Archives for April 2012

In Our Time - The Battle of Bosworth Field

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 17:55, Friday, 27 April 2012

Editor's Note: This week Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field, the celebrated encounter between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces in August 1485. - CM

Portrait of battle


A few after the programme reflections. One of the reasons, I was told, that the evidence for domestic wars is not as plentiful as that for foreign wars is that foreign wars were audited by the Exchequer, who liked to put down what every single man was paid and when he was paid and who he was, and so for foreign wars we have a very good idea of numbers, of names, of positions in society. For domestic wars there was a war chest and a noble would come along and ask for money to help him bring his men to battle, and the war chest would be opened, coins would be passed over and a bit of paper would change hands as a receipt. Most of these bits of paper, it turns out, disappeared.

It was also pointed out that the fighting in medieval wars was very often done by a handful of people who liked fighting and were trained to fight. They were trained troops and to manipulate a horse in full armour, with weapons to hand, needed a great deal of training and the will to kill had to be cultivated. This could extend down the scale, especially with bowmen, because at that time in the fifteenth century all adult men had to do archery practice in the towns as well as in the villages, and we know that they did because of reports that we have ('we' being the historians) of the accidents that occurred!

One of the contributors said that household retainers were very important to the lord leading his troops into the main throng of battle. They were like a mafia group who had great loyalty to each other - which came way before anything else - and that cohesion could be a tremendously important factor.

Lots of talk about longbows being very slowly overtaken by guns. There's a famous painting of knights in full armour firing guns from the shoulder in the 1470s in Burgundy. Knights in full armour with guns were also common in Germany. But the transition from longbows to guns took a long time. Longbows were still taken into the field of battle in the 1560s. Even at that time they had a faster rate of fire than guns and were more accurate. Unfortunately, they could not pierce armour which is where guns trumped them. There's a painting, I was told, of a knight in a field walking around like a porcupine with arrows coming out of his armour all over the place, but he, snugly inside the metal, unhurt.

Another reason for the difficulties in finding the battlefield around Bosworth was that the soil is very acidic and therefore arrowheads, which are a great indicator of numbers and so on, were not preserved.

And finally Shakespeare, who we did not get around to, may well have modelled his character of Richard III on a book by Thomas More, who himself saw Richard III as a model monster.

Then out into a rather sunny London - a change after the rain. I was rather looking forward to walking in the rain. I got dressed up for it, i.e. raincoat, cap and decent shoes. Spent forty minutes waiting to meet a friend to talk about a book. He was waiting for me in reception; I was waiting for him in the coffee room. Neither of us had the sense to look in the other's room.

Off to the office and then to a rough cut. I wanted to get down to the Lords to vote but things dragged out. It's that sort of time of year as we're getting ready for the big South Bank Show Sky Arts Awards, which are a model monster to produce, especially in the last week or two.

But had a wonderful walk in the rain on Hampstead Heath a couple of mornings ago. Absolutely sluicing down. Most of the morning walkers, therefore, not on the Heath. Something terrific about wearing the right clothes when it's sheeting with rain and feeling pelted in the face by hard, driving rain. Not quite as good as the hailstones which drummed me up in Cumberland two weeks ago. Like white marbles they were, bouncing on the road, bouncing on the roofs of cars.

No wonder we're interested in the weather in this country. There is so very much of it.

And dictating this now from home where I'm feeling a bit fed up, because I came back to work on a script and find that I have forgotten to bring the first draft of the script back with me. So will begin to read 'Candide' instead for next week.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

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Howerd's Ways: The Radio Times of Frankie Howerd on 4Extra

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Paula McDonnell 17:24, Friday, 27 April 2012

Editor's note: The Producer of Howerd's Ways: The Radio Times of Frankie Howerd,  Mik Wilkojc writes about working on the programme for BBC Radio 4Extra. PMcD.

Frankie Howerd 

Busy year, 2012. The Olympics, The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Year of Shakespeare are all vying for our headspace so it's easy to overlook notable anniversaries. I'm sure that anyone above the age of forty will be shocked to realise that Frankie Howerd died two whole decades ago, on 19th April 1992.

And it came to pass, that he came to pass...

Frankie had a keen eye for the peculiar, and he would have been intrigued at how his own demise was reported. He died a day after fellow British comedy stalwart Benny Hill. Benny, however, was quoted as being saddened by the death of his 'great, great friend'. No Leveson Inquiry-style implications of Ouija Board hacking here, just a well-meaning agent.

When the prospect of marking Frankie's anniversary was mooted at Radio 4 Extra, there were two of us here who enjoyed the advantage of having had worked with him. The presenter, Peter Reed, had interviewed him in December 1989 on behalf of an organization making audio programmes for the blind. You can hear an extract of that conversation in Howerd's Ways: The Radio Times of Frankie Howerd.

I, in my then role as producer of Radio 1's Steve Wright in the Afternoon, had invited Frankie to be a guest on the programme in 1991. He was utterly professional, enthusiastic and thoroughly 'got' what the [then a novelty] 'posse format' involved and required. He loved the experience and educated the greater fun-loving audience by introducing them to the word 'acolyte'.

The third member of the Frankie tribute triumvirate brings by far the most to the table. Tessa le Bars worked her way up through Frankie's organization and was his final agent, business manager and - most importantly - friend. Tessa adds her own personal recollections to the bits between the programmes. We recorded those sections in Radio Theatre Dressing Room 1 in Broadcasting House, the very space where Frankie would have paced about obsessively going over his lines one last time.

As a young man, Frankie dreamed of playing Shakespeare and he fulfilled that ambition in 1957 in the Old Vic production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. To quote his Bottom, if you get my drift, Radio 4 Extra's three hour tribute features programmes that, "the eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen" for many a year. Our compilation kicks off with a 1973 edition of The Frankie Howerd Show.

Next comes a revised version of Dylan Winter's excellent Radio Lives from 1995. The interview with Frankie's sister, Betty, has to be heard to be believed. Then, courtesy of yet another British comedy stalwart, the late Bob Monkhouse, a rare opportunity to hear Frankie involved in the show that propelled him to stardom.

Bob was compulsive collector of comedy, whether penned by him or not, and this 1953 edition of Variety Bandbox comes from the personal archive that he left behind. That is followed by an extract of the aforementioned Peter Reed interview and hot on its tail is a 1965 edition of Now Listen.

