerds who can do it? And really - is there any benefit to breaking out of the bubble? The Producer is Perminder Khatkar.


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GCHQ: Minority Report

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

The domestic challenge facing Britain's biggest secret intelligence service. What's stopping members of the ethnic minorities from playing a key part in Britain's spy network: discrimination, loyalty or simple old-fashioned prejudice? DJ Nihal Arthanayake, Five Live and Asian Network presenter, gets rare access to GCHQ, the government's secret communication headquarters in Cheltenham Spa. He talks to staff from the black, Asian and ethnic minorities and hears from members of those communities outside about their attitude to the intelligence-gathering organisation. A report leaked to the Sunday Times six years ago suggested that black and Asian intelligence officers were concerned about there being a racist culture. If GCHQ's workforce was truly representative of Britain's ethnic makeup, then 12 per cent would be black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities, but it's not even a quarter of that. Can the organisation change? Produced by Mark Savage.


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Being Bored: The Importance of Doing Nothing

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Is boredom under threat? There are more TV channels than we can count, Smartphones keep us engaged around the clock, and the constant white noise of social media coerces us to always 'interact'. In fact, there is so much to stimulate our everyday lives in this digital age that we need never be bored ever again. So do we still need to be bored? And what would we miss if we did eliminate boredom completely from our lives? The happily bored Phill Jupitus takes a creative look at our attitude to this misunderstood emotion. He will examine what boredom is, and how it has influenced our leisure time, our workplaces, our creativity and our evolution. Phill will examine its impact on comedy, art, music, and television, taking us from punk to prison, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Sherlock Holmes, from Danish sex clubs to London's 'Boring Conference'. This will be a lively look at the simple, very real and essential emotion of boredom, and a stout defence of the right to sometimes just sit down and do nothing. Interviews include - the Reverend Richard Coles, the writer Natalie Haynes, the artist George Shaw, the comedy writer & producer Robert Popper, the psychologist Peter Toohey, the punk musician Gaye Black (formerly of The Adverts), the psychologist Sandi Mann, the BBC newsreader Simon McCoy, Dr Teresa Belton and the social media entrepreneur Jodie Cook.


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Steve Earle's Songwriting Bootcamp

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Legendary country singer-songwriter Steve Earle unveils the secrets of composing a great song. Every year he runs a four-day intensive training session in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Journalist and aspiring songwriter Hugh Levinson joined around 100 other would-be balladeers to see what they can learn both from Steve and his fellow teacher, Shawn Colvin. Listen in to stories of dreaming, methadone, guns, jail, death and betrayal. All the good stuff. Producer: Smita Patel.


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Butterfly Mind

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Can a Shaman cure writer's block? David Greig goes on a very personal quest in an attempt to find out. David Greig is one of our most respected and successful playwrights. He's also the Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. But he is suffering from writer's block; he is 'exhausted, like a mined out mine'. He's tried many a cure, without success, and now he wants to visit a Shaman to see if there is a solution to be found somewhere in the spirit world. As quests go, it's slightly odd, sometimes light-hearted but serious in parts... Producer: Karen Gregor.


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Searching for Tobias

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

In 2008 Chloe Hadjimatheou was covering Barack Obama's first election campaign when she came across a 15 year old black boy in a Mississippi trailer park. Back then the young Tobias was full of potential and had big dreams of becoming a policeman. 8 years later, Chloe goes in search of him to find what became of him. Did Tobias ever fulfil his wishes and has he prospered in Obama's America? Produced and presented by Chloe Hadjimatheou Editor: Penny Murphy.


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Keepsake for My Lover

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000

'Like talking on the phone but a thousand times more thrilling,' voice recording booths invite you to 'hear yourself as others hear you' by entering a weird machine to cut a record. Once a technological novelty, these recordings leave a unique legacy and a wonderful world of audio peculiarities, which serve as a vital reminder for how we communicate today. Once a staple of seaside resorts and arcades, famously used in the films Brighton Rock and Badlands, they returned to prominence when Jack White restored a booth, on which Neil Young recorded his 2014 album. While the discs speak for themselves, the booths ask questions about us and how we choose to present ourselves to the world. Janine H. Jones crosses the Atlantic, to meet the people who have restored these booths, to find out what's the value of putting our money where our mouth is and speaking out loud. Recording personally and for posterity, why are people in their droves returning to make a permanent record, instead of the infinitely editable yet intangible digital recordings offered by the technology in our pocket? Presenter: Janine H. Jones Producer: Hannah Loy Contributors: Bill Bollman (Record booth restorer) Alisha Edmonson (Songbyrd Cafe) Will Prentice (British Library) Digby Fairweather (jazz musician) Ben Blackwell (Third Man Records) With special thanks to The British Library & The Imperial War Museum for access to their collection of discs. With special thanks to Jason Spellman, Ben Soundhog and Mike Hale for donating their discs to the project. With special thanks to Cai Strachan for digitising the donated discs and donating the first disc that sparked the whole idea.


