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24 September 2014
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Radio 4 Autumn season
Juliet Stevenson narates This Sceptred Isle

Autumn highlights and the new Spring schedule on BBC Radio 4

Factual programmes



Monday 26 September

This Sceptred Isle: Empire 1/90

3.45 to 4.00pm


This Sceptred Isle was first broadcast ten years ago and was a pioneer of the broad, historical-sweep history, using original sources as well as a modern narrative.


The series took listeners from 1066 all the way through to 2000.


Now the team has been re-assembled to tell the story of the British Empire from the 12th century to the independence of India in 1947.


This exploration of the Empire spreads over 90 parts, divided into three runs of six weeks each, with programmes broadcast every weekday.


The formula is unchanged: the scripts are once again written by Christopher Lee and produced by Pete Atkin.


The narrator is Juliet Stevenson and source documents (including many fascinating letters, logs and diaries) are read by Rob Bryden, Anna Massey, Martin Freeman, Robert Powell and Mark Heap.


This first run of 30 programmes starts with the story of King Henry II and Ireland – "the first colony".


It goes on to include many famous names such as Cabot, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and Raleigh; the creation of the East India Company; the growth of West Indian sugar as a commercially vital crop and the growth of slavery as a means of supporting it; Clive of India; and the eventual success, after many disasters, of the colonies of North America, culminating in their independence and departure from the Empire in 1783.


Presenter: Juliet Stevenson

Producer: Pete Atkin

Radio 4 Autumn season John Peel




Saturday 22 October

Home Truths

9.00 to 10.00am


As a tribute to John Peel, who died at the age of 65 last year, his widow Sheila features in Home Truths, presented by Tom Robinson.


Sheila is known to millions of Radio 4 listeners as "Pig", John's affectionate nickname for her (based on the sound of her laugh).


John often referred to his family in Home Truths and the Peel household was a frequent topic in the programme.


Presenter: Tom Robinson

Producer: Dilly Barlow


Monday 24 October

Book Of The Week - Margrave Of The Marshes


When John Peel died, he left an unfinished autobiography which has now been published as Margrave Of The Marshes.


All this week, Radio 4 broadcasts extracts from it as part of the network's tribute to a much–loved and missed broadcaster.


Reader: TBC

Producer: Emma Harding



Monday 7 November

The Periodic Tales 1/10

Various times


This week sees the bicentenary of the publication of the very first atomic table of the elements in 1805 by John Dalton, "The Father of Atomic Science".


Although Dmitri Mendeleyev in 1869 rearranged the periodic table of the elements into a form (based on electron valency) still in use today, the radical idea of tabulating the basic elements according to their atomic properties was actually that of the modest Mancunian Quaker chemist John Dalton.


Producer: David Corser, Monty Funk


Monday 7 November

The Periodic Tables 1/5

3.45 to 4.00pm


Primo Levi was a chemist as well as a novelist. He expressed his passionate curiosity about chemistry in a book of 21 chapters, each named after an element.


From the rich mixture of autobiography, story and scientific anecdote, each programme in the series features one of the chapter/elements, and sets extracts from each of Levi's chapters against new knowledge both of the elements themselves, and of scientific attitudes.


Each of the elements chosen represent the ones which have been at the centre of the most groundbreaking new research, and are the elements of which contemporary chemists have most developed their opinions.


The playful, illuminating metaphors Levi used to explain the properties that so fascinated him in each element are developed by scientists, social commentators and philosophers to reinforce the connections Levi made 30 years ago between scientific work and the everyday world.


Producer: Greenpoint

Radio 4 Autumn season Edward Stourton


Monday 21 November

In The Footsteps Of Jesus

8.00 to 8.30pm


Having trodden in the footsteps of St Paul and Mohammed, Edward Stourton traces the life and times of Jesus through the landscape that would have been familiar to him.


In the first programme, Ed examines the distinctly Galilean traditions among which Jesus grew up.


Jesus was not just Jewish. He was a Galilean Jew. The region was well known for its inveterate rebels and trouble makers, and not at all popular with the religious establishment in Jerusalem.


