Archives for June 2012

Welcoming the New Generation Thinkers

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Matthew Dodd | 11:13 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2012

2012 New Generation Thinkers


Matthew Dodd, Radio 3's Head of Speech Programmes, introduces this year's New Generation Thinkers

This week the first of Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers 2012 take to the airwaves. Ten academics, all at the start of their careers, will be making their debut broadcasts on Night Waves in their new role as the station’s scholars-in-residence. It’s been a stimulating and fascinating journey to get them there.

At the and of last year, Radio 3 and our partners the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) put out an appeal for applications from researchers who wanted to turn their scholarship into programme ideas. Within a month, we’d received hundreds of entries, covering everything from the history of medical science to arctic studies and bilingualism. A team of producers and AHRC staff sifted those down into a group of 60 finalists – who were then invited to attend workshops at the BBC in London and Salford where we made our final selection. You can find out the group and their specialisms by following this linkAnd so now the real work: listeners get the chance to hear the winners take their first steps as broadcasters.

But this of course is only the beginning. Over the next twelve months producers from Night Waves will be mentoring the NGTs to help them develop their ideas. They’ll be making regular appearances on the programme, they’ll be writing and presenting their own edition of The Essay, and they’ll be appearing in front of audiences at Radio 3’s annual festival of ideas, Free Thinking. They’ll also be working with our colleagues in television arts to develop ideas for the screen.

The aim of the scheme is to find a new generation of academics who can bring the best of the lastest university research and scholarly ideas to a broad audience. It’s part of Radio 3 dedication to commissioning and developing emerging talent in music and the arts – already flourishing elsewhere on the station in the New Generation Artists or World Routes Academy.

I’ve no doubt that the hunt for these new talents is good investment for the future. In a couple of week’s time, the NGT scheme has a mini-landmark when Laurence Scott, a graduate of its first year, hosts a Sunday Feature about neglected Victorian writer George Reynolds. It will be the first full length documentary to be presented by a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker.

We’re looking forward to many more. 

Find details of the 2012 Thinkers (BBC Press Office)

BBC Performing Groups - the Controller's view

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 14:24 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2012

Generic photo of BBC musicians


Earlier today the findings of a report about the BBC’s performing groups were published.

The report was commissioned by the BBC from John Myerscough in order to examine the options for making budget savings in the BBC orchestras and BBC Singers. This is in line with the recent work undertaken across the BBC to deal with the flat licence fee settlement over the next four years.

These are only proposals at this stage and consultation now has to take place but the report is a very interesting piece of work and has suggested areas for savings.  Each group has subsequently worked on its ideas and has developed its own plan.

These have been uncertain times for my colleagues in our five orchestras and the Singers, and we have all waited for the day when this work can be made known.  For BBC Radio3 and the BBC Proms these groups remain vital to our work – not only our unparalleled commitment to live music but also our support for new and unfamiliar work. It would be very hard, for example, for us to be able to present our Radio 3 Live in Concert strand every weekday evening without them and impossible for us to be the world’s most significant commissioner of new work.

The orchestras and the Singers give us long term planning certainty and an editorial freedom that is rightly celebrated in the classical music world. I am delighted therefore that today’s report not only explains the groups’ specific roles within the BBC but also acknowledges the importance of their work more broadly and crucially recognises their distinctiveness and quality.

They are indeed an asset that is too easily taken for granted and, although it will not be easy for our colleagues in the groups to make the savings under discussion, it is good that this external report has so clearly reinforced the rationale for their continuing existence and points out the vital role they play in UK cultural life.


  • Read a blog by BBC Audio & Music Director Tim Davie giving the background to, and details of the report
  • Read the Myerscough report (pdf)
  • Visit the BBC Performing Groups website 
  • Help us test the new Radio 3 homepage

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    Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:06 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2012

    Screenshot of the new BBC Radio 3 beta homepage, June 2012

    We're testing a new homepage for Radio 3. For the next couple of months you'll see a link at the top of every Radio 3 web page. Click it and you'll see a test version of the new homepage (a 'beta' version, as the engineers call it) which will replace the current one later in the year. Try it out and tell us what you think by clicking the 'Feedback' tab on the right-hand side of the beta homepage or by leaving a comment here on the blog. If you're talking about the new design on Twitter, use the hashtag #bbcradiobeta so we can find your comments.

    Radio 3's new homepage is part of a larger redesign for all of the BBC Radio web sites so you'll see links to beta homepages at the top of most sites from today (about 60 stations). Each has a different look and a different choice of links but there's a common design. It should be easier to find the content you're after and to talk to the stations you listen to.

    You'll find a link at the top of the beta homepage to a useful introduction to the new radio homepages. Chris Kimber, who's the manager from the BBC's technology department leading the redesign, has written a detailed post for the BBC Internet blog and Mark Friend, Controller of BBC Audio & Music Interactive, the digital arm of BBC Radio, has also blogged.

    The point of testing the homepage publicly in this way is to try different options and to get your reactions to them. We'll change the test page several times during the beta period and I'll blog here whenever we make a large change.