To conclude, we are delighted to have, from 1982, Frankie's second sojourn on Roy Plomley's desert island. The first, from 1959, has slipped behind the immersion heater of destiny, but we live in hope that someone out there recorded it.

Elements of the programmes throughout the three hours exhibit Frankie's human side. A man who wanted us to laugh at what he had so painstakingly created, not at its creator. He was a real-life Pagliacci and any Pagliacci, is a pal o' mine. What? No? Oh, suit yerselves...

Mik Wilkojc is the producer of Howerd's Ways: The Radio Times of Frankie Howerd.


Find out more about Howerd's Ways: The Radio Times of Frankie Howerd

Radio 4Extra: Vivat Rex

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Paula McDonnell 16:27, Friday, 27 April 2012

Editor's note: Vivat Rex is an epic 26 part drama following the English Crown from Edward II's accession in 1307 to the birth of Elizabeth I. It is told through the adapted works of Shakespeare, Marlowe and other playwrights of the period. Narrated by Richard Burton, it has a celebrated cast including John Hurt, Michael Redgrave and Derek Jacobi. The programme starts Monday at 10am on Radio Extra. PMcD.

John Burton


I was surprised and delighted when I was informed that VIVAT REX was to be re-broadcast on Radio 4 Extra.  Ever since it first went out in 1977 I had hoped that one day it might have another airing and now, after 35 years, this is finally happening.

Vivat Rex was originally broadcast to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the rebroadcast is to mark her Diamond Jubilee.  Basically it is a dramatic chronicle in 26 episodes of 225 years of the history of the crown by Shakespeare, Marlowe and other Elizabethan playwrights. However, in Vivat Rex the plays were not be performed as single entities but they were to be woven into a continuous series covering the lives of eleven monarchs stretching from Edward II to Henry VIII.  An episode would often end mid-way through a play or even combine two plays by different writers. 

Once the idea had been agreed, together with my co-director, the late Gerry Jones, work started on the complex process of adapting and shaping the original texts so that we could create the 26 episodes. This involved cutting and pruning, reshaping, amalgamating smaller characters and providing cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. Of course, our plan was to hide the joins between the different playwrights as well as between our own attempts at writing some verse to fill in gaps in the story or to explain some highly visual moment to the listener. We quickly realised that the series needed a storyteller or chronicler to provide continuity between episodes and to also set the scene as well as to provide essential background information. 

Richard Burton was perfect for the role.  He had always retained a deep affection and respect for radio drama and seemed genuinely delighted to be back in Broadcasting House.  I can still remember the excitement in the studio when he began recording his narrations.  Cigarette in hand, script in front of him, he began with his unique, hypnotic, lilting voice to take us into the world of Edward II.  I only wish that he fulfilled his life-long ambition to play King Lear but it was not to be.

Even as the editorial work was progressing on the scripts, Gerry and I were also deeply involved with the casting, commissioning the music, providing text for an accompanying booklet, approving a poster and agreeing on the design for a crown, the symbol of the series. In this we were given unstinting support by Jean Bower, Eva Skorski and Jeni Ktori. We were a small team but we all committed to the concept and wanted to assemble the finest casts we could (within budget limits of course).  Looking back now over 35 years, we were privileged to have worked with so many of the leading actors of the day. 

I was particularly pleased that Peggy Ashcroft agreed to play Queen Margaret, a role she had created in the RSC’s legendary Wars of the Roses in which I had been involved as an assistant director and actor.  I had never forgotten her performance and hoped she might agree, fourteen years later, to recreate the role.  She did and now we can hear her again especially in the harrowing scene where she taunts the Duke of York with a napkin soaked with his son’s blood.

Vivat Rex made considerable demands on the technical team assigned to the series.  They went on various trips to record among other things charging horses, battle sequences, church bells etc and in the studio they used their skill and imagination to create all manner of effects from a red hot poker to countless decapitations (a cabbage, a knife and a cup of water, for the spurting blood).  Even today some of these effects still retain their gruesome impact.

The other main ingredient in the Vivat Rex mix was the music and here Christopher Whelen really came up trumps creating a truly magnificent score with its superb opening call across the centuries and its theme for each monarch. 

Writing about and recording some interviews for this repeat of Vivat Rex has revived so many memories for me.  I especially want to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, Gerry Jones, who co-directed the series and was outstanding throughout.  Vivat Rex occupied a year of our lives and I think it remains the biggest series ever broadcast by radio drama.  Looking back I am also amazed that, during this time, my wife gave birth to our fourth child! 


Martin Jenkins is Producer and Director of Vivat Rex

Find out more about Vivat Rex on Radio 4Extra

Shakespeare Live Blog with Neil MacGregor

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Katherine Campbell 13:00, Monday, 23 April 2012

To celebrate the Radio 4 series Shakespeare's Restless World (and what many think would have been his 448th birthday), we hosted a live blog with Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum and presenter of the programmes, and Barrie Cook, radio series curator at the British Museum, on 23 April 2012.

You can replay the event by selecting the arrow in the screen below. Thank you to everyone who took part.

Swallows and Amazons

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Clarissa Maycock 10:30, Monday, 23 April 2012

Editor's Note: Crawford Logan has voiced a new 5-part recording of Swallows and Amazons for BBC Radio 4 Extra. You can hear the series during the 4 O'Clock Show from 23rd-27th April -CM

Crawford Logan

Crawford Logan reads Swallows and Amazons for BBC Radio 4 Extra

When I was asked to read this, I sought out a rather battered copy of the book with my name, in my mother's handwriting, and the date 'August 21st, 1959'.

Look at the comments for 'Swallows and Amazons' on Amazon(!), and you'll find very polarised opinions, almost all either five stars or one. For the fives it's a vivid childhood memory with characters they loved, a picture of a world which has disappeared, if indeed it ever really existed atall. But for the ones, Swallows and Amazons is an easy target for every modern brickbat--it's old-fashioned, dull, middle-class, sexist (Susan does all the cooking), slow and in serious need of editing. Worst of all: "nothing happens".

