The Radio 3 Documentary

The Radio 3 Documentary

In-depth documentaries which each week explore a different aspect of history, science, philosophy, film, visual arts and literature. The Sunday Feature is broadcast every Sunday at 7.45pm on BBC Radio 3. Each episode lasts 45 minutes. We aim to include as many episodes of The Sunday Feature in the podcast as we can but you'll find that some aren't included for rights reasons.

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All episodes (52)

  • R3Docs 09 Aug 14: Billy - The Other Lloyd-Webber

    Sat, 9 Aug 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Billy - The Other Lloyd-Webber

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  • The Devastation of British Art

    Fri, 8 Aug 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Diarmaid MacCulloch tells the story of iconoclasm during the English Reformation.

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  • How Did Scotland's Artists Turn Nationalist

    Sun, 13 Jul 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Scotland goes to the polls on the 18th September to decide its constitutional future. Why do so many of Scotland's writers and artists support the Yes Campaign? Stuart Kelly investigates.

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  • June 22: Bannockburn Begins

    Thu, 26 Jun 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Novelist Louise Welsh explores some of the meanings, ancient and modern, of the battle of Bannockburn on its 700th anniversary

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  • Sunday Feature: Dennis Potter 15 Jun 14

    Sun, 15 Jun 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    The playwright Dennis Potter died twenty years ago. Matthew Sweet reassesses the legacy of the author of 'The Singing Detective' and 'Pennies from Heaven' and hears from his friends and colleagues, including Michael Grade, Alan Yentob, Melvyn Bragg, Janet Suzman, Kika Markham, Kenith Trodd, Jon Amiel and Tony Garnett.

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  • Sonic Art Boom 08 JUN 14

    Sun, 8 Jun 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Dan Jones, composer and sound designer, considers why it has taken so long for Sound Art to get a hearing, he goes hunting for sound at CERN with Bill Fontana, Janet Cardiff talks about her 40 part Motet, Barbara London, MOMA curator, tells of the difficulties of displaying sound, Stan Shaff shows us round the first sound theatre, and David Toop and Richard Cork help untangle the history of sound art - plus an unexpected appearance on the streets of London by Joseph Young expounding the Art of Noises Manifesto of the Italian Futurists.

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  • Sunday Feature: Dylan Thomas the Radio Poet 4th May 2014

    Sun, 4 May 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Writer Rachel Trezise - the first winner of the annual Dylan Thomas Prize - tells the story of Dylan Thomas's broadcasting life. Dylan Thomas often remarked that his poetry was written as much for the voice as for the page. So it's perhaps not surprising that the writer and poet became a remarkable broadcaster as well. From the late 1930s until his death in 1953, Dylan Thomas was a regular broadcaster for the BBC - for the Home Service, the Overseas Service and, from 1946, for the newly founded Third Programme, the forerunner of Radio 3.

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  • Sunday Feature: Educating Isaac 27 APR 14

    Mon, 28 Apr 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Could your child compose like Mozart? While searching for a creative and fun way to teach his 3-year-old son, Nick Baragwanath discovered a forgotten history of music completely different from the usual dull routine of practice and graded exams. In the 18th century, the conservatoires (orphanages) of Naples developed an education system that enabled destitute children to become professional-level composers and performers by their early teens. Almost every famous musician of the time was trained in this way, in what is an astonishing untold rags-to-riches story. Airbrushed from history by Romantic writers, who valued the idea of spontaneous genius above the reality of craft training, the real story of 'classical' music is finally coming to light. And modern conservatoires, such as the Royal Academy of Music, are taking notice. Could this revival transform the way we teach children music?

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  • Sunday Feature:Merchant Ivory 06 APR 14

    Sun, 6 Apr 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Style, flair, individuality, ideas... and stars. The filmic output of the remarkable three-person association of creative talents that is collectively known as 'Merchant Ivory' has endured since the early 1960s.

