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Round-up of reviews

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 14:35, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

One of the reasons we started the Radio 4 blog is to draw attention to the huge variety of programmes that go out on Radio 4, very often with no attention from the professional media at all. Radio doesn't get the attention it deserves and speech radio is especially neglected.

Station Controller Mark Damazer has made a start by talking about programmes he likes (The Film Programme and The Moral Maze, for instance) and we're also going to do regular round-ups of reviews from the noble handful of journalists whose job it is to actually listen to speech radio and from the bloggers who do it for love.

In regular blog posts we'll capture as much of the net's day-to-day conversation about Radio 4 as we can - from Twitter, the blogs and message boards as well as from the mainstream media. We'll also welcome your suggestions and pointers to content and conversation we might have missed.

What's more, where we can, we'll link to the programmes' web pages so you can listen again if you're inspired to do so. Here's my first round-up:

Gillian Reynolds in The Telegraph loved Alan Bennett's dramatisation of his story about a homeless woman who lived in a van on his driveway:

...you could almost smell her, not an easy thing for radio to manage but, between Bennett's brilliant description, Adrian Scarborough's clever alter-Bennett, Smith's great performance, and Gordon House's sensitive direction, it did.

Listen to the Saturday Play, The Lady in the Van here.

David Smith, in his profile of David Walliams in The Guardian, makes much use of his Desert Island Discs grilling last Sunday

Kirsty Young asks the comedian outright: "Have you ever had a relationship with a man?" Walliams responds: "No." With unhesitating candour, Walliams says: "If I fell in love with a man then, yeah, I wouldn't say that could never happen..."

Islingtongue. North East London blogger John has been enjoying Book of the Week: Iain Sinclair's Hackney: That Rose Red Empire:

...the book will have a resonance far beyond that brilliantly blighted rotten borough.

Listen here.

In The Guardian, Miranda Sawyer refuses to review Lenny Henry plays Othello:

This is not current events, it's craven advertising.

Listen here.

Kate Chisholm in The Spectator thinks running a season of Sarah Kane's controversial plays would be a better tribute than Blasted: The Life and Death of Sarah Kane:

At half an hour the programme was far too short to explore fully the nature of Kane's troubled talent.

Listen here


  • Comment number 1.

    Isn't it about time that Gillian Reynolds was brought into the Radio 4 tent ? Either as an 'exec' or maybe to do a 'feedback' style flagellation of execs who get it wrong ??

    Radio hasn't been the same since her dulcet tones disappeared when Parky gave up his Radio 2 Sunday show.

    Maybe you could syndicate a podcast of a weekly 'One 2 One' appraisal meeting where Mr Damazer has to justify his performance to GR with a gold star for good behaviour and a detention if he doesn't quite 'make the grade'..

    Just a thought..

  • Comment number 2.

    "Radio doesn't get the attention it deserves and speech radio is especially neglected."

    Sorry, but methinks you doth protest too much - radio listener figures are on the up.

    Okay, I don't see the 'telly' people quaking in their boots, but the danger is that you might become the gorilla which commercial stations view as a threat to their survival, especially in Wales which is both a region and a nation.

    And I'm afraid trying to capture the public's view of Radio 4 by looking at fatuous 'twitter' messages is a bit like trying to find out what people think of opera by hanging out at the local skateboard park.

    Isn't the real danger here that by obsessing about what is 'in' or 'cool' or 'on-trend' or whatever other asinine 'yoof' adjective is currently being applied, that it will result in 'iPlayer' cherry-picking of the programmes people want to listen to.

    Coupled with a drop in people 'just tuning in' and finding programmes like 'In Touch' or 'File on Four' or even 'Woman's Hour' for which they might not be in the demographic [or even gender..] target market, but which they might benefit from listening to ??

    That said, I appreciate that just as with Marks and Sparks, you can't just rely on the 'saga' element to bring you future success.

    By the way - why isn't more being made of LIBBY PURVES DOING STAND UP COMEDY !?