Much of this may be justified, but like most literature it's a prisoner of its time, and I wanted to read on and on to watch the children develop on a small confined canvas those characteristics they would take with them into the adult world--Susan the practical, Titty the dreamer, John seriously aware of his responsibilities as eldest, and Roger the plucky determined last man.

The book describes, and encourages with practical advice, an independence for children sadly unthinkable today. But what I loved in re-reading it and making these recordings is the writer's gentle humanity and total lack of cynicism. No-one is beyond redemption--even the bungling thieves are given a second chance--and when Captain Flint hastens to apologise to John for falsely accusing him, John comes to understand the gift of forgiveness .

And which of us would not echo, after some golden day, Roger's words: "I wish it wasn't over."

Crawford Logan

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In Our Time: Neoplatonism

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 16:17, Friday, 20 April 2012

Editor's note: This week Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. As always the programmes are available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD



As I sit here phoning this through, London's skies are full of thunder. It's quite magnificent. Not all that many years ago - say a couple of thousand, or in some places a couple of hundred, or in other places a couple of generations - this thunder would have been explained in what are now thought of as unsustainable terms. The anger of gods. The anger with each other of gods. Gods playing bowls. And so on.

Since then we have learned quite a lot about thunder, but yet again I wonder whether dismissing the - as it turns out - inaccurate versions of the past does us any good. The really interesting thing is not that they thought that gods were angry with each other, but that they sought an explanation. It's the seeking of explanations that count and not the explanation itself.

If we think that in five thousand years' time the explanations that we have of the universe will obtain precisely as they are today, then history suggests we're not only arrogant and conceited but silly.

Neoplatonism held sway in Europe as a system of thought for about twelve to fourteen hundred years, which is far longer than modern science has survived so far. What does that add up to? We shall see. Or rather, we won't, but our descendants - should they survive Martin Rees's ominous apprehensions about the history of survival in this century - will live to discover another tale.

Enough of that. This philosophy comes on after a rather too good lunch which followed getting soaked nearly to the skin, when I ambled out on a bit of a walk round London after going to see a rough cut and thinking a pleasant thing to do would be to walk down Regent Street, only to be cascaded upon mightily. The gods pouring buckets of water down on us, just for fun, because they must have known that BBC weather forecasts were telling us that we were in a time of severe drought.

A few highlights from the conversation after the programme. A couple of the contributors were, of course, disappointed that we had not got to talk about the contribution of Neoplatonism to the philosophy of the unconscious. Another guest told the story of how Plotinus had been taken to see his guardian spirit who turned out to be a god, but before he had time to relish this great honour one of his assistants strangled a chicken and the god disappeared.

Then there were the Christians whom the great disciple, Porphyry, of Plotinus called "a confused and vicious sect". He also called them atheists because they believed in one God and not in many gods. Peter Adamson pointed out that they were thought of at the time rather as some people think of fundamentalist, radical Islamists now, i.e. anything could be done to them because they were so disruptive and terrible.

However, the Neoplatonists had got hold of them and the Christians had absorbed Neoplatonism to such a degree that when Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor, tried to hold on to his paganism, it just didn't work. Neoplatonism had done its work and Christianity emerged no longer "a confused and vicious sect" but an intellectually respectable and fierce force to be reckoned with, so much so that eventually it was taken over as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Sorry about this rather confused message, but I want to get back to listen to the thunder.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

PS: Stop press! Angie Hobbs, who has been on In Our Time more than any other contributor, has just been appointed Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield and will take up the post in September. Congratulations all round. Lucky Sheffield.

Sex, Violence and Shakespeare Remixed on Radio 4 Extra

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Paula McDonnell 11:07, Thursday, 19 April 2012

Editor's Note: Nick St George is the producer of Shakespeare: Thereby Hangs A Tale with Simon Russell Beale. You can hear the programme on BBC Radio 4 Extra on 21 April at 9am and 7pm. PMcD.

Simon Russell Beale can be hear in Shakespeare: Thereby Hangs A Tale on Radio 4 Extra.

While the Olympics are inevitably grabbing the headlines, you may have noticed that 2012 is also the UK's Year of Shakespeare. The World Shakespeare Festival starts on 23rd April (which may or may not be Will's birthday, but is the date of his death) and runs until November. His plays will be staged all over the country, with the Globe in London hosting a number of companies from across the world each putting their own spin on the Swan of Avon's output. And the BBC is joining in this Bardfest with Shakespeare Unlocked on radio, TV and on-line

So how could Radio 4 Extra - the digital home of archive comedy and drama - contribute to this celebration? Rather than simply re-run productions of his plays, we decided to take a slightly sideways look at the subject and compile a selection of programmes that are primarily about and inspired by him.

So, in true Shakespearian style, we can offer you Comedy (Desmond Olivier Dingle, John Wells' Macbeth), Tragedy (Shakespeare Stories - Romeo & Juliet) and History (Great Lives). Plus there's Lenny Henry in pursuit of the glover's son from Stratford (Lenny and Will), a play by Robert Nye that examines the riddle of why William left his wife his "second best bed" (Mrs Shakespeare) - and a selection of sonnets read by Ian McKellen and "remixed" with music and effects. Our host for this 3 hour extravaganza is the Shakespearean actor and BBC4 presenter, Simon Russell Beale.

Lenny Henry suffered from Acute Shakespeareophobia while at school, having been made to read it round the class without any sense that what he was studying was actually drama. It was only when he saw the Zeffirelli film of 'Romeo and Juliet' that Lenny admits he finally "got" Shakespeare. Since then he's played Othello and was recently on London's South Bank in 'The Comedy of Errors'; from New Faces to the National...

He cannot have been alone in his early lack of enthusiasm. Uninspiring teaching must have turned thousands off Will's work over the years. And, let's be honest, the language is difficult and the contemporary references can be hard to fathom. But those who have been fortunate enough to "get" him know that he's well worth the effort. He's not perfect; some of the plays creak in places and the sonnets tend to be repetitive, but overall, the man's extraordinary humanity, use of language and stagecraft merit the label of 'genius', and are why we are still moved by his plays almost 400 years after his death.

