Archives for April 2009

Read all about it! What's happening to local democracy?

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Jennifer Tracey | 18:22 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Citizen James 1962

Vital part of the community or mouthpiece for the local council?

We asked what you thought of your local newspaper and whether you're worried that local democracy and proper scrutiny of councils is going out the window. The responses varied from

' Without the wonderful Stockport Express exposing what is going on here, goodness knows what would be got away with in Stockport.'


'Local democracy where I live is being undermined by the presence of a weekly newspaper produced by my local council. Its delivered free to every household in the borough..but is in effect a partisan PR mouthpiece for the labour controlled administration and certainly doesn't attempt to have any role in scrutinising local democracy.'

And as culture secretary Andy Burnham was at a summit discussing these very issues today - we thought we'd invite one of our listeners to put points to him directly.

And that listener was Stewart Payne. He's worked as a journalist for over 20 years, and for the last 5 has sat on his parish council. An edited version of this will appear on Saturdays programme.

iPM is continuing to follow this up, all comments and ideas very welcome.

Read all about it! iPM local paper project

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:30 UK time, Saturday, 25 April 2009


Death of journalism?
Thanks to photographer Herschell Hershey's Newspaper Billboards photostream

The 'death of journalism as we know it' - not a new slogan for iPM - but the gloomy prediction this week of Sly Bailey, whose company Trinity Mirror owns 150 regional newspapers.

Around 60 local papers have closed in the past year.

You may be an avid reader of your local rag, you might never pick it up, but you'll probably have glanced at least one thing they've written - a headline on the advertising billboards at a news stand or outside a papershop.

iPM is taking part in a BBC project to collect photos of these little nuggets of local news. When I say iPM is taking part in the project - it's you doing the work.

So if you pass a bill advertising your local paper this week, would you mind taking a photo of the headline and sending it to iPM? There's also a BBC news Flickr group if you want to upload it there.

Suggest a story or an opinion poll question

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:15 UK time, Saturday, 25 April 2009


iPM Listeners' Opinion poll questions

Word cloud of all the Listeners' Poll questions we've received (your chance to put a question to the nation, and we'll pay for the pollster). You've until midnight 8 May to enter your suggestion. Leave a comment here, send an email or some ink on paper to:

Listeners' Opinion Poll, iPM, Room G601, BBC TV Centre, London W12 7RJ

This is also the space to suggest something you think we should look at - be it brain donation, shoplifting or those mighty red rubber bands.

A no-brainer?

Jennifer Tracey | 17:00 UK time, Saturday, 25 April 2009


A no-brainer?

There are several thousand brains in Margaret's freezer at work, but she needs more. She's been examining the human brain for over 30 years, in her work on Alzheimer's disease. More recently her work concerns multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and autism.

So when she wrote to the iPM Listeners' Opinion Poll in the same week that Jeremy Paxman (amongst others) agreed to donate his brain to medical research, we wanted to know more.

Professor Margaret Esiri wrote:

'Joining the Organ Donor register does not include an option to donate a brain for research; do you think it should?'

I went to meet Professor Esiri to find out why scientists are in desperate need of our brains.

You can read about Professor Esiri's appeal for brains and contact her about donating your own after death on the Oxford University website.

CCTV on iPM, you see?

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Jennifer Tracey | 16:31 UK time, Tuesday, 21 April 2009


A poster from listener Andy Cade

Listener Conrad Costa took iPM on a 15-minute stroll from the Norwich train station to the city centre. Conrad worries about the numbers of CCTV cameras. Before the walk he estimated that he would see (and be seen by) a dozen. He actually counted 30.

If you went on a similar everyday journey by foot, how many cameras would you see? More than you would have thought or fewer than you would like?

Sean Williams emailed to say that he can't see any "in an 8-mile radius of Sennybridge... Which is one of the reasons we moved here from Wimbledon".

To join in, count the number of CCTV cameras you pass in the street and send your tally and a bit about the journey to iPM by email or leave a comment on the blog.

But who's watching? Listener Andy Cade has designed a special A4 poster for you to print off (if you feel like it). It invites those viewing CCTV footage to contact us.

PDF file: Can You See Me? 2.0 (107 KB)

Your News

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Jennifer Tracey | 09:35 UK time, Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Your News - you send it, but we read it out.

Each week listeners send us single sentences explaining their news. They write about sickness and health, being richer or poorer, lives getting better and worse. It's Your News.

Leave your sentence of news as a comment below or email it.

For inspiration, here's last week's bulletin - as read by Radio 4's Neil Nunes...

