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Thu 16 Feb 2012 11:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 16 February 2012

Angela Carter's relationship with radio began with an accidental sound effect - the 'metallic, almost musical rattle' of pencil on radiator, 'the noise that a long, pointed fingernail might make if it were run along the bars of a birdcage' - which inspired her to create the 'lovely lady vampire' in the play Vampirella (1976). She was instantly hooked on radio. She went on to write two documentary-dramas, the prize-prize-winning Come Unto These Yellow Sands (1979), about the Victorian painter Richard Dadd, and A Self-Made Man (1984), about Edwardian novelist Ronald Firbank, in addition to re-working two of her acclaimed short stories into glittering radio plays, The Company of Wolves (1980) and Puss in Boots (1982).

A child of the radio age, as a writer Carter loved the scope of radio's technical possibilities. 'In a radio drama studio, the producer, the actors, the technical staff, create an illusion, literally, out of the air ... The resources are insubstantial but infinite', she wrote. For her, the technology offered an opportunity to amplify and extend the power of the written word, blurring the lines of traditional narrative into 'three-dimensional story-telling'. This documentary weaves interviews with Carter's friends and colleagues Susannah Clapp, Carmen Callil, Marina Warner and Christopher Frayling, memories of the studio technicians who worked on her plays and the responses of listeners who heard them, with extracts from the plays themselves to suggest why Carter found the medium so magical and appealing.

Academic Charlotte Crofts, who has written on Carter's work for radio, film and television, explains why the medium suited her so well.

Producer: Sara Davies.


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