Hopefully Shakespeare: Thereby Hangs A Tale will go some way to pushing open the door to the man and his work for those who have not previously been handed the keys. There will be sex (Mr and Mrs Shakespeare ignite their conjugal passion in Robert Nye's raunchy drama), there will be violence (in Wells' gallop through the Scottish Play), there will be laughter (Desmond Olivier Dingle's typically incompetent attempts to illuminate the Bard) and there will be tears (the deaths of the star-cross'd lovers as related in one of the original poems that inspired Romeo and Juliet). Doesn't sound much like Old School Shakespeare to me...

Nick St George is the Producer of Thereby Hangs a Tale

Bookclub free tickets: David Baddiel on the novelist Elizabeth Taylor

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy 14:25, Wednesday, 18 April 2012

David Baddiel

Radio 4's Bookclub is celebrating the centenary of the novelist Elizabeth Taylor. When an author is no longer with us, the programme invites a writer who's a fan to come and champion the chosen book. Previous programmes in this vein include Andrew Davies on Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Michèle Roberts on Alain-Fournier's French classic Le Grand Meaulnes and Sally Beauman on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

Bookclub have invited comedian and novelist David Baddiel to be their guide to her penultimate novel, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont - one of her best known thanks to a 2005 film adaption starring Joan Plowright.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is the story of the widow Laura Palfrey, lonely in her old age, who goes to live in a private hotel as she can no longer look after herself. She meets the young writer Ludovic Meyer and they strike up an unusual friendship.

David Baddiel has said of Elizabeth Taylor that she provides the "missing link between Jane Austen and John Updike: the canvas of both is always a small provincial section of the middle-classes, their narratives explore love and marriage and its breakdown with that canvas".

The Bookclub recording with David Baddiel is on Monday 28 May at 5.40pm at BBC Bush House in London. It's free to attend. If you'd like to come along fill out this form and we'll contact you.

Paul Murphy is senior producer social media, BBC A&Mi.

Playing At War

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Paula McDonnell 11:03, Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Editor’s note: Philip Palmer is the writer of the new Radio 4 drama series, Red and Blue.   Red and Blue, a journey into the world of the wargame, is being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 over three consecutive Wednesdays; 11, 18 and 25 April. PMcD.

When I was a lad, we used to play cowboys and Indians down by the river, next to the old railway sleepers.  Imaginary guns, non-existent horses, Welsh kids in jeans and t-shirts pretending to be Apache warriors or gun-toting Texans.  Make believe.

Grown ups play games too.  I write science fiction novels when I’m not writing for Radio 4, and at various conventions I’ve attended I’ve seen people dressed as Klingons, or as steampunk characters, or  taking part in complex and multi-venue LARPS (Live Action Role Plays).   It’s daft, and I’ve never really participated in any of these games. But I love it.  More make believe.

Soldiers play games too.  They call them wargames; and this is the subject of my current Radio 4 series Red and Blue.    But these games are played with serious intent.  This is how armies rehearse for war; in elaborate make-believe combat exercises. 

The idea for this series simmered for quite a while before reaching production.  I’d worked before with producer Toby Swift on a drama about military interrogation – Breaking Point – and another piece about industrial negligence, called Blame.  And Toby and I fancied the idea of doing another big subject; the kind of piece that would work uniquely well on radio.  And so we hit upon the idea of military wargames; wars fought with computer simulations, and imaginary troops; and, most importantly for our medium, wars fought with words.

That of course is the unique strength of radio; it’s all about words.  Or the absence thereof. 
The three plays feature one common character  - former Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Shoreham, played by Tim Woodward.  In the first episode Bradley is the author or ‘Exercise Writer’ of a large scale computer simulated wargame involving thousands of participants, in Britain, Europe and America.  The British soldiers are mainly based in one of several aircraft hangars, talking by radio to their counterparts in other military bases, whilst following the progress of the war on their  computer screens.   Some of these soldiers however – the ones at the 'sharp end'  - sit in tents in muddy fields as virtual missiles fly through the air towards them, and virtual soldiers die. 

One of the joys of this episode was being reunited with Lloyd Hutchison, who was in my (very free) adaptation of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, with among others Simon Russell Beale and David Oyelowo, also directed by Toby.  In Red and Blue Lloyd plays a civil servant who suddenly finds himself playing the role of an imprisoned terrorist leader with blood on his hands; and who takes to the role with relish.

The second episode, directed by Sasha Yevtushenko,  features a field exercise – a wargame in which real troops with real guns act out a mock mission in the field -  usually though not always with blank ammunition.  This episode features a troop of Special Forces soldiers on an exercise in the Arizona desert, played by Warren Brown, Ifan Meredith, Don Gilet, Paddy Wallace and Liz White.   These troops are hiding from the ‘Trojan’ army, who are a fearsome fighting machine. And every now and then a plane or a helicopter flies overhead, and the soldiers dive for cover; and so did I, such is the calibre of Radio 4 sound effects...

The cast of Red and Blue on BBC Radio 4 (L to R): Warren Brown, Liz White, Paddy Wallace, Don Gilet, Ifan Meredith (18 April 2012)
The final episode, Terror, is pretty much a two hander, featuring Tim Woodward and Bill Paterson having lunch.  Yup, that’s the plot; ‘two blokes have lunch’. You can be sure that’s not how I pitched it….!  And in this episode,  I explore to the full the terror of extrapolative war.

Wargames in real life can be dangerous things.   In 1983, a war game called Operation Able Archer very nearly precipitated World War III, when the  West, including the US and British governments, staged a full scale wargame in Germany, using real troops.  The Russians were casually told this was just an exercise; but, being paranoid, they suspected this was a devious ruse as a build up to real war.  And when Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl both participated in the nuclear drill, the Russians decided war was imminent, and plans for a pre-emptive nuclear strike were set in motion.

Remember 1983? Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sang Islands in the Stream on the radio; and meanwhile, the world nearly ended.

Luckily for all of us, the wargame participants packed up and went home before the Russian's itchy trigger fingers twitched; but it's a chilling example of the fine line between fiction and reality.

Wargames are, in essence, a form of science fiction; they are extrapolations based on fact but with invented premises and fictional scenarios.  Wars are fought between Red and Blue, or between nations with fictitious names like Troy or Atlantis, not between real nations.  And, most fascinatingly from my point of view, wargames generally will have an author. This will be a senior soldier acting in a consultancy capacity who will be the Exercise Writer. His or her job is to invent countries, give them names and geographies, and set them at war. 