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  • Sunday Feature: Music and the Jews (3/3)

    Sun, 23 Mar 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Norman Lebrecht presents the last of three programmes examining the complex relationship between music and Jewish identity. Spanning thousands of years, from King David and the creation of the Psalms, to composers writing today including Steve Reich and Robert Saxton, Norman uncovers a wealth of fascinating stories about the role music has played at some of the key points in Jewish history. Taking as his starting point the moment at which the Jews were finally able to enter the Western classical music tradition in a professional capacity, in today's programme Norman investigates the idea of a "Jewish thumbprint" in the music of Mendelssohn and others. Leading Israeli composer Noam Sheriff and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas talk about why Mahler's Jewishness speaks so strongly to them through his symphonies, and Michael Grade explains how the Jewish art of being one step ahead impacted so strongly on the entertainment industry in the twentieth century.

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  • Music and the Jews (2/3)

    Thu, 20 Mar 14

    Duration:
    46 mins

    Norman Lebrecht presents the second of three programmes examining the complex relationship between music and Jewish identity. Women, in the Jewish religion, are not meant to sing, and yet Jewish women have shrugged off that inhibition to become some of the most powerful figures in the popular imagination. We hear from some of the most successful women singing in Israel and indeed on the world stage today, including the eighth-generation Yiddish singer Myriam Fuks and Achinoam Nini, the latest in a long line of iconic Jewish women of Yemenite origin. Michael Grade remembers his grandmother's passion for Sophie Tucker, and the promoter Harvey Goldsmith explains why Jewish women have had such a huge impact on music over the past half century. We also hear from Dr Tova Gamliel about the extraordinarily powerful role of women in the religious practices of Yemen.

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  • Music and the Jews (1/3)

    Wed, 19 Mar 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Norman Lebrecht presents the first programme in a three-part series examining the complex relationship between music and Jewish identity. Spanning thousands of years, from King David and the creation of the Psalms, to composers writing today including Steve Reich and Robert Saxton, Norman uncovers a wealth of fascinating stories about the role music has played at some of the key points in Jewish history. Today, the acclaimed Ladino singer Yasmin Levy explains why music and memory became so intertwined when the Jews were expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, rabbi Shlomo Levin tells the amazing story of how a marching tune sung by Napoleon and his troops in 1812 became an integral part of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jewish people, and the musicologist Gila Flam has some surprising revelations about the music sung by the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.

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  • Shanghai World City Redux 26 JAN 14

    Sun, 26 Jan 14

    Duration:
    47 mins

    Rana Mitter reveals how Shanghai today is forging its identity as an ultramodern city – by rediscovering its glamorous 1920s past, when 'Shanghai' meant movies, neon and jazz.

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  • 05 Jan 14 - Somme

    Sun, 5 Jan 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Paul Farley journeys down France's sleepiest river whose character belies its violent history, a history intertwined with the English since medieval times.

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  • Anything But Banal - the Fascination of the Villain

    Fri, 3 Jan 14

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Paul Allen explores the allure of evil through great villains, from Hollywood baddies to Shakespearean antiheroes and real people, with great British actors, directors and writers.

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  • 15th December: Ideas of Germany

    Sun, 15 Dec 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Anne McElvoy finds out how those active in Germany's cultural world see the identity of Europe's largest and most powerful nation evolving.

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  • The Invisible Theatre 08 DEC 13

    Sun, 8 Dec 13

    Duration:
    47 mins

    Tom Service and others explore the history of the festival theatre in Bayreuth that Wagner built for the staging of his music dramas.

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  • Sunday Feature: 1 December 2013 - Ken Adam Profile

    Tue, 3 Dec 13

    Duration:
    46 mins

    Matthew Sweet meets Ken Adam, the 92-year-old designer of iconic sets from Dr No and Goldfinger to Doctor Strangelove and the Ipcress File.

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  • Albert Camus: Inside the Outsider

    Sun, 3 Nov 13

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Professor Hussey celebrates the life, work and tragic death of literature's enigmatic Outsider Albert Camus, one hundred years on from his birth, and asks if the fatal car crash may have been a KGB inspired execution.

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  • 27 October 13: Sunday Feature - Production Line Living

    Sun, 27 Oct 13

    Duration:
    47 mins

    How has the factory production line changed us? AL Kennedy finds out.