He looks at the essentials of what we really can say about Jesus with any degree of historical certainty, and places him in the context of the wandering charismatics and faith healers who were about at the time.


Ed also shows how his Jewish roots were gradually airbrushed out of theology, culminating in Nazi theologians who produced a bible excised of all references to Judaism and who portrayed Jesus as an Aryan.


Since the Holocaust, Jews and Christians have recovered the Jewish Jesus to such an extent that a growing number of Jews in Israel believe in him as the Messiah, and Ed meets Palestinian Christians who see Jesus as a freedom fighter.


The second programme is based in Jerusalem and concerns the last week of Jesus's life and how he came to be thought of as the Messiah and then divine.


This programme moves beyond the strict facts of his life to the theme of the way his footsteps have gone off in all sorts of directions.


It looks at the evidence that the divinity idea comes from Hellenistic/pagan culture and not Jewish culture. And we meet priests and theologians who believe you can be Christian without believing in the divinity of Jesus.


The third programme takes Ed to Rome, where he ponders on how a pacifist and anti-establishment figure could become the official God of the richest and most powerful Empire in the world because he helped the Emperor Constantine to win a battle.


The final programme looks at Jesus the guru. The established churches may be dying back in Christianity's historic heartlands, but Jesus himself shows an astonishing ability to escape their confines and find a new life as an all-purpose 21st century guru.


For example, in the Christian ashrams which use the spiritual traditions of the east with a Christian twist; and the new frontier Asian theology, which to some appears to undermine the exclusivity of the Christian truth.


Presenter: Edward Stourton

Producer: Phil Pegum


Thursday 10 November

Faces Of Islam - Analysis Special: How Islam Got Political

8.00 to 9.00pm


The growth of political Islam is one of the most important ideological events of the past century. Yet few people in Britain understand the ideas and know the story of their development. Even Muslims in Britain are struggling to understand the big picture.


This programme talks to the people who were involved as the ideas developed, including a former mujahid who can talk first-hand about how the jihadist ideology evolved.


Born in India in 1903, Mawlana Maududi was the first 20th century Muslim thinker to turn Islam into an ideology of political struggle. He rejected nationalism and instead advocated a state which based its legitimacy on Islam and implemented sharia.


To bring about this political revolution he founded, in 1941, the Jamaat-e-Islami, a vanguard party consciously based on the Leninist model.


The Jamaat-e-Islami is now the most powerful Islamic party in both Pakistan and Bangladesh.


Less well understood is the Jamaat-e-Islami's influence in the UK: the ideas of Maududi have found a new resonance with the alienated second generation of British Muslims and enabled the Jamaat-e-Islami and its affiliates to become a powerful ideological force amongst British Muslims today.


The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is the most influential Islamic political network in the world. In the UK it is represented by the Muslim Association of Britain, an organisation which is fast gaining influence amongst educated second-generation British Muslims.


Amongst the most prominent advocates of the Brotherhood's philosophy today are Tariq Ramadan (probably the most influential Muslim figure in Europe) and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim cleric who shot to prominence in Britain when he was invited to London by Ken Livingstone last year.


The jihadist ideas of Osama bin Laden share the same roots as those of the Muslim Brotherhood, but are taken to new extremes.


Safar Al-Hawali and Salman Al-Awdah are two Saudi-based clerics (denounced by the Saudi authorities) whose taped lectures have had an immense influence amongst both Arab and English-speaking youth.


Osama bin Laden himself has even credited Al-Awdah with inspiring him to take up "my duty of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong."


This programme traces the development of the ideas in the context of some of the key events the last 20 years.


Producer: Innes Bowen


Thursday 17 November

Faces Of Islam – The Life Of A Bomber

8.00 to 8.30pm


What turns a university-educated, British-born Muslim into a suicide bomber?


Nasreen Suleaman reconstructs the life of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the eldest of the 7 July London bombers.


Presenter: Nasreen Suleaman

Producer: Innes Bowen


Saturday 19 November

The Nuremberg Trial

2.30 to 4.30pm


A dramatic reconstruction of the most significant trial of the 20th century - when, for the first time in history, military and civil leaders were held accountable in a court of law for their actions.