And sometimes,  the computer simulation and the 'real life' field exercise will merge; so the computer screen at HQ will show images of an attacking army of tanks and armoured personnel carriers as filmed from an aerial drone; some of which are real, and some of which are imaginary.  Real tanks trundle beside virtual tanks; it's exactly the same as CGI in the movies, when a few real ships at sea become an attacking armada of thousands of vessels. 

But these games are not always just games; sometimes people die. Because whenever you have real trucks and real tanks, accidents will happen.  And if live rounds are used, there's always a chance someone will get hit.   The most catastrophic wargame in recent military history came in 1943, in Operation Tiger - a full scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion, which took place in Devon in conditions of deepest secrecy. An entire town was evacuated, and at the insistence of the Americans, real shells were fired on to the Devon beaches, to toughen the men up for combat conditions.  However, due to a catastrophic mistake, more than 300 British soldiers were killed.  The deaths were hushed up; the invasion of Normandy went ahead. And the rest, as we know, is history.

As my main character Bradley Shoreham says, we live in the age of the wargame.  Oil companies wargame what will happen if there's a major oil spill; companies will wargame what will happen if they lose their market share.  And every time our troops go to war, someone somewhere will have wargamed it. 

Indeed most governments will have a wargame calendar, based on scenarios ranging from terrorist attack to a nuclear power plant explosion.  And so, as we go about our everyday lives,  there are people out there planning  possible disasters of the most stomach-churning horror...

 Philip Palmer is the writer of the new Radio 4 drama series, Red and Blue



Shakespeare's Restless World - starting Monday 16 April

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Katherine Campbell 15:56, Friday, 13 April 2012

Detail from the shield of Henry V

Detail from Henry V's shield. Copyright: The Dean and Chapter of Westminster 2012


In this year of celebration for all things Shakespeare, Radio 4 and the British Museum bring you Shakespeare's Restless World - a series of 20 programmes that begins on Monday 16 April. This series and website have been produced by the same team that brought you A History of the World in 100 Objects, and is a partnership between Radio 4 programme makers, the British Museum curatorial team and interactive teams from both organisations.

To quote from Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum and presenter of the series, the programmes will try "to get inside the heads of the people who lived here over 400 years ago ... (to) imagine what the world looked like to the groundlings inside the Globe theatre around 1600". Read more on the British Museum blog.

Through a range of objects from the British Museum and collections across the UK, the programmes will explore the turbulent times that Shakespeare inhabited, where violence, persecution, disease and unrest were all familiar to our Elizabethan theatre goer. We'll hear from experts and historians, and how the themes of the time weave through Shakespeare's work.

The programmes will be available to download - sign up for these now. Explore the objects that illustrate these themes - play with the deep zoom and get in really close. Admire the intricacy of a musical clock or the tracks of Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe on a commemoration medal.

There's also a collection of programmes from Radio 4's growing archive that illustrate the themes of the series. Find these on each of the programme pages - or gathered together on the Discovery page. Listen in to Empire from This Sceptred Isle, rediscover Voices of the Powerless - Melvyn Bragg's study of ordinary people, originally broadcast in 2002, or specially selected episodes from In Our Time's stunning archive. A theme such as Shakespeare's world can inspire a listener in many ways and these seasons give us a chance to shine a light on programmes from our archive that can lead to a richer understanding of the ideas, places and people from that time. Happy exploring.

The site is optimised for mobiles and tablets - if you're reading this on your phone, go here each day to listen to and download the programmes, watch the videos and explore the objects.

And if you have a burning question for Neil MacGregor, we'll be running a live blog on April 23rd, just after the programme at 2pm. Neil MacGregor and Barrie Cook, Curator at the British Museum, will be online to answer your questions. Keep an eye out for information on how to take part - looking forward to seeing you there.

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In Our Time: Quakers and Early Geology

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 13:00, Friday, 13 April 2012

Editor's note: This week Melvyn Bragg refers to the two latest episodes of In Our Time about George Fox and the Quakers and Early Geology. As always the programmes are available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD


Sorry I didn't manage a newsletter last week. This is a double issue. But it won't be twice as long - I promised Ingrid! Last week I hared off from the programme to Heathrow to jump in a plane to go to New York to interview Nick Hytner about One Man, Two Guvnors and its transfer to New York, and Baryshnikov about the male dancer, both for a new series of The South Bank Show we are about to do, and in the process I forgot the newsletter.

The next day was Good Friday when even Ingrid would not be in the office. Therefore pointless to do a newsletter. I wanted to talk about the Quakers I had known back in Wigton in the 1950s. There was a Quaker school on the edge of the town, said to be the first co-educational boarding school in the country. The Quakers came into the town itself to a fine, plain, brownstone meeting house which later became the town library, run by Quaker ladies who I remember as almost beatific in their kindness and assistance. I also remember helping them to put up the boards in front of the books so that the spines of the volumes did not interfere with the calmness of the Quaker meetings, and it was panelled all round the room.

I thought of the Quakers then as pacific, kindly and altogether exemplary in their quietism and even in their meetings (rather than services). It seemed to me (a few years later when I learned about the Celtic monks) to hark back to a purer and more inspirational notion of Christianity, which itself harks back to what we know of the Apostles through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

We played them at rugby which was a bit unfair because we had a rather larger school than they had. And they have stayed with me as a presence. I wasn't surprised when Tom Morris, the producer of In Our Time, told me that there had been a far greater than usual response to this programme on the audience log etc, and also observed that a friend of his had said that the Quakers were the only people that every faction in Northern Ireland, at the worst times, felt they could talk to.

I like the idea of Pennsylvania. I like the idea of turning to chocolate in order to give people an alternative to drink. I also like the idea that perhaps they didn't understand that to have a glass of red wine AND dark chocolate is irresistible.


In Our Time: Early Geology


This week: geology, which takes me again back to Cumberland and to a man called Otley. He lived upstairs in one of the little half houses in Keswick and was a geologist of great note. He was part of that cluster of talent in the Lake District around and about the time of Wordsworth and Coleridge and Southey and Thomas de Quincey.