The police are dropping a prosecution for speeding because they've accepted that I needed to get my son to A&E and no ambulance had been offered by his doctor's surgery. Who says the police have become out of touch with their public?

Had electricity bill for £670 for a 2 bedroom flat occupied by myself and daughter.

My Granny is having her bottom blacked, the first time in over three years. She's only 15, but she looks older; narrowboats need drydocking more frequently.

I have just completed my sixteen-year-old daughter's prom dress, for when she leaves school in June, and wondering why I bothered as she is going back there to the sixth form.

Watching TV, a loud explosion, and a young man and a disintegrated motorbike all over the road.

I had to transport a load of medieval French soldiers up the M5 and help get them out of sight by heaving them into Hilary's loft!

Worked all week, and last, teachers' holidays are not all they're cracked up to be!

70 weeks out of work, 500 job applications, 3 interviews, no job yet. Another bad week.

I'm still waiting for the redundancy money I should have received 10 days ago... and there is never anyone available to answer my query when I ring because they all seem to be part-timers who don't work today.

My husband confirmed he'll be away again next week, I don't think it's an affair, I think it's just fear of keeping his job. He has obviously forgotten Friday is our Wedding anniversary.

A couple of weeks ago you read out my sentence about waiting to see if my father-in-law has cancer. He doesn't. Hurrah!

Suggest a story or an opinion poll question

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:15 UK time, Saturday, 18 April 2009


Model aeroplanes BBC outside broadcast 1937

If you have a story you think we should investigate, or your own experience will help us shed more light on the news... please let us know.

Leave a comment below, email us or Tweet.

If you're taken by our opinion poll competition (your chance to put a question to the nation, and we'll pay for the pollster), leave a comment here, send an email or some ink on paper to:

Listeners' Opinion Poll, iPM, Room G601, BBC TV Centre, London W12 7RJ

CCTV: Be part of an experiment

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Chris Vallance | 17:14 UK time, Saturday, 18 April 2009



Closed circuit television. Are we watched by too many cameras, or too few? In fact, how many cameras are there? It seems even the experts don't know.

The Association of Chief Police Officers told iPM that several forces are trying to count up the cameras on their patches. But with CCTV on buses, in shops, at sports grounds, on gate posts and street corners, a camera census could be a dizzying task.

The quantity - and quality - of CCTV coverage is a subject of great interest to iPM listeners. Several entries in our Listeners' Opinion Poll have mentioned the cameras.

Albertina McNeill, for example, would like a camera installed in the underpass near her house after a man was recently murdered there.

But not everyone feels comforted by the presence of cameras. Listener Conrad Costa (pictured above) emailed to say he was shocked when his council installed its 100th camera. As an experiment, Conrad and I went for a walk through the city counting all the cameras that we could see.

The iPM CCTV experiment
In our 15-minute journey, Conrad thought we'd find 12, in fact he counted 30. What about you? When you next set out on an everyday journey on foot - to buy a pint of milk say, or to go to your allotment - count up the cameras you pass.

During a ten or 15-minute stroll you might see cameras on lamp posts, buildings, shop doorways or car parks. There might be more than you expected, or fewer than you'd like. Tell us, explaining your journey and your final tally of cameras.

Leave in the comments below, email us or tweet.

The iPM CCTV experiment EXTRA
If you're really taken with the idea, listener Andy Cade, who teaches graphic communication, has designed a poster which you can print off - it looks a bit like one of those eye tests. It asks anyone watching the camera footage to email iPM.

PDF file: Can You See Me? (73 KB)

And please, no risk taking on behalf of the BBC - just hold it aloft and smile.

Send your count to us in an email or leave a comment on the blog.

UPDATE: Following a debate (below) Andy Cade has designed a NEW poster. Use either. iPM loves both designs.

PDF file: Can You See Me? 2.0 (107 KB)


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Eddie Mair | 14:18 UK time, Thursday, 16 April 2009



Listeners' Opinion Poll

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Jennifer Tracey | 13:08 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Comments (120)

It's the wrong kind of pole

What you do: Send us a question you would like to be put to the nation in a proper opinion poll.

What iPM will do: Select a question from all the entries, help perfect the wording and pay for a polling firm to pose your question.

What listeners have sugested so far: "Have you seen anything you would consider to be a UFO?" + "Should families having three or more children be penalised?" + "Should we re-introduce the Dog Licence?" + "Have you ever witnessed a police officer behaving aggressively?" + "Should we legislate for a maximum wage?"