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  • 22 Sept 13 Sound of Cinema: Composing for Hollywood

    Mon, 23 Sep 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Once upon a time Hollywood composers were classically schooled European maestros. Today many of the most successful ones are drawn from the world of pop and rock. In this documentary journalist Jonathan Coffey is in Los Angeles to meet some of the biggest names in the industry to assess the business of writing for the movies.

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  • 14 July 13 Significant Others ep 2

    Mon, 15 Jul 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The thousand-year-old story of the Jewish presence in Poland was all but ended by the Nazis. But now a new Poland is experiencing an unexpected return of history and memory. Presented by author Eva Hoffman

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  • 07 July 13: Significant Others 1

    Tue, 9 Jul 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The story of the Jewish presence in Poland

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  • 09 June 13: Sunday Feature - Stirring Up A Revolution

    Sun, 9 Jun 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Author and journalist Tarek Osman returns to the Middle East to explore how the apparently unassuming establishment of the Café has served as a vibrant hub of change in the political tsunamis that have swept - and are still sweeping - through the region.

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  • 19 May 13: Sunday Feature - Wagner: Making a National Hero

    Sun, 19 May 13

    Duration:
    46 mins

    As part of Wagner 200, Stephen Johnson explores the worlds of Wagner's heroes, from Norse myths to his own Tannhauser, Siegfried and Parsifal. He charts how Wagner himself became a national hero.

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  • 12 May 13: Jan Morris, Travels Round My House

    Mon, 13 May 13

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Writer Anthony Sattin visits Jan Morris's Welsh home on the 60th anniversary of the ascent of Everest to talk about her role in the story and other tales to be gleaned about her life from the objects in her home (including a gravestone and a posthumous book awaiting publication!). Producer: Sara Jane Hall.

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  • 5th May 13: Sunday Feature - Piano's Music Boxes

    Tue, 7 May 13

    Duration:
    46 mins

    Renzo Piano is the architect behind the tallest building in Western Europe, The Shard at London Bridge. He grew up wanting to be a musician, and Tom Service discovers how he sees the basic elements of music as fundamental to his way of thinking about his buildings. His landmark buildings include cultural centres and concert halls around the world. Tom visits IRCAM in Paris, and the Parco della musica in Rome, meeting Piano's fellow architects, the acousticians, and the musicians who use the buildings to tell a story about the relationship between music and space, sound and architecture.

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  • 24 Feb 13: Sunday Feature - The Idea of Sin (3 of 3)

    Mon, 11 Mar 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The Reverend Richard Coles visits Lincoln Cathedral, the focus of Medieval pilgrimage, to begin the last of his series exploring contemporary and historical ideas about sin. Having looked at the central place Temptation still has for many in both religious and secular societies the attention now swings to methods of redemption, purification and the goodness that is defined only by its counter to the idea of sin.

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  • 10 Feb 13: Sunday Feature - The Idea of Sin (1 of 3)

    Mon, 11 Mar 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    In this first of three programmes, Richard explores what exactly is meant by sin, and its origins in man's earliest ethical structures.

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  • 17 Feb 13: Sunday Feature - The Idea of Sin (2 of 3)

    Thu, 7 Mar 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The Reverand Richard Coles explores notions of temptation and its part in contemporary and ancient societies.

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  • Margaret are you Grieving? A Cultural History of Weeping

    Mon, 4 Feb 13

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Throughout our cultural history, tears have been intimately connected with the arts, whether as inspiration or response. Thomas Dixon is director of the UK's first Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University London. In this programme he explores the history of weeping as an aesthetic response to works of art: paintings, writing, music, theatre and film. What it is about works of art and religious symbols that induce weeping and why do we shed tears over performances by actors and singers, fictional characters, abstract symbols, poems, music, metaphysical ideas - in other words things that are not real? Margery Kempe, Gluck, Mark Rothko and Sophocles' Electra may provide some of the answers. Thomas Dixon talks to Fiona Shaw, Miri Rubin, Pete de Bolla, Virginia Eatough, Giles Fraser, Ian Bostridge, Matthew Sweet and Simon Goldhill