Once geology had got underway with the Germans discovering that when you went down deep you found a different view of the Earth than that thought of in the abstract by Aristotle, then the British Isles came into their own and undoubtedly, in the 19th and early 20th century, led the way. This is the most geologically varied area of land in the world, and mostly we celebrate that on the surface by appreciating different landscapes from the Highlands to the Chilterns, from Cornwall to the flatlands of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Also in Cumberland you had the great presence of John Ruskin - perhaps the greatest dominating intellectual of the second half of the 19th century in Western Europe - and he spoke of geology as hearing the clink-clink of the hammers of the geologists, which were chipping away and chipping away at his faith.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg


Feedback: Controller of BBC Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 10:02, Friday, 13 April 2012

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4 
The Controller of Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams, is a disarming figure.

She arrives at the studio for our Feedback interview full of earnest enquiries about everyone’s health, ignoring the fact that she herself has just risen from the sickbed. She kisses her interviewer on both cheeks and appears to be genuinely interested in what he thought about some new programmes.

She has the air of a kindly teacher, who expects high standards and makes you feel you can achieve them. However one is left in no doubt that if one doesn’t come up to the mark one will be dropped, smartish.  And she has dropped and is dropping some well loved programmes.

A number of 1.30pm shows such as On the Ropes have already been cancelled to make way for an extended World At One.  Now she has turned her attention to Saturday Live which is gaining a co-presenter, Sian Williams, and an additional 30 minutes, at the expense of a free-standing Excess Baggage. Some of the elements of it will be subsumed into Richard Coles’ extended programme. What will happen to the much admired John McCarthy?

Ms Williams has quickly made her mark on the network, significantly increasing the amount of science programming and foreign news.  She is undoubtedly a serious person, and perhaps her upbringing in apartheid South Africa, occasionally evident in her accent, makes her well aware of the importance of an independent public service news provider.

So far things seem to be going well, with audiences continuing to increase for both Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, for which she is also responsible.

However we at Feedback have detected a growing chorus of discontent from those who think there is far too much news on her network, and those who think that the new science programmes don’t have enough science in them. Of course she has less money to spend than her predecessors.

Although Radio 4 has been treated more generously than the other national networks there are fewer journalist to make her extended news programmes and less cash in real terms overall.

So earlier this week I stiffened my sinews and put some of these issues to the immensely courteous Controller, who of course pays my wages.

I hope you feel that I bit, or at least nipped, the hand that feeds me.

Here is an edited version of our interview.

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Feedback is now off the air until 1 June, by which time a new Director General may have been appointed.   The ad for his job says that the successful candidate “will be able to admit quickly when in the wrong”.    Why don’t you help me find out?

Please keep emailing, writing and phoning. We read and listen to everything, even when we are off air.


Roger Bolton


Roger Bolton presents Feedback

Feedback: Comedy on Radio 4

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 13:10, Friday, 6 April 2012

Roger Bolton

I hope he won't be embarrassed if we meet in Berkhamsted High St, my local town, but I love Ed Reardon, so I was delighted to meet his co-writer this week, Andrew Nickolds.

We were squeezed into one of those small BBC studios designed for down the line interviews, along with the Commissioning Editor for Radio 4's comedies Caroline Raphael.

As there were only 3 chairs my producer stood, which is good for her soul if not her back. Down the line in Cardiff was the writer and performer, Katherine Jakeways, she of North by Northamptonshire.

We were there to discuss comedy and the Radio 4 audience, following two weeks of rather heated debate about the merits of Count Arthur Strong. Some listeners seemed to be prepared to die for him, while others wished to slit his throat. So I began by asking Ms Raphael why she had commissioned the Count in the first place? This is what followed.

Also this week I talked to BBC Trustee Richard Eyre about a review the Trust is conducting into BBC complaints procedures. Many listeners find the present systems confusing and long winded. The consultation ends in two weeks time so here is a link to the Trust website where you can find details of how to take part.

Finally, next week on Feedback I will be talking to the Controller of Radio 4 Gwyneth Williams. I will certainly ask her about the lunchtime schedule changes she put in place which involved extending the World at One by 15 minutes and moving or cancelling the half hour programmes which had started at 1:30pm.

I'll also ask her about her proposed changes to Saturday mornings.

And the rest is up to you. I am your servant, please use me. Just email

Happy Easter

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4

The People's Passion: Sasha Johnson Manning

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Paula McDonnell 10:00, Thursday, 5 April 2012

Editor's note: Sasha Johnson Manning composed The People's Passion Easter Anthem for BBC Radio 4. Here, she talks about the inspiration behind the project. You can hear

The People's Passion: Afternoon Dramas, Mon 2 April - Fri 6 April, 2.15pm (15mins);  The People's Passion: Cathedral Conversations, Mon 2 April - Fri 6 April, 1.45pm (15mins) and Sunday Worship, Sunday 8 April, 8.10am (50 mins). Or downloads are available of all the programmes.

Sasha Johnson Manning composed The People's Passion Easter Anthem for BBC Radio 4.


When I began work on this project, I had little idea of the truly wonderful experiences, both humbling and happy, in store for me. My part in The People’s Passion project was to compose the music. I was to set some new words for the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei of the Mass, an Easter anthem and incidental music for five plays to be broadcast one on each day of Holy Week.

I was excited, though at the same time, a little nervous as I had begun to sense that this was going to be an unusual and big project, but I had no idea just exactly HOW far-reaching this project would be! Strange now, to think at this moment, there are choirs in Kenya, America, Switzerland preparing this music for their Easter services and concerts, alongside 140 or so choirs all over Britain. Choirs from schools, churches, cathedrals and choral societies, community choirs and choirs specially come together for this event. What a thought! Perhaps it was just as well I didn’t know this when I began to write the music.

I received Michael Symmons Roberts’ words one morning in October. I was relieved and thrilled. They were inspirational. Here were words that were fresh and new with boundless energy. Here were words that I felt I could sing from my own heart. This wasn’t  lofty language from a bygone era, these were words for today with colour and joy and life. A gift to set. I began work immediately, most probably still in my pyjamas!

Another inspirational experience came when I got the chance to read the first 2 plays of the Holy Week sequence by Nick Warburton.  I was transported into a cathedral and came across people who either worked there or had associations with the place, and as thieir stories began to unfold, I was hooked. I wanted to be in that busy yet silent place. I found myself genuinely caring for these ordinary yet extrordinary ‘you and me’ people. Though it wasn’t only their story, it was everyone’s story. The People’s Passion – the people’s suffering, the people’s yearning for right and inner peace.