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A Cello in the Desert

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Winner of this year's prestigious BBC/RGS dream journey award is Nina Plapp who sets off from the Isle of Wight with her cello 'Cuthbert' en route to India via Transylvania in a search for the roots of gypsy music. Nina is a cellist from a large musical family and the energy and rhythms of gypsy music have always mesmerized her. Cuthbert, now 167 years old, has played in many an orchestra and was most recently under the guardianship of Nina's great aunt Bebe. After a family send-off, Nina and Cuthbert head east on an adventure into the rich musical landscape of the gypsies. They first visit a family in Romania where she immerses herself in the wild rhythms and melodies of the Roma in rural Transylvania. Then they continue to India to seek out the original gypsies. On their way they join a chorus on the train through the desert, get locked inside a cupboard with singing girls in a Rajasthani village and play with the gypsy musicians at a wedding. If you'd like to apply for next years Journey of a Lifetime Award and make a feature fore Radio 4 about your adventure you have until 2nd November. Look for Journey of a Lifetime on the Royal Geographical Society website. www.rgs.org/journeyofalifetime Producer Neil McCarthy.


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Gunning For Education

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000

On 1st August 2016, Texas became the first big American state to allow students aged over 21 to carry concealed handguns on campus. Ian Peddie explores the impact of the new law. This change is seen by many as a litmus test and, despite a few smaller states already having similar laws, where Texas goes America often follows. As with all American gun debates the issue is divisive, with many seeing this moment as pivotal in framing the nation's political and cultural relationship with weapons. Most educators in Texas oppose the legislation, Texas Senate Bill 11 (SB11). They fear an impact on teaching, where contentious topics such as religion and philosophy may now be avoided. But after notorious shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine and the University of Texas, some students welcome the ability to defend themselves. British born Assistant Professor Ian Peddie has lived and worked in the USA for over 25 years. SB11 will change the context under which he lives and works and it's in that knowledge that he explores the impact of the new campus carry laws. We follow Ian into class at Sul Ross State University for the first day of the new law's introduction. On campus Ian meets students, faculty, and the police to gauge the mood of these new times. Later, Ian hears from protestors for and against the new law at the huge University of Texas in Austin. In a noisy atmosphere, the arguments are good natured but passionate. Throughout the programme Ian examines the fears, claims and discussions being held across universities, the state, and the nation. It will be illegal for lecturers to ask students if they are carrying weapons but it remains to be seen how that 'knowing but not knowing' might affect the class. A Like It Is Media production for BBC Radio 4.


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Arthur Russell: Vanished into Music

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000

The writer Olivia Laing presents an imaginative portrait of Arthur Russell. Arthur Russell was a cellist, a composer, a songwriter and a disco auteur. He was active in the New York downtown scene of the 1970s and was a frequent collaborator with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass. Although extremely prolific, his inability to finish projects is often cited as part of the reason that very little of his music was released during his lifetime. When Arthur Russell died in 1992 his Village Voice obituary read, "Arthur's songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music." Featuring: Mustafa Ahmed, Joyce Bowden, Steven Hall and Tom Lee Producer: Martin Williams


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The Villain in 6 Chapters

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Exploring characters from literature, stage and screen, actor Toby Jones celebrates the mercurial world of the villain. There are the characters we love, and then there are the characters we love to hate. Some of the most memorable ones in drama and fiction are villains and our relationship with them can be deeper than the characters we're supposed to be rooting for. In this programme we tell the tale of this love - hate relationship with the baddie and discover that the villain is more than just a foil for the hero - they are a reflection of us all. Introducing the story in six chapters from his secret lair actor Toby Jones delves into a the vaults of villainy; from the hideous countenances to deranged governesses, from the dark side to the cads and femme fatales the programme brings into the spotlight a collection of evil doers and assesses whether they deserve sympathy, condemnation or anti-hero status. We live in the age of the anti-hero; characters which proliferate popular culture that are no longer simply goodies and baddies. They are cherished in critically acclaimed American dramas: Breaking Bad has Walter White and The Sopranos has the eponymous Tony. The anti-hero is a complex character. They can commit truly appalling, villainous acts - but we're encouraged to see the reasons behind those actions, to sympathise with them, to understand what makes them do what they do and to hope for redemption. As the Walter White's and Tony Soprano's emerge, this programme reconsiders classic villainy and analyses whether the increasingly popular anti-hero is threatening to unseat the villain and resign them to pantomime and comic book stories as serious drama abandons real baddies. As Toby Jones explores the wicked worlds of our favourite villains their nefarious natures are assessed by Shakespearean scholars Paul Edmondson and Carol Rutter, an academic specialising in Victorian fiction Professor John Sutherland, Comedy and film history Glenn Mitchell and actors Emily Raymond, Michael Roberts and Jonathan Rigby Produced by Stephen Garner With readings by Michael Roberts a[...]