How do I tell you my fantastic question?
Leave a comment below
Email us. Please put Listeners' Opinion Poll in the subject line.
Write to us: Listeners' Opinion Poll, iPM, Room G601, BBC TV Centre, London W12 7RJ
And don't worry if at this stage you don't have specific wording. Feel free to tell us the sort of topic you want to explore, and we and your fellow listeners help out.
Read the Listeners' Opinion Poll terms and conditions.

'Postman's leavings'

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Jennifer Tracey | 12:08 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009


We're still twanging on about red rubber bands. Thank you hungaryalice for the title of this post - though somehow, it makes me feel uneasy...

Thankfully, Rob Warwick's secure asparagus makes me feel better.

Asparagus anyone?

All suggestions on what we should do with our red rubber mountain welcome.

One idea was to create a musical instrument. Kate Arkless Gray contacted us offering to knock up a rubber band guitar and knock out a tune... have a listen.

For more rubber band music inspiration, Pyskador writes

'I'm sure that Simon Jeffs, the founder of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, is up there somewhere chuckling down at us for trying to find useful things to do with discarded rubber bands.

He beat us all to it back in 1981 when he wrote and recorded his tune Telephone and Rubber Band, (listen to it here)."

Your News

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Jennifer Tracey | 10:54 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Martyn Lewis probably won't be reading Your News

There are more news stories on the streets of the UK than there are discarded red rubber bands. iPM cherishes them and wants you to send them in - news stories, not red rubber bands. Oh, wait. We want red rubber bands too. Not quite sure why. Suggestions?

Anyway, where was I? News. Each week listeners send us single sentences explaining their news. They're funny, brave, sad and angry. They tell of defeats and victories.

You supply the words - via the blog, on Twitter or in an email - we add the old Nine O'Clock News theme and a BBC Radio star.

This is the script super-soaraway Susan Rae read last week:

"Celebrating my 60th, went on a Quad bike, broke ankle, got back on, and have now been adopted as the coolest grandmother by several young people.

He turned up to see the children today - drunk again.

I said, when I arrived at work 'It has to be a body or an arms dump at the very least'. As it was a head I was nearly right.

Currently examining my horses droppings!! to judge whether or not she is eating new grass and whether there is enough grass coming through to put her out at night, so that I no longer have to muck out a stable in the morning. I should get out more!

My father-in-law has a tumour and we find out on Thursday whether it is cancer or not - have been wondering why it is I can offer sympathy to most people about most things but not my partner - who I love dearly - who needs it most.

Deaf-as-a-post, ninety-something Freda, who only learned to read at the age of 20, loudly asked if I could also read, before gifting me a book from the charity shop that she was too embarrassed to give back.

My wife explained to my daughter that her great Aunt no longer needed her wheelchair and that was why they did not have to try and fit it in the coffin.

Paid in a cheque for £1,740 for work done, and sold two second hand books and an ebook from one of my websites, some weeks I earn nothing, it's what makes freelancing so exciting.

Doctor asked same questions that appeared on the waiting room poster for cancer of the oesophagus. It's going to be a long week.

Sun is up, the Euro to the Pound is up, Easter is here with processions to the church this week, what more could you want?

Fed up with people at the Department of Work and Pensions who may make me suffer an Easter with only 22 pence to my name!

I found out this week that two of my closest friends are about to leave their husbands, and neither man has a clue it's about to happen.

For the second month in a row a customer has bounced a substantial cheque on me, which means I will have breached my overdraft by the end of tomorrow, leading to a weekend of worry and the possibility of the end of a seven-year business.

Fancied a nice pub lunch but when we got to the pub of our choice, only sandwiches."

Listeners' Opinion Poll

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:25 UK time, Saturday, 11 April 2009


The Poll Vault

YOU help set the opinon poll question. We'll do the poll.

"Are these people nuts?"
Opinion polls provide a snapshot of public opinion. When we hear that a third of people are in favour of something, we think of how it relates to our own opinions. And we think to ourselves - "are those people nuts?" or "I'm in the minority".

Popular topics
Opinion polls ask about voting intention, favourite films, abortion, the celebrities we'd least like to move in next door, the monarchy, the countryside, teenage pregnancies, homosexuality: you name it, there's probably been an opinion poll about it.

And until NOW, the media has set the questions and the public have answered them. But, since iPM starts with our listeners, you get to come up with the question.

But what do we ask?!
Don't worry, help is at hand. The BBC has its own polling guru, who is adored by 100 per cent of us here. His name is David Cowling and this is his advice:

1. Start by thinking of a topic that you want to throw some light on.
2. The topic doesn't have to be incredibly serious to provide a revealing or interesting result.
3. Is there anything about this topic that you think might divide public opinion?
4. Think about wording your question in a way that doesn't biase the answer, but we can improve the precise wording later.
5. Think in terms of a question with a yes or no answer.