    This is surely as close to unmissable radio as getting Count Arthur Strong to do the Today Programme ?

    It could replicate the 'car-crash-tv' of Bobby Pinstripe Peston going to Newcastle, but on radio for sheer 'I want to switch it off, but I just can't..' will she/ won't she crash ?'

  • Comment number 3.

    "We'll also welcome your suggestions" - get rid of 'Quote Unquote'. It is the sort unbearably smug drivel that repels newer listeners and gives R4 a bad name. Catch it by mistake on your dial and most people wouldn't come back.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog. Only just found it. I'm disabled and listen to Radio 4 almost 24/7. And if I miss anything I'm right there with 'Listen Again'.

  • Comment number 5.

    Smoked Haddock - Unfortunately 'Quote Unquote', 'Poetry Please' and the execrable 'You and Yours' are the 3 'canaries in the mine' whose absence would send the Radio 4 Rescue Teams onto 'Emergency Alert' as the rest of the station may be under attack and the roof might be about to fall in...

    Which possibly also explains the fuss over the UK Theme and 'Thought for the Day'.

    Sometimes, though, you have to put up with a bit of dross to prevent other quirky stuff being zapped because they aren't 'cool' or 'yoof' enough....

  • Comment number 6.

    I'd be happy to accept a description of philistine, given my lack of knowledge (and interest) in arts and literature (in English Lit, I remember reading Mayfair, and the teacher wasn't unduly bothered - asked me if it was more interesting, and when I answered "Yes", let me carry on).

    I regard "Quote, Unquote", some programmes about books, and other programmes (Front Row, and the segment from 1700 to 2000 on Saturday evenings) as purely educational, in dragging me towards a level that most seem to take for granted.

    I still consider most "art" a terrible waste of money, much poetry to be nonsense, and knowing first lines, and whole speeches from plays, to be an unnecessary waste of brain cells, but educational to find out what others will sometimes consider "good" (and if critics are not paying for visiting these exhibits/ shows, a nice freebie, when they come away happy).

  • Comment number 7.

    "I'm afraid trying to capture the public's view of Radio 4 by looking at fatuous 'twitter' messages is a bit like trying to find out what people think of opera by hanging out at the local skateboard park."

    What a great analogy.

    I fear the Beeb is getting too yoof oriented. On Leading Edge (?) I heard the Beeb technology man exlaining how he has accounts on a number of these networks, so his movements, what book he is reading, and practivally anything he does, can be 'broadcast' for anyone who happens to 'follow him'.

    Facebook pages and Twittering seems to be taken on by radio presenters 'because they are there' rather than because they're any better than using the phone, or e-mail, to make contact. Seems that Richard Bacon has set 'goals' to achieve X,000 'friends' on Facebook... rather childish.

    I am surprised hardly any presenters are using IRC "chat", their own "chatroom" on their own website, or AOL / MSN / ICQ "chat" as well. It's a diversion of energy, and like 'how many downloads' a bit of an ego thing, in my view, and for employers, time wasting must be a nightmare...

    I've been in IT 30+ years, using USENET for some 20 years and online for a good 15, but don't need a blog, and while I run dozens of websites of my own and for clients, don't use all the 'Web 2.0' junk or Flash, as they're *diversions* ('pretty' but without much 'content')

    If I expand my business, number 1 rule will be "any use of the internet is in your own time" ! Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, typing into a "blog"... must do some work now!

  • Comment number 8.

    First time here...Great Blog...
    -Dennis Junior

  • Comment number 9.

    If I comment on the media coverage of BBC Radio 4, it strikes me, Steve, that it gets a lot more attention than most other radio stations.


    If I look at the 'Culture' section of this week's 'Sunday Times', for example, most of the recommendations are for Radio 4 programmes. Today, for example, 'Walls and Peace' and 'Book at Bedtime' are both 'Pick of the Day', so R4 dominates critics' choices.

    I suspect that the truth is that most of the media look at four with awe. Cheers!



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