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Songs for the Dead

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Keeners were the women of rural Ireland who were traditionally paid to cry, wail and sing over the bodies of the dead at funerals and wakes. Their role was to help channel the grief of the bereaved and they had an elevated, almost mythical status among their communities. The custom of keening had all but vanished by the 1950's as people began to view it as primitive, old-fashioned and uncivilised. Now, broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir sets out to ask what's been lost with the passing of the keeners. She travels to Inis Mor, a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, where one of Ireland's last professional keeners - Brigid Mullin - was recorded by the song collector and archivist Sidney Robertson Cowell in the 1950's. Brigid's crackling, eerie evocation of sorrow echoes down the years to capture a tradition in its dying days - a ghostly remnant of another world. Dr Deirdre Ni Chonghaile is a native of Inis Mor and thinks modern funerals have taken on an almost Victorian dignity in a society that in general has become far less tolerant of extravagant displays of grief. Deirdre believes it was this very extravagance that helped lead to keening's demise. Its emphasis on the body and human mortality was in direct conflict with the notion of a Christian afterlife and the influential role of the keening women may even have been regarded as a threat to the patriarchy of the Church. As the story of the keeners blends with the waves and winds of Ireland's west coast, Marie-Louise reflects on the passing of this once rich tradition. Producer: Conor McKay. Recordings: Bridget Mullin with Sidney Robertson Cowell, keen performance and conversation. Smithsonian Folkways, Ralph Rinzler Archives. Neil O'Boyle, keen demonstration on fiddle. Irish Traditional Music Archive, Dublin Eithne Ni Uilleachan, 'Grief' from the album Bilingua (Gael Linn) The Gloaming 'The Pilgrim's Song' from the album '2' (Real World) Milk Carton Kids 'Wish You Were Here' (Anti/Epitaph) Brian Eno 'The Ship' (Warp)


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Frightened of Each Other's Shadows

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:30:00 +0000

It's part of contemporary life we experience but are ashamed to discuss. But Nihal Arthanayake wants to talk it: about the things that are left unsaid. The empty chair next to a person from an ethnic minority on a packed bus or train. That anxious glance, or downright hostile gaze. Nihal hears from people from around Britain about how the threat of terrorist attacks is making us all frightened of each other's shadows; charting the emotional landscape of Britain at a time of heightened anxiety and distrust. Olaoluwa Opebiyi was removed from a plane by armed police after a fellow passenger reported him to cabin crew for acting suspiciously. Karan Chadda shaved off his hipster beard when people started avoiding him. Tomiwa Folounso tells us that she feels guilty for being wary of young Asian men, when she too has experienced prejudice in the past. How do manage these fears? Some of the people we spoke with in this programme have asked to remain anonymous, but we'll hear from Steve Reicher, a Professor of Social Psychology at St Andrews University and Les Back, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. We join writer Iain Sinclair as he takes Nihal on a walk through history around the City of London. Nihal also speaks with Robin Goodwin from Warwick University who has been measuring people's responses to terrorist attacks, from 9/11 right up until the November attacks in Paris in 2015. Is terrorism changing the way we relate to each other? Producer: Caitlin Smith.


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Stalking under Scrutiny

Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:30:00 +0000

'Stalking' - repeated, unwanted contact or intrusive behaviour from another person which causes fear or distress - affects huge numbers of people. The public perception is that only celebrities are the victims of stalkers, but over the course of their lives twenty per cent of women in Britain will have been stalked. It is often, though, difficult to confirm stalking and to take action against its perpetrators. Stalkers range from the socially inadequate to delusional and psychotic; but they are all singularly and pathologically persistent. Dr Raj Persaud explores the present situation and asks what more can be done. He hears from psychiatrists, psychologists, the police and victims of stalking. Some have been stalked for over 40 years. Raj Persaud also examines how to stop stalkers and prevent them from reoffending.


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You May Now Turn Over Your Papers

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Cambridge Classics professor, Mary Beard, tells the intriguing story of the history of exams and asks what are exams really for. In her quest for an answer, she scales the rooftops of King's College, Cambridge, grills a well-known comedian in Latin and discovers Charles Darwin was a terrible student more interested in finding beetles than doing his exams. Mary delves into the world of exams past and present in the company of comedian Richard Herring, roof-walker and academic, Katherine Rundell, fellow Classicist Simon Goldhill and others. Producer: Adele Armstrong.