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  • Modernism Redux

    Mon, 4 Feb 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Will Self broadcasts an imaginary archive of modernist radio and discusses the influence of modernism today. In a secret laboratory underneath the BBC archive there is a small room containing a special machine. It's a BBC prototype 'RP-1 Ethermatic remitter'. An experimental machine designed to retrieve ('remit') past radio signals back out of the air. Although partially successful during field trials in 1922 it was never made fully operational...until now. Will Self has been given access to the machine to investigate the relationship between early radio technology and modern culture. Taking his cue from the Wasteland and Ulysses - both published as the RP-1 was developed - he will be drawing from the air an assemblage of modernist art and ideas using the very technologies that enabled them. In doing so he hopes to create something that isn't simply about modernism and its after effects but is itself a modernist work.

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  • 20 Jan 13: A Brief History of Being Cold

    Tue, 29 Jan 13

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Sunday Feature: Alexandra Harris presents a cultural history of the cold. With the help of writers including Simon Armitage, A.S. Byatt, Katherine Swift and Adam Gopnik Alex looks at the way our literature began with work mesmerised by the beauty and horror of cold. In Yorkshire Simon Armitage discusses Sir Gawain and the Green Knight imagining the Pennines crossed by Gawain, hung with icicles on his hunt for the Green Knight. And Katherine Swift takes us on a winter tour of her garden in Shropshire.

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  • R3Docs 02 Dec 12: Tolstoy and Napoleon. 1 - On Napoleon

    Wed, 5 Dec 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    In 1812 Napoleon led his army to Moscow. In War and Peace Tolstoy gave his account of the great invasion, the battle of Borodino, and the subsequent burning of Moscow. Rosamund Bartlett, translator of Russian novels and biographer of Tolstoy investigates the truth and the fiction of one of the most famous novels of all time. Tolstoy believed that Napoleon and the Russian commander Kutuzov were no more significant in deciding the outcome of events than any one of the thousands of ordinary soldiers who slogged their way across Europe to fight or who defended their motherland as best they could. With reports by the Russian novelist Zinovy Zinik from the battlefied at Borodino and at Tolstoy's country estate at Yasnaya Polyana, Rosamund Bartlett tells how Tolstoy took up the story of what became known as the first great patriotic war in Russia and shaped it in his own way - a version of events that nonetheless has endured over time and become in many people's minds the truth of 1812.

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  • R3Docs 15 Oct 12: The Essay: Anglo-Saxon Portraits 1: Vortigern

    Mon, 15 Oct 12

    Duration:
    15 mins

    Barry Cunliffe on the king whom history has often held responsible for inviting in the first Anglo-Saxons. First in a series of portraits of thirty ground-breaking Anglo-Saxon men and women.

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  • R3Docs 30 Sep 12: Sunday Feature: After the Gold Rush - The Poetry of California

    Thu, 4 Oct 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Californian poetry found fame with The Beats in the 1950s. Dana Gioia reveals developments since - Language, ecological, Hispanic poetry - and before, back to the Gold Rush.

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  • 23 Sep 12: Piano Tales - A Social History of the Piano

    Tue, 25 Sep 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Sunday Feature: Michael Goldfarb explores the development and enduring appeal of the piano across social and geographic divides.

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  • R3Docs 9 Sep 12: Jacquetta Hawkes and The Personal Past

    Thu, 13 Sep 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Sunday Feature: Jacquetta Hawkes and The Personal Past. Christine Finn excavates clues in the personal and public life of once acclaimed archaeologist and writer, Jacquetta Hawkes, to explain why she has faded from public memory.

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  • R3Docs 27 Jul 12: Dr Adam Smith on Britain in the American Civil War

    Fri, 27 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The American Civil War: Blockade Runners and Black Minstrels. What did Britain do in the American Civil War? Louise Welsh investigates blockade running, blackface minstrelsy, spy-wars and abolitionists, with the Clyde shipyards as her focus.