Key members of the Nazi leadership were indicted for crimes against humanity and waging aggressive war.


The trial still has many resonances for today and reveals lessons to be learned.


This programme was originally broadcast in 1996 and included interviews with some of those people who were there.


Among them were Lord Shawcross, Whitney R Haris and Drexel Spreecher (prosecutors) and Otto Krantzbuchler (defence lawyer) and Luise Jodl and Niklas Frank (relatives of the defendants).


The production is based on transcripts from the trial selected by Peter Goodchild and features Bernard Hepton, Henry Goodman, David Timpson, Michael Cochrane, Ian Hogg and Robert Glennister.


Producers: Martin Jenkins and John Theocharis


Thursday 24 November

Faces Of Islam - Inside A Muslim School

8.00 to 8.30pm


The Prime Minister wants to bring more Muslim schools into the state-aided sector - following the London bombings and criticism from the Chief Inspector of Schools that some independent Muslim schools failed to promote tolerance.


But the London bombers were educated at state comprehensive schools.


Jenny Cuffe goes inside a Muslim school to discover what values really are promoted, and how Muslim schoolchildren are reacting to the post-July climate.


Presenter: Jenny Cuffe

Producer: Linda Pressly




See Seasons page for details of the John Lennon season running from 5 to 9 December.


Saturday 10 December

Natural Despots 1/2

10.30 to 11.00am


Michael Portillo presents a new series investigating the reasons how and why some key individuals in animal populations become "leader of the pack".


He finds out who it is that gets to the top, what they have to do to get there, how long they stay in charge and what ultimately topples them.


Animals naturally generate despots - these are either males or females that get to the top by using violence in the form of excessive force or unsolicited punishment, intimidation and fear tactics.


Animal despots "murder", "abduct", "abuse", "rape", and rule by fear.


The effects of their behaviour reduces life span in the individual and those around them and create chaos, yet animal despots and the use of power is all-pervasive in the natural world.


Michael Portillo looks for the interface between animals and people and seek a distinction between leadership and power.


Presenter: Michael Portillo

Producer: Julian Hector


Saturday 17 December

The Tsunami Audio Memorial 1/1

8.00 to 9.00pm


Six months after the devastating Asian tsunami which affected countries as far apart as Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Somalia, the BBC launched an ambitious project aimed at creating a historic 'audio tribute' to the region.


The Tsunami Audio Memorial is a collaboration between BBC's broadcast and online divisions of the World Service, Radio 4 and Asian Network - which have been gathering sounds and stories which evoke the colour, vibrancy and diversity of the region, as well as the events of 26 December 2004 and their aftermath.


These will be crafted into a special Archive Hour to commemorate the region and its people and will be broadcast on Radio 4 on 17 December 2005.


The areas affected by the tsunami are rich in sound. Whether the evocations are of Indonesian fishermen bringing in their early morning catch, conch shells being blown at dawn or the cacophony of a traffic filled street in Thailand – or stories and sounds related to the tsunami itself, such as mobile phone messages, holiday videos or the noise of reconstruction – the aim of the BBC's Tsunami Audio Memorial project is to commemorate the region and its people as a whole.


Producer: Maria Balinska


(NB the World Service will also be broadcasting – across the week of December 19 - five separate Tsunami Audio Memorial documentaries).


Monday 19 December

It's My Story – Overturning The Tide 1/1

8.00 to 8.30pm


This is the story of Karibeeran Paramesvaran, whose life was devastated by the tsunami, told through interviews and audio diaries recorded over the course of the year.


Karibeeran Paramesvaran is an oil technician. He lives in Nagapatinam, the worst hit district on the Indian mainland where 7000 people died in the tsunami.


On 26 December, he lost all three of his children (aged five, nine and 13) as the family played frisbee on the beach before going to church.


Six of his relatives, visiting from Bangalore, were also killed. As the wave struck, Karibeeran tried desperately to hang on to his son's hand, but he was torn away by the force of the water.


Afterwards, he searched for his children's bodies and had to dig their graves himself.