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Roald Dahl: In His Own Words

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:30:00 +0000

With the help of his granddaughter Sophie, Roald Dahl tells his own remarkable story in the style of one of his much-loved books. Illustrated with newly discovered archive recordings and songs and music exclusively recorded by the cast and musicians in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre in London, this Archive on 4 marks the centenary of the writer dubbed 'the best storyteller in the world'. The programme contains excerpts from interviews with Roald Dahl on NRK, Op Reis with Ivo Niehe, Desert Island Discs with Roy Plomley, Parkinson, Wogan, Saturday Matters With Sue Lawley, Pebble Mill at One, Saturday Superstore, Whicker's World, Start The Week, Bookmark, The World of Books, Meridian, The Friday Serial, The Many Lives of Roald Dahl, A Dose of Dahl's Magic Medicine, Treasure Islands, PM & BBC News. Producer: Dixi Stewart. Music recorded by cast and musicians inthe Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical.


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In Wales the Ball is Round

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Football is the Welsh national sport. Yes, you read that right. Comedian and writer Elis James gives a polemical appraisal of football's role in constructing modern Welsh identity. (1/2) The story of football in Wales tells a richer, geographically-wider, more socially-inclusive national story than rugby, the country's much vaunted "national sport". The Welsh football story has long embraced crosspollination from ethnic communities, the influx and growth of industries other than coal and steel, and the myriad geographical, social and linguistic divisions that crisscross Wales. In 2016, more Welsh people watch football and follow their local team than rugby; six times as many Welsh women play football than its oval-balled cousin. But no-one's listening. Across Offa's Dyke and within the Welsh media, we're being sold a myth. Rugby articulates a set of comfy, uninterrogated clichés about a fabled Welsh national psyche (Poetry! Coal mines! Celts! Oppressed by the English!) that's ossified. Only in the story of Welsh football - virtually ignored by British sporting media - does one find laid bare the difficult, rich tapestry of Wales today. As the Welsh national football team embarks on its first major tournament for nearly sixty years, Elis James examines why sport plays such a key role - within Wales and to all of us - in constructing different kinds of national, ethnic and personal identities. What are the difficulties and myths that are generated when a sport is elevated to "national" status? And for small nations like Wales taking confidence from the patriotism their national teams generate - how much does a national sport help them stand on their own two feet - and how much does it distract from the hard questions of what it means to be a nation? In the first episode, Elis James explores the extent to which football has played second-fiddle to rugby in Wales. How much does the constant veneration of a mythologised nati[...]


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While My Guitar Gently Bleeps

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 13:30:00 +0000

A plumber eating a mushroom, and a spiny mammal jumping on a golden ring - you'd be forgiven for thinking these actions would make pretty indistinct or ambiguous sounds. But comedian, writer and musician Isy Suttie discovers why - thanks to Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog - they're some of the most evocative sounds of the 1980s and 90s. Along with these sounds, the plinky plonky music of early video games buried itself inside a generation of ears growing up among Commodores, Ataris, Segas and Nintendos. Loosely referred to as "chiptune", many musicians and producers now use the jagged, electronic textures in their songs, going to great lengths to deliberately limit their audio palette for the sake of authenticity; some even rip apart old computers and consoles to build instruments faithful to the original sounds. Its ubiquity in film and TV scores is another testament to its efficiency in evoking that era. Isy traces the evolution of chiptune from early electronic music, looking at how composers like Hirokazu Tanaka and Koji Kondo created the catchy and unmistakeable themes of Tetris and Super Mario Brothers. She meets current chiptune artists, including the band whose instruments are joysticks and game controllers, and uses their advice to write her own digital classic. But can she convince the organisers of a die-hard gaming event to use it as their theme tune, and survive silicon scrutiny? Produced by Benn Cordrey.


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Moss Side Gym Stories

Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Moss Side Gym Stories - Part 1: Moss Side is a small neighbourhood just outside of Manchester's city centre. In the 19th century Elizabeth Gaskell, inspired by the area, made her literary debut with the novel Mary Barton. She described Moss Side as a place of rural charm where Victorian workers and their families came to talk, play and relax. By the later part of the 20th century, the green fields that Gaskell knew had been replaced by housing estates, and Moss Side's reputation for riots, gangs and guns had spread nationwide. Growing up in Moss Side, Manchester's award winning poet Mike Garry, saw another side. Among its terraced rows Mike discovered a place where he could hear an echo of the qualities that caused Gaskell to put pen to paper - the Moss Side Leisure Centre. In the first of a two part programme Mike returns to the leisure centre to perform his epic poem, Men's Morning, an ode to the Friday morning male patrons of the centre. He spends time with the men who use the gym today to discover what, if anything has changed since he wrote the poem 20 years ago. In the next programme Jackie Kay, acclaimed poet and Scotland's new Makar, writes her own poem inspired by time spent at the leisure centre, this time focusing on the women who use it. Part 2: Jackie Kay, acclaimed writer and Scotland's new Makar, writes a poem, commissioned by the BBC and inspired by the women who use Manchester's Moss Side Leisure Centre. Close to the Centre are streets named in honour of one of the city's most famous residents, Elizabeth Gaskell, who moved to Manchester in the 1830s and knew these streets, as fields. In her debut novel, Mary Barton, Gaskell described this area as a place of serene rural beauty, where Manchester's families would come to walk, talk, rest and rejuvenate. By the later part of the 20th century, the green fields had been replaced by housing estates. Mo[...]