How do I tell you my fantastic question?
Leave a comment below
Email us. Please put Listeners' Opinion Poll in the subject line.
Write to us: Listeners' Opinion Poll, iPM, Room G601, BBC TV Centre, London W12 7RJ

And don't worry if at this stage you don't have specific wording. Feel free to tell us the sort of topic you want to explore, and we and your fellow listeners help out.

Read the Listeners' Opinion Poll terms and conditions.

Suggest a story

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:15 UK time, Saturday, 11 April 2009



Ever started something and wondered where it may lead? Rubber band anyone?

Playful or serious - all story suggestions and ideas very welcome. We read them all and reply when we can.

Leave a comment below, email us or tweet.

And thanks to Joanne Clarke for photograph of rubber band catapult.

1001 uses for Royal Mail rubber bands...

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Jennifer Tracey | 10:02 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009


Rubber Band Ball

iPM is collecting red rubber bands thrown away by posties. Here's why. Our first donation (and a bumper one at that) arrived at iPM Red Rubber Band Collection, Room G601, BBC News Centre, LONDON W12 7RJ from Joan Adamson. Thanks.

We're also collecting ideas about what to do with them. The list so far:

+ guitar strings + hair bands + a teddy bungee jump + bracelets + seals for bags of sugar + bicycle clips + emergency belt loops + pencil-top erasers + waistband expanders + chopping board stabilisers + anti-slip devices for mixing spoons + anti-squeak devices for bed slats + saucepan handle covers + jar openers + a shoe tidy + cable ties + an aide memoire + barter for stamps + cat toys + flicking toys + gardening string + handlebar fasteners +

Paul Tanner - who provided the photo at the top (thanks) - says red rubber bands are a must-have collector's item for schoolchildren.

"In playgrounds across the land, you will find scooters with handlebars festooned with red rubber bands. My little boy scans the pavement wherever he walk. May posties everywhere go on discarding them!"

We also heard from Miss Merry at the sales department of a Vietnamese rubber company.

"Fresh Working day to you. We learnt you from internet. With us, you can be sure of quality, quantity, reliability."

We make a fuss of Your News

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Jennifer Tracey | 17:08 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009


Bert Hinkler on the BBC

Ok, we don't actually don white tie during the recording, but we do our very best to bring a certain style to the weekly Your News bulletin. Your news deserves it.

You supply the stories - an event from your week, expressed in a single sentence - we add the old Nine O'Clock News theme and a top Radio 4 voice.

If you need inspiration, here's last week's script - as read by Neil Sleat:

Today I celebrate 20 years as a professional librarian. Given all the changes, I sometimes think I should have remained an electrician on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

I was 50 years old on Friday, so why do I still feel like a 12-year-old trapped in the body of a bald bloke?

Just had a throbbing veins and purple faces row with my vice principal.

I cut my finger opening a box of chocolates brought in by a colleague from a foreign trip. I should stick to my diet.

Getting foreign students to write an acrostic about spring. Headache.

I'm about to contact my bank for an overdraft - the first time since I was a student.

A kind stranger drove me home when my bike tyre punctured and pump broke, in the dark, 20 miles from home, in countryside with no mobile signal.

My colleague, who is retiring soon, began handing over a poisoned chalice to me yesterday.

I've had chronic knee ache since the dance on Saturday. I realised it was The Twist that done it, since my knee caps had been gyrating blissfully in a way they hadn't for years.

After 5 years of campaigning, they've barely anywhere near to re-constituting public toilets. I greatly need one, but they no longer exist.

I've got a new very expensive cushion and now my back hurts even more.

Getting angrier wondering how my daughter's school can dangle a £900 trip to Russia in front of her - but knowing her parents are unlikely to be able to afford it.

Saw two lions fighting, just after the tiger escaped from behind the electric fence and had to be chased back by the jeep.

Yesterday was the first time I ever saw a mature sheep having fun.

I've now got my full slate of candidates for June's County Council Elections - phew!

What do we want? Rubber bands! Why do we want them? Er!

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Jennifer Tracey | 18:30 UK time, Monday, 6 April 2009


Send us any red rubber bands that you find (and don't want)

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign has set its sights on the red rubber bands Royal Mail workers use to bundle up letters (and which they sometimes drop on the street).

iPM wants your rubber bands - but we're not sure what for. What can we do with them? Have you got any bright ideas? Do YOU have a use for them?

