« Previous | Main | Next »

Doorstepping Hardeep Singh Kohli - the Alternative Census on Feedback

Post categories:

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 19:27, Thursday, 3 March 2011

Hardeep Singh Kohli with Sylvia Singer for Radio 4's 'Alternative Census'.

Nine a.m. on a cold March day in North London. I knock on the door of a flat in a new tower block. When the door opens I'm straight in with my questions before the occupant can shut it in my face.

How long have you lived here? Are you on your own? Who else lives here? Emboldened by the fact that the door is still open, I press on.

How many times have you been in love? Do you remember your first kiss?

Hardeep Singh Kholi smiles at me with a weary tolerance.

I have of course come to talk to him about his Radio 4 series, Alternative Census, and have put to him the rather personal, not to say intimate, questions he has been asking of people in Liverpool and Mallaig, Merthyr Tydfil and Great Yarmouth among other places.

"Why do people reveal their private feelings and experiences in such a public manner" , I think in my stiff upper lip way. "Or am I just emotionally constipated?" (No comment required).

The series has received great praise from Feedback listeners who feel they are hearing fresh voices which are often absent from network radio.

They are also very complimentary about Hardeep's gentle probing which elicits such fascinating revelations. The series was, of course, commissioned before the latest BBC Trust review of Radio 4 which encouraged the network to redouble its efforts to attract audiences from outside the M25 and from minorities. Hardeep's Alternative Census must be right up their street.

Once I had got past HSK's front door into his kitchen we sat down for a proper conversation. Here is an extract.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

By the way, in a couple of weeks I'll be talking to Andy Parfitt the Head of Radio 1, and shortly afterwards to the outgoing Chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons.

If you have any questions you'd like me to ask them, please send them to feedback@bbc.co.uk.

We read, learn, and inwardly digest, all your emails.

Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback


  • Comment number 1.

    Thank You Hardeep so much.
    I have been listening to Hardeep Singh Kohli's Alternative Census. and was surprised to hear his interview with the male housemaid in
    Great Yarmouth. Surprised, yes, mainly because I am one too. only
    I'm based in Kent. So reassuring to hear that I am not the only
    T-Girl house maid on the planet!

    Carry on radio four, such a pleasure to have you join me
    throughout the day. (although, sorry, I'm not an archers fan)

    Mant Thanks
    Sarah Black

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is radio at its very best. Insightful, compassionate and utterly absorbing. It made me stop what I was doing and just listen. Hardeep Singh Kohli's non-judgemental approach allows people to reveal themselves as they truly are. It was very touching.

  • Comment number 4.

    Just finished listening to the last of Hardeep Singh Kohli's Alternative Census with almost a tear in my eyes. The last thing he said was, "Can we do it all again now?" I wish he would. Such snapshots of other people's lives are so valuable, especially when done with such emormous skill and empathy. Lovely programmes from a lovely man.

  • Comment number 5.

    Just been moved to tears by Alternative Census (11/03)and cannot praise Hardeep's sensitive and considered questioning highly enough.

    I was taken aback by this skill and just wanted Hardeep to know that, in my humble opinion, it was the finest piece of work he has ever done.

    Thank you for this wonderful and totally unexpected gem of a programme.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a beautiful programme i caught by chance this morning, funny, moving and fascinating!


  • Comment number 7.

    I have never done this before so apologies if I get it wrong. The fact that I am, shows how moved I have been by this quirky, glorious programme!I love Hardeep Singh Kohli he is a really funny and intelligent guy. But this programme surpassed all expectations- it was compelling! Such empathy, sensitivity and an amazing consideration for all those he interviewed. Thankyou Hardeep. Thankyou Radio 4. More of this please!

  • Comment number 8.

    Thank You Hardeep so much, i am a steel worker off large statue and consider my self to be off strong stuff but your last program totally reduced me to tears. i dont know how you managed to keep going when you where talking to the lady with the disabled son.....when you asked her when was the last time some one ever pampered her i went to pieces....im a big strong lad and you destroyed me.....you are a very good person and an inspiration to me....thanx for a humbling experience you are a good man

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Hardeep,
    I really enjoyed that. I loved that you showed such warmth and respect. I am often amazed at how interesting real peoples stories are.

  • Comment number 10.

    What a brilliant programme. I really really enjoyed listening to this. Hardeep was excellent throughout - keep up the great work. Many thanks

  • Comment number 11.

    I would like to echo the positive comments above. I made sure I listened to the whole series and would love to hear more. Superb, sensitive, intelligent broadcasting - and such a simple idea.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.