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Life Under Glass

Tue, 31 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

At Coney Island amusement park between 1903 and 1943 there was an extraordinary exhibit: tiny, premature babies. 'Dr. Martin Couney's infant incubator' facility was staffed by nurses in starched white uniforms and if you paid a quarter, you could see the babies in their incubators. Journalist Claire Prentice has been following the story and tracked down some of those babies, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, who were put on show. She discovers how Dr. Couney brought the incubator to prominence in the USA through World's Fairs and amusement parks, and explores how a man who was shunned by the medical establishment changed attitudes to premature babies and saved countless lives. Producer Mark Rickards.


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The Camera Never Lies

Fri, 27 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Does documentary ever really tell the truth? BAFTA award winning filmmaker Molly Dineen examines the concept of truth and the creation of narrative in documentary film making. Robert Flaherty's 'Nanook of the North' is considered the first documentary ever made, and much of it was specially set up for the cameras. We think that modern 'Scripted Reality' is a new phenomenon, but does it have its roots in the earliest days of documentary? We look at the making of a documentary, from idea, to casting, filming and editing to find out how documentary makers craft their story. Molly Dineen looks at nearly 100 years of documentary making from the archives, as well as looking back on her own career. Her first film 'Home from the Hill' followed retired Solider Hilary Hook returning to England after a career in Kenya, and she has also filmed the London Zoo in crisis, in her BAFTA award winning series 'The Ark', modern celebrity in her portrait of ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, and a Prime Minister in waiting in the 1997 Party Political Broadcast for the Labour Party. Molly's observational style sees her immersing herself in the worlds she shoots, but we also take a look at modern 'Fly on the Wall' programming, speaking to TV producer Jonathan Stadlen about his series 'GP's: Behind Closed Doors'. There's more factual programming around now than ever; but is this a good thing? Are the schedules clogged with cheap programming that sacrifices the truth for style, using fast cutting, music and voice over rather than allowing people to speak for themselves? We also hear from Kim Loginotto, whose films examine the lives of women worldwide, Radio Producer Simon Elmes and TV Critic AA Gill. Presenter: Molly Dineen Producer: Jessica Treen.


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The Power of Cute

Tue, 24 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Zoologist and broadcaster Lucy Cooke explores the science behind our seeming obsession with all things adorable. There has been an explosion in interest in cuteness, particularly online, with an ever growing number of websites dedicated to pandas, kittens, puppies and of course babies. If you are feeling a bit down in the dumps, what better way to brighten your day then looking at some cute baby animal frolicking about. But what is it that makes these creatures so darn attractive to us and can you be addicted to cute? Lucy investigates the latest scientific research looking at just what makes babies cute, and what looking at them does to our brain, with some surprising results. She visits London Zoo to visit her number one cute creature of choice, the sloth, to find out why sloths hit the top of the cute charts, but the Chinese giant salamander definitely doesn't, and why in terms of conservation, that matters.


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Return to Subtopia

Fri, 13 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

The distinguished architectural writer Gillian Darley retraces the story of "Subtopia", one of the most significant architectural debacles of the post-war era, and considers its long shadow. Her story starts with Ian Nairn, the maverick young architectural journalist, who invented the word "Subtopia" in the mid-1950s, when the Architectural Review ran a campaign against unsightly clutter and the blurring of distinctions between town and country. Nairn drew upon a recent road journey he had made, stating that the outcome of "Subtopia" would be that "the end of Southampton will look like the beginning of Carlisle; the parts in between will look like the end of Carlisle or the beginning of Southampton." He continued uncompromisingly: "The whole land surface is becoming covered by the creeping mildew that already circumscribes all of our towns. Subtopia is the annihilation of the site, the steamrollering of all individuality of place to one uniform and mediocre pattern." Gillian Darley brings together lively original archive featuring Nairn himself, Gilbert Harding, Sir Hugh Casson, Sir John Betjeman and others, to re-trace the story. She talks on location in Southampton with the architectural photographer Gareth Gardner about his new project to re-trace and photograph once more the locations which Nairn visited. In studio, she explores the original and contemporary picture with the architect Janice Murphett, and the architectural writer, Gavin Stamp. And she wonders whether, if the short-lived and unhappy Ian Nairn were alive today, what would he feel about the British landscape? Producer: Beaty Rubens.