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  • R3Docs 26 Jul 12: Dr Adam Smith on the dividing lines of the American Civil War

    Thu, 26 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The American Civil War: Dividing Lines. Historian Adam Smith visits contemporary America to trace how the dividing lines of the Civil War are still visible beneath US politics 150 years on.

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  • R3Docs 25 Jul 12: Dr Adam Smith on the War of the North in America

    Wed, 25 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The American Civil War: The War of the North. Dr Adam Smith travels from Lincoln's home town to Washington DC and the battlefields of Virginia as he asks why the North fought and what it won.

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  • R3Docs 24 Jul 12: Dr Adam Smith on the War of the South in America

    Wed, 25 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    The American Civil War: The War of the South. Dr Adam Smith travels to Richmond, the heart of the Southern Confederacy, to uncover the dramatic contradictions at the South's heart and the war it waged.

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  • R3Docs 20 Jul 12: Historian Tristram Hunt on anti-imperialism.

    Fri, 20 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Great British Ideas:J.A. Hobson, Lenin and Anti-Imperialism. Historian Tristram Hunt traces how an anti-imperialist book by a liberal English journalist had a surprising impact on Lenin - in exile, and even after he seized power in Moscow.

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  • R3Docs 19 Jul 12: Historian Tristram Hunt on England and Ireland in the 1840’s.

    Fri, 20 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Great British Ideas: Young England and Young Ireland. Tristram Hunt traces the curious influence of the romantic 'Young England' movement, led by Benjamin Disraeli in the 1840s, on 'Young Ireland', which sought Irish freedom.

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  • R3Docs 18 Jul 12: Tristram Hunt on economist Robert Malthus

    Fri, 20 Jul 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Great British Ideas: Robert Malthus. Historian Tristram Hunt traces how the ideas of the 18th century British economist Robert Malthus wreaked havoc in 19th century India, yet were later adopted by Indians themselves.

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  • R3Docs 1 Jul 12 : George Reynolds - writer and contemporary of Dickens

    Sun, 1 Jul 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Sunday Feature: The Other Dickens. Laurence Scott explores the work and the life of Victorian bad boy writer and contemporary of Dickens, George WM Reynolds, whose novels painted Victorian London's seamiest sides

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  • R3Docs 24 Jun 12: Geneticist Steve Jones investigates the science of crowds

    Sun, 24 Jun 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Sunday Feature: Crowd Psychology. From the summer riots last year to the Olympics 2012, geneticist Steve Jones investigates crowd behaviour and finds that modern science disputes myths of mad mobs out of control.

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  • R3Docs 10 Jun 12 : Andrew Graham Yooll examines Argentine identity

    Wed, 13 Jun 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Sunday Feature: Malvinas Madness. Andrew Graham Yooll, former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald, examines Argentine identity and dreams bound in their longing for the Malvinas or Falkland Islands.

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  • R3Docs 27 May 12: Phoenix Rising - The Story of Coventry Cathedral

    Mon, 28 May 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Giles Fraser examines the history, ministry and artistic legacy of Coventry Cathedral as it celebrates its Golden Jubilee.

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  • R3Docs 20 May 12 : Wesker at 80

    Mon, 21 May 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Sunday Feature: As Arnold Wesker celebrates his 80th birthday Matthew Sweet looks back with the celebrated playwright at his life and career.

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  • R3Docs 29 Apr 12: Europe - the Art of Austerity

    Thu, 3 May 12

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Sunday Feature: Michael Goldfarb talks to Anne Enright and Justin Cartwright about writers' responses to economic crisis in the Europe of the 1930s and today.

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  • R3Docs 11 Mar 12 : The Archbishop of Canterbury on poet Vernon Watkins

    Fri, 16 Mar 12

    Duration:
    44 mins

    Sunday Feature: Swansea's Other Poet. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams presents a portrait of Vernon Watkins, one of the twentieth century's most distinctive and brilliant - and neglected poets.

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  • Welcome

    Mon, 5 Mar 12

    Duration:
    1 min

    Welcome to this new BBC podcast. If you subscribe to the podcast feed, you should receive the first episode of this series automatically within the next seven days. To find other podcasts from the BBC, visit www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts.

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