Listeners' ideas so far:

+ A teddy bungee jump

+ A cheap bracelet

+ A way to seal open bags of sugar

+ Bicycle clips

Email ideas or leave a comment. Send your red rubber bands to:

iPM Red Rubber Band Collection,
Room G601,
BBC News Centre,
W12 7RJ

'Anorexia is like suicide, if you're pregnant it's like murder'

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Jennifer Tracey | 18:03 UK time, Monday, 6 April 2009


Sarah Wallington made a recent contribution to the Your News feature. She told iPM about undergoing tests to see if 11 years of anorexia had left her infertile. Sarah then introduced us to another woman who believed that eating disorders had ended any chance of having children.

Lara and Tamsin

When you meet Lara Wadey (pictured), it's hard to believe she was in and out of 13 different treatment centres for bullemia, anorexia and heroin addiction. All before the age of 25.

It's harder still to comprehend how eight weeks before she discovered she was pregnant she 'died' of a heroin overdose. Her heart stopped and doctors didn't think they'd be able to revive her.

Everyone was shocked to learn that Lara was pregnant, most of all her. But according to Lara, Tamsin, now aged 4 (pictured), helped save her life.

"Doctors told me for nine years that I couldn't have children, because of what I put my body through. Not just anorexia, but the years of bullemia as well. Because you're underweight for so long your periods stop. Mentally, I prepared myself that I would never have children.

I was living with a nurse who had taken me in from my last treatment centre. She was pregnant. Another housemate of ours, another nurse, was also pregnant. Part of me felt left out, not that I necessarily wanted a baby. I just did a random test, having found one of my friends' tests... and I sort of saw a line on it.

I was in shock.

I went out and did about five more tests. I called my father and just said: 'You're going to be a grandfather.' He said: 'But you can't have children!' I said: 'I know!'

Being through eating disorders and drug addiction, for the length of time I did, no one thought I was mentally prepared to be able to even cope with pregnancy - let alone raise a child - when I couldn't even look after myself.

I took the changes to my body day by day, hour by hour.

With anorexia it's like a slow suicide. You are killing yourself through not eating. But if you carry on during pregnancy, in a way it's murder. I bred rabbits when I was young. My parents said: 'Would you not feed you rabbits?' 'I guess I would feed them,' I replied. 'If you'd feed your pets, why would you not feed your baby?'

As I got bigger, I had permission to eat, as I was feeding something else. It wasn't society saying: 'Oh look! Lara's got fat!'

Because I was eating right my skin improved, my nails, my hair. Everyone was giving me compliments, saying that I was 'blooming'. That gave me confidence to carry on doing what I was doing.

At first, I tried to not to think about too much about passing on my anxieties about food to to Tamsin. But as she got older - aged two or three - she started seeing what goes on, what she eats, what mummy eats, what they eat at nursery, what her friends eat. When a child starts making comments they're much more open and honest than an adult. If we were having dinner one day she would say: 'Mummy are you not eating that?' She would force me to look at it.

The nine months of pregancy was a practise nine months of eating, doing it myself, in the real world. Seeing my daughter made me want to carry it on.

After she was born, all the nurses - everyone - asked: 'Is she using? Is she eating? Is the house clean? Is the baby being fed?' After six months, I proved that I could tick all the boxes. Absolutely fine. Fit, healthy mother and baby.

I've got a reason to live now."

Listen to Sarah and Lara talk about their experiences

Lara's also running the London Marathon this year and writes a weekly blog about it.

Suggest a story

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Jennifer Tracey | 15:50 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009


Reporting from the front line (1944)

Is there something you think BBC journalists should be investigating? Heard something on the news that didn't sound right in your experience? Do you know something that other listeners might want to hear?

You can send in a story idea or just a single sentence of news. Small or extra large - all suggestions welcome.

Email us, leave a comment below or Tweet, thanks.

Share Your News

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Jennifer Tracey | 15:45 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009


Triumph Spitfire (1979)

"Just had my offer accepted to buy back the alas now, rather dilapidated, 1969 Triumph Spitfire that my long departed Dad bought for my now elderly mum and which she sold 25 years ago!"

Each week, iPM listeners send us a single sentence of news and we compile it into a bulletin. It's totally anonymous and we can promise you discretion.

We receive all kinds of intriguing and unusual tales each week. And we recently made a special bulletin of Your News. We cheekily asked some listeners to write a little more and invited BBC correspondents to pick up on the stories.

Listen again to the alternative Radio 4 Bulletin with Chris Aldridge:

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