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The Force of Google

Tue, 10 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Google dominates internet searching across most parts of the globe. The algorithm which produces its search results is highly secret and always changing, but is crucial in influencing the information we all obtain, the viewpoints we read, the people we find out about, and the products we buy. It dominates the market because it's so effective. Rivals find it difficult to compete. But however good the algorithm, however carefully crafted to give us what Google thinks we actually want, is it really healthy for one search engine, and one company, to have so much impact? Rory Cellan-Jones explores Google's uniquely powerful role at the centre of today's information society. Producer: Martin Rosenbaum.


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For Better or Worse

Fri, 06 May 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Writer and activist Peter McGraith married his long-term partner David in March 2014, the first gay wedding registered in the UK. Two years on he meets gay and lesbian couples and speaks with them about their relationships - why did they decide to get married? Or stay in a civil partnership? And why, for some, will marriage never be an option? Peter explores what kind of effect marriage is having on gay and lesbian couples... and how it might be affecting us as a society, for better or worse. And what does the marriage, for so long a cherished goal of equality campaigners, look like from the inside? Does it look and feel like heterosexual unions or is it, as some academics believe, re-building the institution from the ground up? Radio 4 hears personal accounts of queer marriage in post equality Britain, meeting couples, co-parents, friends and lovers along the way. Producer: Caitlin Smith


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The Drop Out Boogie

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:30:00 +0000

There can surely have never been so much pressure on young people to go to university and get a degree, but while for many it remains the best option for securing a decent future, many thousands of others choose to leave higher education and make their own way instead; nearly 25,000 students dropped out in the last year figures are available. Laura Snapes is a journalist who dropped out of two different universities herself, deciding she'd be better off trying to forge her path in her chosen career by doing rather than learning. In this programme she meets other drop-outs to find out what their motives were for leaving higher education behind, and whether they regret their decision. She'll hear how some feel university was never really for them, while for others the pressure of having to succeed, combined with the shadow of their mounting debts, led to mental health problems that forced them to quit. Laura also finds out from her own parents what they really felt when she broke the news that their daughter was dropping out not once but twice.


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How to Turn Your Life Around

Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:30:00 +0000

What does it take to succeed if you are born into poverty and neglect? Two people who have done just that explore whether it was down to personality, circumstances or plain luck. Why do so few people manage it? Byron Vincent, a writer and poet, and Dr Anna Woodhouse, a university lecturer and outreach worker, talk to experts to try and discover if their own triumph over lives that were blighted by abuse, drug addiction, homelessness and hunger could have been predicted. They talk to experts about the sort of traits an individual needs to overcome adversity, things like resilience, grit and will power, and discover the latest thinking on what really helps. They explore the way science is looking at the role of genes in determining character. And they look at the importance of outside forces; education, family support, mentors and the role of the Government. At the end, they discuss what they have found with former Welfare Minister and current Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Frank Field, to see what government can do to help lift individuals out of poverty and get them to turn their lives around. Producer: Jenny Sneesby.


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Suck It and See

Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Grammy Award-Winning songwriter Amy Wadge fell in love with the harmonica after winning one in a fancy dress competition (she was dressed in a bin liner!). Now she investigates the history and potential of the diatonic instrument, a European the toy which in the hands of expert players became the iconic sound of the Mississippi Delta and the Chicago Blues. Not bad for what was originally a child's toy produced then, as now, in Germany! As music historian Christoph Wagner explains, the very first example of the instrument goes back to Vienna. But millions would soon find their way to the USA, taken there by German emigres fleeing poverty. The poor person's introduction to music, the harmonica would soon find its way to around the globe, from Britain to Australia and even China. But it was in America that it scored its biggest success. And it was there that harmonica technique underwent a transformation, as Chicago -based Joe Filisko explains. Instead of exhaling air, blues players would draw air in, and bend notes to achieve the characteristic sounds of the blues. Amy tries her hand at bending, under the expert tutelage of Steve Lockwood - one of very few people to have studied the harmonica to degree level, and she speaks to one of Britain's best-known players, Paul Jones. It may be the sound of the amplified harmonica popularised the instrument in the 1950s and 1960s, but has it moved on from Chicago Blues and Beatles covers? Canadian beat-boxer Benjamin Darvill - "Son of Dave" - has explored new possibilities with the instrument, and with an original sound that's been heard in edgy TV dramas and commercials. Just going to prov[...]