They died by a cruel irony on his 40th birthday.


"I dug just one grave and placed my three children in it. I kissed them and poured in three handfuls of sand and asked them to forgive me for not being able to give them flowers or even to make them a proper coffin."


Since the tragedy, Karibeeran has been sustained by his Christian faith – he converted from Hinduism some years ago - and by his remarkable decision to 'adopt' some tsunami orphans.


His wife, however, is suffering from deep depression. In January, she could do little more than sit and cry, but has since been having counselling.


Lucy Ash met and interviewed Karibeeran (in fluent English) a few weeks after the tsunami struck, and he has been keeping an audio diary ever since.


He speaks in a uniquely engaging manner about his experience and his story provides powerful and compelling testimony about rebuilding a life after extraordinary tragedy.


Lucy also recorded interviews with other people in Karibeeran's town, such as the District Collector, Dr J Radhakrishnan, a young, dynamic civil servant, who was brought into the town a few days after the tsunami when it became obvious that the previous administrator based there was failing to cope with the crisis.


He quickly ensured the burial of thousands of bodies and still visits the affected villages regularly.


Karibeeran, his family and his friends provide an insight into not just one man's battle to overcome tragedy, but also into the way the town of Nagapatinam itself has coped in the aftermath of the tsunami's devastation.


Producer: Lucy Ash


January 2006


Tuesday 10 January

Black Middle Classes 1/1

8.00 to 8.30pm


The numbers are small by comparison with the US, but there is a black elite class in the UK.


Three factors define it: wealth, attitude and lifestyle. Connie St Louis meets black British people who are educated, cultured and wealthy to find out how their life compares with that of middle-class white people.


She'll look at how they are accepted - or not - into the established institutions of their white counterparts: public schools, the professions and big business, high culture, politics, the Church.


She'll also ask where their money comes from and how they spend it; how they think and feel about class and how they choose to live their lives.


Educated black people tend to be employed in the public sector, where financial rewards are limited. Black lawyers tend to specialise in criminal or immigration law rather than the more lucrative areas of corporate law where the old school tie still plays a part.


It's much more unusual for black people to run their own businesses than other people from ethnic minorities.


Some black commentators believe that black British culture is becoming ever more 'working-class' in its outlook - less likely to defer gratification and put their money into education or business, and more likely to gain status from spending money on visible things: cars, jewellery, clothes.


Connie investigates how this applies to wealthy black Britons.


Presenter: Connie St Louis

Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery

Radio 4 Autumn season Marcus Brigstocke

February 2006


Saturday 4 February

As Safe As Houses 1/3

10.30 to 10.00am


What the nation's been crying out for - another property show.


Marcus Brigstocke tears up the laminate flooring to reveal the true history of the British housing market - a centuries-old story of greed, double-dealing, more greed, and estate agency.


Presenter: Marcus Brigstocke

Producer: Julia Adamson


Wednesday 15 February

Among The Medici 1/3

11.00 to 11.30am


Surrounded by beauty, brilliance and the wreckage of a civilisation, historian Bettany Hughes brings us face to face with one of the most creative and explosive partnerships in the western world: that between the millennium's most inspired artists and the family who supported them.


Presenter: Bettany Hughes

Producer: Philip Sellars


April 2006


Friday 14 April

The Reith Lectures 2006 – In The Beginning Was Sound 9.00 to 9.45am


Daniel Barenboim, one of the world's foremost musicians, is to give the BBC Radio 4 2006 Reith Lectures.


In the Lectures, he argues that music lies at the heart of our understanding of what it is to be human and that music provides a way of making sense of the world: our politics, our history, our future and our very essence.


Daniel said: "I am very pleased to be invited to join the long and distinguished list of Reith Lecturers.


"In the lectures I want to re-establish the authority of the ear over the eye in our culture and demonstrate that music should be a driving force in determining all of our futures."


He is the first performer to deliver the Lectures and, in a break with tradition, the lectures will have musical illustrations played by him.


It is planned to record the Lectures in London, Chicago, Berlin, Jerusalem and Ramallah.


Editor: Gwyneth Williams



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