    Some notes on the new look:

    • There's an improved 'Radio' navigation toolbar just below the top set of BBC-wide links which should make it easier for you to find specific programmes. Try clicking 'Programme Finder' and typing the name of a Radio 3 programme. This will be the best way, for instance, to find your favourite programme's playlist.
    • To begin with, the primary view of the new Radio 3 homepage is all about what's on-air right now and what's coming up (we call this the 'live tab') - you'll see a large image for the current programme and, next to it, two smaller ones for the next two programmes.
    • Just below these images, alongside the name of the programme you're listening to, you'll see links (or 'tabs') labelled 'Featured', 'Popular programmes' and 'Performance'. Each link loads a new panel on the homepage. This is where you'll find the regularly-changing content on the new homepage, updated daily. Try out these tabs (or click the big 'left' and 'right' arrows) and tell us what you think. They're the backbone of the new page.
    • Further down you'll see a group of red boxes with links to lots of other Radio 3 content and to our Twitter and Facebook accounts. These links are flexible and during the test period we'll try different options here. Let us know if you think we should be linking to something specific from one of the red boxes.

    If you're able to help us test the new homepage, thank you. Your feedback is important.

    Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, BBC Radio 3

    BBC Singers - Understanding Rubbra

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    Edward Goater Edward Goater | 10:53 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

    Edmund Rubbra at home in 1949. Photo: Haywood Magee/Picture Post (Getty Images)

    Edmund Rubbra at home in 1949. Photo: Haywood Magee/Picture Post (Getty Images)

    Edward Goater, tenor member of the BBC Singers, introduces the music of Edmund Rubbra which Radio 3 listeners will be able to hear next week. Edward describes the richness and depth of the music, and suggests that it's time to bring it into the mainstream...


    Call to mind the great and celebrated symphony composers of history and one might be forgiven for thinking quantity is a prerequisite for posthumous laurels. For many composers, '9' is held in symphonic legend as the superstitious number. The idea that Beethoven’s fateful target could reach out to them across the centuries loomed high in the minds of Bruckner, Mahler, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams - to name but a few. Step into the ring, then, Edmund Rubbra, possibly the 20th Century’s most prolific English composer. He racked up 11 full-scale symphonies as well as countless other orchestral works, including theme-and-variations on at least three other composers, and various works for voice and orchestra. For a series of recordings which you can hear next week, the BBC Singers picked pieces for unaccompanied choir from his abundant library.

    There can be no doubt that Rubbra likes to paint with broad strokes. Although the Singers have chosen works representing his entire output, one unifying trait that runs through them all is the vast canvass of sound he demands of his singers. Tenors and sopranos can usually be found singing above the stave with long, often quiet, arching phrases that can leave one vocally exhausted by the end. Rubbra was not particularly concerned about the demands his music placed on performers (in any genre). For him, each piece was a personal statement, a deep individualistic commentary in musical form.

    'I never know where a piece is going to go next… when I begin, my only concern is with fixing a starting point that I can be sure of…my imagination discovers the architecture for me.' - Edmund Rubbra

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    Petroc back for Breakfast ...

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    Petroc Trelawny Petroc Trelawny | 21:31 UK time, Monday, 4 June 2012

    In the past I’ve never taken much pleasure from the 4.40am alarm call when I’m presenting Radio 3 Breakfast; getting up in what is still the middle of the night has until now always seemed a faintly  unnatural act.  Tomorrow however the steady bleep and flash of my mobile phone will be a reassuring sign that some normality has returned to my life after a strange and unexpected extension to my holiday in Zimbabwe.


    You may have read about my difficulties and the subsequent misunderstanding which lead to me spending some time in police custody over there. I had travelled to Bulawayo,  Zimbabwe’s second city,   for the culmination of a big community project (outside of my Radio 3 work)  organised in part by a charity of which I am a trustee.  The event was a triumph;  500 children from dozen schools,  mainly from Bulawayo’s poorest area, the Western Suburbs,  worked with a several UK based choral leaders,  and composer Richard Sisson, culminating in a cantata championing the fate of Africa’s 5 most threatened carnivores – Lion,  Leopard,  Cheetah,  Hyena and Wild Dog.


    The vast cast performed magnificently,  encouraged further by visiting artists including the Ferrier prize winning baritone Njabulo Madlala, the great inspirer  and singer Mary King,  and the terrific flautist Juliette Bausor.  It was a thrilling event.  The days that followed, in police custody, provided much time for thought,  and, once transferred to hospital,  opportunities for discussion about future projects.  I look forward to returning soon and playing a small role in facilitating even wider access to the joys and disciplines of music.


    There were several occasions during my unexpected week when I had access to Twitter and email,  and it was very uplifting to find so many messages of support from you, my  Radio 3 listeners, and  for that my greatest thanks.  As anyone who has visited Africa knows,  the continent rises early.  The main hospital visiting hours were 6 – 6.30am;  one friend woke me even earlier than that on my birthday,  clutching an enormous chocolate cake.  Maybe the return to early starts won’t be so hard after all.


    Petroc will return to BBC Radio3 Breakfast Tuesday 5th June.


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    Choral Evensong

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    Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 00:06 UK time, Saturday, 2 June 2012


    Choral Evensong - the Outsiide Broadcast truck


    Philip Billson, Series Producer of Radio 3’s long-running Choral Evensong, comments on recent technical problems which have affected the broadcasts


    As always at 3.30pm on Wednesday I was looking forward to Choral Evensong – this week from New College Oxford. And as usual, due attention had been given to ensuring every aspect of the programme was in good order. Our transmission lines had been tested for a full hour first thing and everything was in place as usual for the broadcast. 


    As one of the longest running programmes on BBC Radio, Choral Evensong has a track record of broadcasting excellence. So why, you might ask, have there been a few technical hitches in the last few weeks? It would be somewhat less frustrating had there been a single cause, enabling us to concentrate on one particular fix, but it seems the recent disruption has been caused by a number of differing events.

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