The Radio 4 Blog
Jim Naughtie, Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4
Lead by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best known novels.
Writer, performer and broadcaster
AL Kennedy's new Radio 4 documentary - America's Gift to the World - tells the story of Alcoholics Anonymous and its methods, and asks whether AA is still the best 'cure' for addicts given new science and treatments. This is the background to the story, and how the making of the programme impacted on its presenter.
The initials AA are peripherally familiar to many, as is perhaps the name Alcoholics Anonymous. Nevertheless, I think a lot of people don’t know much about AA or the story of its creation – when Bill Wilson, an alcoholic wall street trader with a big idea about staying sober, met an alcoholic doctor, Bob Smith. They talked and understood each other, helped each other get sober and worked out a way they could pass that on. I’ve seen friends ruin their own lives and those of all around them through dysfunctional drinking: the idea of two people finding a way to unravel that nightmare is truly beautiful and fascinating.
AA’s desire to preserve its members' privacy and to make...
Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4
Let’s be blunt. Not every poet, however talented, can write a decent novel. So Adam Foulds is remarkable: he has achieved mastery of both forms, above all perhaps with his outstanding work, The Quickening Maze. This is not simply a novel that works; it’s a marvellous fusion of his poetic gifts and the natural urge of a storyteller. I first read the book six years ago when it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize - I was chairing the judges, and therefore read it three times in the course of a few months. That particular year Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall held sway in the final reckoning but The Quickening Maze proved a memorable and haunting adornment on that list. When this month’s group of readers met Adam in Broadcasting House we had one of the happiest encounters of recent Bookclubs.
Partly, this was because Adam was talking about another writer, and his own sympathy for him. The subject of the...
This week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time was the most exciting of this Parliament and I had the good fortune to be in the BBC Westminster newsroom on Wednesday while it was going on. I listened eagerly to the immediate political analysis of the Corporation’s keenest political brains as they worked out how to develop the stories that resulted.
It was like watching speed chess. OK I was inside the Westminster bubble but it was immensely impressive. Most of the big broadcasting beasts were there, Andrew Neill, dressed as for an expensive lunch, John Pienaar dressed for radio, and Peter Allan, dressed for the tube.
Peter and I are of a similar age though, sadly, he has rather more hair than I do.
As most of the production staff in the newsroom were either in short trousers or bobby socks or not even born when James Callaghan was Prime Minister, Peter Allan and I reminisced about the unpredictable drama of the 1979 election.
I was running the nightly BBC 1 Tonight series in those days and Callaghan’s government lost a confidence motion while we were on air. An election was called and Mrs Thatcher romped home.
It was a...
I first went to Moscow in 1977, just before the Cold War got even colder.
I was making a film for the BBC about the Soviet military build-up. A few days before, I had been underground in the United States, at the headquarters of Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, being shown what the US targets in Russia would be in the event of nuclear war.
In Moscow on May Day, I stood below the Lenin...
Commissioning Editor, Radio 4 & 4 Extra
Frankly Speaking was considered 'risky' and 'unkempt' when it originally aired in the 1950s. Now, as Radio 4 Extra rebroadcasts a selection of high profile interviews from the series, Caroline Raphael sheds light on an archive jewel …
Frankly Speaking, which starts on Tuesday 17th March at 6.30pm.
The interview as a genre courses through modern broadcasting. Morning punch ups to late...
Mark Billingham on Ludgate Hill, at the top of Fleet Street in London.
It’s such a strange feeling walking down a street that you have known in your imagination all of your life. Fleet Street in London is like that. Somewhere that instantly conjures images of newspaper inked pages, and the sounds of printing presses and typewriters in smoky rooms.
As I walked along with crime writer Mark Billingham, even with all the newspapers now gone, the street’s architecture...
Like many people of my age, I carry the voices of Uncle Tom Forrest and Walter Gabriel in my head. Indeed, some days, when the wind is in the right direction, I think I can hear Dan and Doris Archer in their farm kitchen.
I also had a crush on Carol Tregorran and on Eleanor Bron, so imagine my delight when the two became one....
Professor, Consultant Historian
Editor’s Note: To mark International Women’s Day, we asked Professor Maggie Andrews, consultant historian to Radio 4’s Home Front to explore the changing role of women in WW1. Last week Maggie looked at Women in the Workplace. This week she looks at Women in the public space.
Radio 4’s wartime epic, Home Front, tells fictional stories against the factual background of the Great War.
Maud Burnett played by Carolyn Pickles
Professor, Consultant Historian
Editor's Note: To mark International Women’s Day, we asked Professor Maggie Andrews, consultant historian to Radio 4’s Home Front to explore the changing role of women in WW1. Radio 4’s wartime epic tells fictional stories against the factual background of the Great War.
Women in the workforce
100 years ago on 17 July 1915 Mrs Pankhurst led a women’s march through London to...
It’s been a strange week in broadcasting.
It seemed as though the future of the BBC - and the licence fee - would be left until the other side of the General Election.
The Corporation's Charter runs out in 2017 so something would have to be agreed by then, but first a House of Commons select committee, then the BBC's Director...