It was profound in its simplicity. I learned a lot about people, and me, in those scripts.

So, the music having been written, was now downloadable and freely available to all. This was, for me, a strange feeling. ‘Good luck’,  I thought.

The first time I heard my pieces sung was when the excellent Manchester Chamber Choir came to record them for the website. It’s always a scarily exciting moment to hear your music being given, for the first time, the essential dimension of flesh and bone and breath. 

After being asked by Aled Jones in my interview with him on his Radio 3 programme, The Choir, if I would be willing to attend choirs’ rehearsals if they requested it, I was contacted by some. I loved meeting all these marvellous people. Singers of all ages. The sessions I took part in were full of happiness and humour with an underlying determination to strive for perfection.

I am really looking forward to Easter morning. First stop will be Manchester Cathedral for the Radio 4 Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am, then home to my own church for our own service. Some of the congregation have been learning the music and will be joining my choir to perform the pieces which is brilliant.

There’s one thing that I really long for out of all this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone, somewhere had joined a choir, and finding their voice, discovered a love of singing. There’s nothing quite like singing in a choir. You give something of yourself, you try to give your best and what you give becomes part of a whole, part of something created and shared together in that moment with others giving of their best too. A choir soon becomes a family, and a choir family is to be treasured.

Sasha Johnson Manning composed The People's Passion Easter Anthem for BBC Radio 4.

Easter Diaries on Radio 4 Extra

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Paul Arnold Paul Arnold 15:00, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Editor's note: The Easter Diaries are short dramatisations of the Easter story that can be heard on Radio 4 Extra this week. The producer, Paul Arnold talks about his idea for the series. Hear the programmes everyday for a week from Tuesday 3 April 2012.

Tim McInnerny and producer, Paul Arnold recording the Easter Diaries on Radio 4 Extra.


Easter may be a movable feast, but it turns up pretty predictably each Spring. So there was no particular reason that Radio 4 Extra’s Easter Diaries had to be a late commission - other than the fact that the idea only struck me in February.

With projects like the Poetry Pod and Chain Gang, our interactive drama, Radio 4 extra (and Radio 7 as was) has been a great place for me to explore what can be done in just two or three minutes, in short-form items that pop up through the day on a pre-recorded network.

There are plenty of seasonal plays we have scheduled in the past for Easter, but I thought it might be nice to produce something of our own, and re-tell the Passion story in real time across the week, in a series of diary entries. We’re working much closer with Radio 4 nowadays, so when I heard about The People’s Passion on Radio 4, it seemed a good idea to tie it in with that. That was penned by the brilliant Nick Warburton, who clearly knew the Gospel stories from his earlier plays called ‘Witness’. So I was thrilled when Nick took up the challenge of telling the Easter story in such a tight time frame.

Nick’s choice of characters to share their thoughts is interesting. As well as those you might have expected to hear from, there are some less obvious choices, and a particularly female perspective towards the end of the week. We worked quite hard at getting the timing of the broadcasts and perspective right – time and time again we are reminded that these people didn’t have our perspective on events. We sense their confusion, fear and pain.

Assembling a cast at the last minute can be tricky, but with pieces that are mostly just one voice, we could be flexible about recording times. We were so pleased Lesley Sharp, currently on screen on ITV in Scott and Bailey, could join the cast as Mary, and Tim McInnerny gave us a wonderful Herod Antipas. But those are not the only fine performances by any means.

We hope some listeners will be joining in the ‘real-time’ experience and tuning in across the week. but there is always iPlayer, and our Easter Sunday omnibus for those who can’t. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Paul Arnold is the producer of Easter Diaries on Radio 4 Extra.

Listen to the Easter Diaries on Radio 4 Extra


Just a Minute in India

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Clarissa Maycock 14:34, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Editor's note: To celebrate Just A Minute's 45th anniversary, the team travelled to India. Tilusha Ghelani, a producer on Just A Minute, recalls the trip -CM.

As a producer of Just a Minute I went with Nicholas Parsons to India to make a documentary about a game played in student tournaments there that resembles Just a Minute. While we were there, we also recorded two regular episodes of Just a Minute with regulars Paul Merton and Marcus Brigstocke and Indian comedy stars Cyrus Broacha and Anuvab pal.

An Indian JAM appears to be based on Radio 4's long running and much loved comedy show - but with quite a few differences.

First the similarities:

  1. A JAM involves speaking for a minute. Unless they are playing a HAM - which is half a minute. The elimination rounds are often HAMs as it takes so long to get through a subject.
  2. There is a host. But he is called a moderator or a 'JAM Master'. We asked some students if there had ever been a JAM mistress. But they got distracted by the fact that the term 'JAM mistress' sounds somehow filthy and so we all fell about laughing. There are female players but it does seem to be male dominated.
  3. The purpose is to have fun. A 'JAM' is one of many literary games students take part in, but a JAM seems to be the most informal and a place where you can say anything. So there's a lot of suggestive, innuendo laced humour.

The key differences are:

  1. The number of players tend to be 6 or 8 but can be as many as 12
  2. The subjects tend to be fully formed idioms or jokes, rather than a topic. That's because they aren't really important. They're there to get a laugh and jog some kind of speech.
  3. The rules. A hesitation is called a speech defect and repetition called either 'repetition' or 'standard format', but we never heard anyone challenged for deviation and there were a lot of other extra rules. Most of them are linked to good grammar so speakers get interrupted a lot. Some we didn't include in the documentary such as 'dramatisation' i.e. changing the pitch of your voice suddenly or being dramatic. I am not sure how far Gyles Brandreth would get in an Indian JAM.
  4. The speed. Oh the speed! No one got more than a few seconds of speech out before being interrupted. Because an Indian JAM isn't really about the speaking. It is about the competitive spotting of small errors, getting one over on your fellow contestants and using it as an opportunity for humour. Because it is not an 'entertainment' show for the radio, but a student competition where you can win serious prize money, so of course contestants are quick to buzz in. At the Unmaad tournament, the prize money was the equivalent of £300 pounds and a watch worth even more.