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The Women Who Wrote Rock

Tue, 29 Mar 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Kate Mossman tells the story of the long-overlooked female pop and rock writers of the 1960s. As a music journalist herself, when Kate entered the profession she found herself surrounded by men - men who had very definite ideas about how it should be done... writing for monthly magazines that were aimed at men and covering artist who were mainly men. The whole industry of writing about 'serious' popular music seemed to have been established in the late 1960s and the mid-1970s with the writer-characters of Rolling Stone and our own New Musical Express. But there was a time before all this - a time when the newly invented teenagers were finding their feet... and a new kind of journalism was emerging to chronicle the rapidly changing time. A journalism spearheaded by women. There was Nancy Lewis, who wrote for Fabulous and the NME; June Harris, who wrote for Disc, then went to New York and contributed to Rave (as well as marring legendary rock agent and promoter Frank Barsalona); Maureen O'Grady who began her career as a music journalist at Boyfriend and progressed onto Rave, where she also joined Dawn James. And the doyennes of them all was the Evening Standard's Maureen Cleave, to whom John Lennon claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Kate Mossman meets them and celebrates the tone of their writing that was so fascinatingly different from rock journalism as we came to know it, and yet captured all the confusion, excitement and social changes of the time. Producer: Paul Kobrak


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The Returnees

Fri, 25 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

On an August bank holiday in 2014, Shiraz Maher at the International Centre for Study of Radicalisation at Kings College London received an email sent by a disillusioned British jihadist from Syria. "We came to fight the regime and instead we are involved in gang warfare. It's not what we came for but if we go back to Britain we will go to jail. Right now we are being forced to fight - what option do we have?" The man in his twenties claimed to represent dozens of other jihadists' desperate to return to the UK but fearing long prison sentences. Gordon Corera explores the British government's response to managing returnees. In the last two years Britain has brought in temporary exclusion orders and is able to confiscate passports to prevent people preparing to travel to Syria. France has gone one step further - since the Paris attacks in November police has placed over 400 citizens under house arrest and can strip French born dual nationals of citizenship. Denmark and Germany have taken a different approach and instead try to rehabilitate rather than imprison; helping young men and women get jobs, housing and education. The Home Office estimates that around 800 British nationals have travelled to Syria since the start of the conflict and that around half of those have returned, though experts say these are conservative figures. What's the best way to deal with this growing threat, particularly when returnees are responsible for attacks such as those in Paris last November? Gordon Corera speaks with Shiraz Maher, Rashad Ali of the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, solic[...]


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The Actors' Gang & The Actors' Gang on the Outside

Tue, 22 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

A two part Seriously following actor Tim Robbins and Rajesh Mirchandani and the theatre programme the Actors' Gang in Norco prison. Part 1: The Actors' Gang Just outside of LA in the Californian desert, presenter Rajesh Mirchandani joins 'Shawshank Redemption' star Tim Robbins as he leads acting classes with the segrgated inmates from Norco prison. Rajesh witnesses the transformation of inmates, from tough gangsters into respectable men and gains a unique insight into some of America's toughest social challenges. Rajesh recorded inside the prison with Tim Robbins over a two month period, gaining unique access not only to Tim but also to the inmates. Tim visibly enjoys cult status among the inmates and quickly gains their trust. He is no stranger to prisons, having played an innocent man convicted of murder in "The Shawshank Redemption" and was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for "Dead Man Walking" - a film about a death row inmate. He formed The Actor's Gang, an acting troupe, which runs prison theatre workshop for inmates having spent time in some of LA's toughest prisons whilst researching both films. With re-offending a more likely scenario once they are out of prison, Robbins believes that more should be done whilst they are inside to help them change their ways. Robbins' Hollywood master class ranges from Shakespeare to Commedia dell' arte, a style that originated in 16th-Century Italy and involves actors in masks playing basic character types. Robbins explains that inmates learn to portray four different emotions: happiness, sadness, f[...]


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The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: Anarchy Must Be Organised

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band going "professional" - kick-starting the chaos with a performance on the bastion of psychedelia and avant-garde: Blue Peter. The legendary Neil Innes looks back at the influence and influences of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and the collision of art, humour, music, language and anarchy that permeated the band's career. Archive interviews and performances accompany new interviews with Legs Larry Smith, Rodney Slater, Vernon Dudley Bowhay Nowell, Sam Spoons, and Bob Kerr and contributions from friends and fans including Terry Gilliam, Adrian Edmondson, Kevin Eldon, Diane Morgan, Rick Wakeman and Stephen Fry.


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Tim Key Delves Into Daniil Kharms and That's All

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) is one of Russia's great lost absurdists - a writer whose world still alarms, shocks and bewitches more than half a century after he died in prison during the siege of Leningrad. In his short, almost vignette-like writings, nothing is sacred or as it seems. His narrators dip in and out of moments, describing curious, often disturbing events before getting bored and leaving his characters to their fates. Old ladies plummet from windows, townsfolk are bludgeoned to death with cucumbers, others wander around in search of glue, sausages or nothing. By turns pointless and harrowing, they are funny. Very funny. And they are funny now. Comedian, Russophile and crumpled polymath Tim Key has been entranced by Kharms' beautiful, horrible, hilarious world for years. But is there more to Kharms than a series of curious happenings cooked up by an eccentric mind in a troublesome world? Key suspects there is. And he's prepared to delve. As he delves, he encounters Noel Fielding, Alice Nakhimovsky, Matvei Yankelevich, Peter Scotto, Tony Anemone and Daniil Kharms.


