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    Back to School with 4Extra

    A new season of programmes that explore that near universal of experiences: school days.

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      With the summer holidays drawing to a close, 4 Extra marks the putting away of bucket and spades and the re-emergence of pencil cases, sharpeners and the sound of the school bell – with a two week season of programmes that explore that near universal of experiences: school days.

      Rooting around in the BBC’s basement you find that school life has been a constant source of inspiration in the history of BBC Radio. Back to School with 4 Extra features classic comedies like a 1955 episode of Hancock’s Half Hour – in which the ‘the lad himself’ - Tony Hancock – takes a turn as teacher in a school full of ‘juvenile delinquents’. The episode - The Blackboard Jungle (starring Hancock, Kenneth Williams and Sid James) - was writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s take on the controversial American movie of the same name that year. It was a pressure cooker story of inter-racial school life that featured the then incendiary song ‘Rock around the Clock’, and a breakout performance by the young...

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      Big Ben is iconic - it was first heard ringing out over London almost 160 years ago and is now the world’s most famous and immediately recognisable bell. It’s a sound that resonates not just in our ears but in our imagination, too. It also plays a crucial role here at BBC Radio 4, heralding the start of the 6pm and midnight news, as well as Westminster Hour on Sundays at 10pm. So, it may come as no surprise there has been much discussion about what to do when Big Ben falls silent from Monday 21 August, while the clock tower undergoes refurbishment.

      After much consideration of alternatives, including using the pips or playing chimes from elsewhere, we decided to use a pre-recording of the Big Ben bongs for as long as the clock is out of action.

      A number of factors were at play, including uncertainty over how long Big Ben will be silent, and a host of technical and practical considerations. A live broadcast of a bell might appear a very simple matter, but here are a number of things we needed to consider. The chimes must of course be live on air at exactly the right moment and they must chime at the key times for our schedule. And the sound must be clear and undistorted, without...

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    • BBC Radio 4 Extra marks the 200th anniversary of the death (18 July 1817) of one of the most celebrated writers of all time, Jane Austen - with a selection of radio dramas and an entertaining feature.

      Thanks to her witty character portrayals and depictions of 19th century English society, Austen’s work has stood the test of time with legions of fans worldwide.

      Amanda Root

      Amanda Root stars as young Fanny Price in Mansfield Park (from 12 July). Austen’s unlikely heroine is plucked from her impoverished family and brought up by wealthy relatives, but the hopes of this poor relation are soon dashed. Yet as she grows up, Fanny proves to be an indispensable member of the household. This three-part 1987 dramatisation co-stars Michael Williams and Robert Glenister as Fanny’s cousins with Hannah Gordon as Jane Austen.

      Sense and Sensibility (from 17 July) is Austen's tale about two sisters who learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they’re to find happiness in a society where money governs...

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    • BBC Radio 4 Extra showcases the enduring fascination of islands. In a two-week season we're roaming the globe, crossing centuries and investigating the real and the invented as we consider the special place of islands in our imaginations.

      From idyll to prison, birthplace to workplace, refuge to colony, through corncrakes, campsites, witchcraft and ukuleles, Radio 4 Extra presents the mystery...

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    • The 1960s domestic sitcom 'Life with the Lyons' features in 4 Extra's family season.

      Family… Whether you have heaps of squealing children, an arms-length relationship with an ex-partner, siblings, step-parents, grandparents or a huge tabby cat; families come in all shapes and sizes.

      Radio 4 Extra invites you to celebrate the ‘Family’ in all its different guises showcasing famous radio comedy and iconic drama from the BBC archives including including TS Eliot’s drama Family...

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    • Radio 4 Extra joins in the BBC’s Gay Britannia season marking the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967 – which partially decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over 21 in England and Wales. Join BBC journalist Ben Hunte as he curates our season and interviews some of his LGBT heroes... 

      BBC Radio 2’s Paul O’Grady talks the secret gay slang of Polari ahead of The...

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    • BBC Radio 4 Extra raises the curtain on a season showcasing our honoured actors – those distinguished artists recognised as dames and knights.

      Over three weeks, we’ll be celebrating a selection of these performers with a variety of programmes (many of them new to our network) including drama, documentary, interview and talk.

      Our glittering cast list ranges from the first actor to be...

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    • Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4

      We heard a ghost story from our author on this month’s Bookclub. Barbara Trapido was talking about her novel The Travelling Hornplayer, which begins with the following sentence: ‘Early on the morning of my interview, I woke up and saw my dead sister.’ Not a bad opening line for a story about two interlocking dysfunctional families, but in the course of the discussion with our readers, Barbara revealed an unusual experience of her own.

      She was at a literary event in Manchester when something mysterious happened in her hotel. ‘I woke up in the morning and a young girl passed through the...

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    • Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4

      Happy New Year! Listening to John Lanchester talking about his novel Capital - the programme is repeated on Thursday afternoon as usual - I was reminded of the force of a question he raised during our discussion with readers. How many of us live in a street where there is still someone around who was born there? It used to be common in London, even a single generation ago I’d guess, but changes in the capital have made that kind of community a rarity, and a thing of the past. In John’s account of life in one fictional London street - Pepys Road - just before the financial crash of 2007-8,...

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      Whether you fancy some Ho! Ho! Ho! or a merry melodrama or two, BBC Radio 4 Extra has got it all for you this season:

      Mole Cooks His Goose
      Sue Townsend’s festive tale sees Adrian Mole in charge of Christmas dinner.   Thursday 22nd December at 2pm 

      The Adventure of The Christmas Pudding
      Hercule Poirot investigates in Agatha Christie’s festive whodunit. Friday 23rd December at 11.15am 

      King Lear on Boxing Day
      A recreation of the momentous 1606 opening night of Shakespeare’s play. Christmas Eve at 4pm 

      The Meow Show With Ed Reardon And Elgar
      3 hours of purr-fect archive from Ed and his co-host...

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