There was some interesting stuff I couldn't include in the documentary. We couldn't include the scoring system. Mostly because it varied from JAM to JAM and partly because I am not 100% sure I fully grasped it. We couldn't include the students at St. Xavier's, who played a very witty JAM. The Mumbai traffic had made us very late and the hastily set up record plus the fact that students had shared mics meant record wasn't as clear a quality as the others. We couldn't include a couple of the naughtier subjects - one began "women are like hurricanes..." I'll let you make up your own ending.

What we came away with is that Indian JAM is not really the same game. Though it is competitive, verbose, quick-witted and all about the humour. A lot like the Indian students we met who gave us their time and hospitality for this documentary.

Tilusha Ghelani is a producer on Just A Minute

The Public Philosopher: "Committing acts of public philosophy"

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Paula McDonnell 09:18, Monday, 2 April 2012

Editors note:  Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel visits the London School of Economics for a series of public discussions in which he deconstructs contemporary ethical dilemmas. Hugh Levinson talks about working with The Public Philosopher. You can hear the programme on Radio 4 at 9am on Tuesday 3, 10 and 17 April 2012.  

Michael Sandel, Harvard political philosopher presents The Public Philosopher on Radio 4.


It’s great spending time with a rock star. Everyone’s gazing at you, or rather at your new best friend. Teenagers wait yearningly for their chance just to ask nervously for an autograph or even – OMG! - pose for a photo with their hero. It’s hormone city. It’s exciting. It’s wild. And who is the rock star? Mick Jagger? Bruce Springsteen? Or perhaps a newbie like Ed Sheeran?


Well, actually he’s er…Michael Sandel. Not a man to strap on a Telecaster or that likely to crowd surf, but a rock star all the same. A rock star of political philosophy.


We were at the London School of Economics to record the first in a series of discussions titled The Public Philosopher. We knew that Michael Sandel, who’s a professor at Harvard, had something of a following. After all, he had had a fantastic reception when he delivered a memorable series of Reith Lectures in 2009. But even in those three years, things had changed.


The first sign was when the tickets were released. The twittersphere went insane. “Anyone who doesn't apply on Tuesday is daft,” one fan tweeted. “Got a ticket for LSE Michael Sandel Lecture! #wooooo” wrote another.


There were 2,500 ticket requests in just a few hours. The application was window was hurriedly closed before things went too nutty. When we arrived at the venue, there was a long, long queue for return tickets, and the LSE was forced to open up two overflow rooms.


So why the excitement? It has a lot to do with Michael Sandel’s remarkable teaching style – or what he sometimes calls “committing acts of public philosophy.”


He starts with a current controversy and then throws it out to his audience, via a series of deceptively simple questions. “What do you mean by that? Who disagrees?  Tell us why that’s bad? Who has an answer to that question?” and his favourite: “What do you think?”


At the LSE, one question he addressed was whether universities should give preference to applicants to poorer backgrounds.


One audience member called Lucy argued that they should. So Michael Sandel posed a scenario where he was an applicant who had done well, but wasn’t admitted because of preferences given to poorer students.


“What do you say to me Lucy?” he asked.


Lucy began: “Well I think that if the other person got…”


Sandel interrupted “No, no talk to me...” And by challenging her managed to extract what he described as Lucy’s “radical thesis”.


Through this exciting, interactive style he gets to the roots of the philosophical notions we hold – often unconsciously – about notions like fairness and the public good. No wonder that the televising of his Harvard series of lectures on justice have been a massive internet hit and won him a global following. 


So that’s why he gets rock star treatment in London. But as he rather abashedly told me, that’s nothing. You should see what happens when he goes to Tokyo….


Hugh Levinson is Editor of The Public Philosopher on BBC Radio 4 


The Listening Project and the Art of Editing

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Pauline McAdam 15:00, Sunday, 1 April 2012

(Editor’s note: The Listening Project is a new partnership between BBC Radio and the British Library, aiming to capture (and archive) the nation in conversation. BBC radio producers from across the country have been gathering conversations and editing them down for broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC local and national radio stations. Here, BBC Merseyside's Pauline McAdam talks about how she goes about turning a long conversation between loved ones into a shorter piece for radio.)

The Listening Project conversations are no more or less important than any other we broadcast. But they are a little different. These are not interviews where the rules of engagement are agreed between the journalist and the interviewee. These are not inquisitive or combative or didactic duets between presenter and contributor.

These are eavesdropped moments of real life. They are small snapshots of a longer dialogue between two people who know, and may even love, each other. The curiosity, the question and answer, the ebb and flow of ordinary people talking. In fact these are extraordinary sounds. They are sounds rarely heard on the radio.

News reports, documentaries, interviews, even the weather - we’re all used to hearing life conveyed to us in ways we have come to be familiar with from our radio speakers. But the chance to listen to two people chatting, nattering, conversing, confessing: communicating. Often we only hear facsimiles of this. Crafted, creative, and even beautiful; but facsimiles nonetheless.

The first rule of editing is that you respect the essential truth of whatever it is that you’ve recorded. Whether it’s the public, a politician or the Pope, lesson one is that the message conveyed in the finished product must be the same in all the essentials as the original recording. Neater, perhaps. Shorter usually. In fact it may well be that, if we do our jobs properly, the interviewee prefers their “edited voice”, free from hesitation, repetition and so on. Thoughts may appear to flow fully formed, and free of “erms” – meaning intact.

Editing the Listening Project conversations is a rare privilege.  It takes all of our skills as producers to neaten and clarify and present the essential truth of the conversation in a way which is completely respectful of the alchemy that has been captured by our microphones.

And yes we have stringent rules and considered guidelines about this appropriate editing. But when you hear these people talk about their lives you don’t edit only with your professional conscience. I think it’s true to say you edit with your heart. How to convey in a few short moments what two people took time out of their lives to discuss with each other. A child talks to his father about fear of growing up with responsibilities. A woman reminds her grandson that romance was invented long before he was born. A daughter wrestles to catch her mother before dementia takes her away. Schoolgirls about to leave school giggle their way through their fear of freedom, and of losing each other to the wider world.

See? Ordinary and yet extraordinary.

  • Pauline McAdam is a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio Merseyside
  • You can hear conversations from the Listening Project on the website at, where you can also share your conversations with the BBC and the British Library
  • Tweet us about the Listening Project on @bbcradio4 using #listeningproject


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