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A Brief History of Disobedience

Fri, 11 Mar 2016 15:27:00 +0000

"Oh my goodness, look at that sign over there. Keep Off The Grass. Makes me wonder who put it there. Makes me wonder why I should keep off the grass. And it makes me want to go on the grass!" American satirist Joe Queenan presents A Brief History of Disobedience, the follow up to his programmes on Blame, Shame, Anger and Irony. He travels in time from the Old Testament to Tarrytown, his home in suburban New York. He aims to discover the importance of not doing what we are told. So let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. With notable contributions from the archive - Gandhi, the Suffragettes, the Greenham Common Peace protestors. Our Heroes of Disobedience include Martin Luther, Geronimo, Woody Guthrie and The Doors. Plus Matthew Parris on Margaret Thatcher, Bill Finnegan on his barbarian days as a surfer and Karen Moline on writing dirty books. And finally, helpful hints about how to be usefully disobedient in everyday life. Joe Queenan is an Emmy award winning broadcaster and writer. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.


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Glad to Be Grey

Tue, 08 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

Professor Mary Beard is a distinguished Cambridge Classical scholar with a string of highly-regarded books on Ancient Rome to her name, so it's slightly irksome to her that she is almost better known for her long grey hair. In this highly-authored documentary, Mary Beard investigates a growing reluctance to embrace grey hair. Starting in the Mayfair salon of "hair colourist to the stars", Jo Hansford, she's informed that her hair is "dreadful" and given a personal consultation by Jo herself about how and why she should colour it. In favour of choice and the fun of colouring hair, (she has always hankered after pink streaks), Mary is particularly disturbed by the pressures in society for women to conceal their age. It's not just about women, though. Mary has recently come to recognise that far more men now colour their hair, but why won't any of them talk to her about it? Eventually, fellow Cambridge Classicist, Professor Simon Goldhill, agrees to "come out" on air. In defending his use of colour and challenging Mary's own choice, he gives her a philosophical run for her money. Ultimately, Mary has to admit the paradox of making a radio programme about grey hair, so she turns to a surprise, high-profile television presenter to learn more about the pressures on women in the public sphere to colour their hair. Concluding that ageism may be the new "glass ceiling", Mary insists upon the right to be both an "enfant terrible" and also an [...]


Media Files:
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Laverne in the Willows

Fri, 04 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

Lauren Laverne has long been a firm fan of Kenneth Grahame's classic children's book 'The Wind in the Willows', in particular that most sparky of characters Mr. Toad, whose desire to have everything and anything new makes him such a vibrant fore-runner of the modern consumer. Lauren sets about telling the story of the book and its creator, Kenneth Grahame, who came up with the adventures of Mole, Ratty and friends as bedtime stories for his headstrong young son Alistair - thought by many to be the model for Mr. Toad himself. Along the way Lauren will visit the school that once was home to the Grahame family, and where he turned the stories into the book we're now so familiar with. She'll also hear from the author of the 'How to Train Your Dragon' series of books, Cressida Cowell, about her own love of 'Wind in the Willows', as well as Tom Moorhouse, an Oxford University Ecologist who is writing a series of sequels to Grahame's classic tale. Featuring the composition 'Nur Musik' by Mark Simpson.


Media Files:
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Six Degrees of Connection

Tue, 01 Mar 2016 14:30:00 +0000

Is everyone in the world really connected by only six links? A famous experiment by social psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s claimed that it took on average only six steps for a message to pass between two strangers in America. Since then the idea has become part of popular culture. But is it true? And if so, does it matter? Julia Hobsbawm investigates how social networks work, whether we should all pay more attention to our network connections, and whether governments can use social networks to promote - for instance - messages about health. Maybe, she discovers, it's not the six degrees of separation that matter, but the three degrees of influence.


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Musical Variations: The Life of Angela Morley

Fri, 26 Feb 2016 14:30:00 +0000

Stuart Barr uncovers the colourful career of British composer and transgender pioneer, Angela Morley. In 1972, Wally Stott's transition to Angela Morley made front page news. Wally was famous. He was composer for the Goon Show and Hancock's Half Hour, and music director to stars like Frankie Vaughan and Shirley Bassey. "TV Music Man changes his sex" screamed the headlines. Where would Angela go from here? Stuart talks to Angela's friends and colleagues to discover how she made her mark in the music business, as a woman and a man. And he explores the special qualities of the music she wrote and arranged, from the famous 'Hancock' tuba theme to her work alongside John Williams on blockbusters like Star Wars and Superman.


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