Archives for May 2012

Bloomsday and cultural programming on BBC Radio 4

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Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams 10:42, Thursday, 31 May 2012

Niamh Cusack (Molly Bloom); Henry Goodman (Leopold Bloom); Andrew Scott (Stephen Dedalus) - some of the cast of Radio 4's upcoming dramatisation of Ulysses

"What did you do in the Great War Mr Joyce?" "I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?"

A defining work, a sensuous celebration of life and the everyday, Ulysses inspired Tom Stoppard in his play Travesties and continues to move anyone who discovers it. I know it will inspire Radio 4 listeners when we play the book across the schedule throughout the day on June 16th in its 90th anniversary year. The dramatisation is by Robin Brooks and features a cast of 24 led by Henry Goodman, with Andrew Scott, Niamh Cusack and Stephen Rea. It is produced by Jeremy Mortimer. And Mark Lawson will guide us through the day - from kidneys in the Today programme to sex and Molly Bloom late at night.p>

What better time than now to turn from the grand political and economic narrative to the inner life and the personal, drawn so beautifully by Joyce? Now is the time for culture and the arts to make their presence felt on Radio 4 - not only as a way of deepening the current affairs agenda (such as for instance with the Naguib Mahfouz trilogy which we ran at the time of the Arab Spring last year, or Squanderland, the drama featuring Stephanie Flanders about the Eurozone or Blasphemy And The Governor Of Punjab - a forthcoming Friday Drama) but in their own right and setting their own agenda. We are living through times of economic and political turmoil and I hope the Reith Lectures this year, soon to be presented by the eminent academic and thinker Niall Ferguson, will begin to analyse through history our institutions as a starting narrative through this uncertainty. Economists and politicians are struggling to formulate answers (and even questions) so let us turn to arts and culture.

We have rich offerings on Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra and perhaps they can give us a glimpse into the future and provide nourishment and enjoyment in times of hardship and decline. What light might artists shed on the direction of our society? What are the preoccupations of culture now? And what distractions and enjoyment are on offer? Let Radio 4's cultural heart beat more strongly than ever. What about an Artist in Residence? Let's open up our airwaves and online space to artists in all areas as a playground and make them welcome as never before. I have already found broad support for this idea from friends of Radio 4 like Marina Warner, Andrew Motion, Antony Gormley, Brian Eno and Ruth Padel; who else might like to join in?

This is our thinking so far: Melvyn Bragg will launch the year in January 2013 with a 9am series analysing culture and its role in society, looking at Matthew Arnold and his ideas about active culture and others. And we will highlight drama, writing, poetry and film in the course of the year, making the most of our prolific daily drama and reading slots, our many arts documentaries, Open Book with Mariella Frostrup, The Film Programme with Francine Stock, A Good Read with Harriett Gilbert, Bookclub with Jim Naughtie, Saturday Review with Tom Sutcliffe and our flagship daily arts programme, Front Row, with Mark Lawson, John Wilson and Kirsty Lang. Melvyn Bragg, Andy Marr, Libby Purves, Kirsty Young and many others such as Will Self, who is currently presenting A Point of View, add regular shine to our cultural coverage. We will have short films, made for Radio 4, explore character in drama in a Day Of Character, with leading writers choosing their favourite characters and updating them; we hope to follow So You Want to be a Scientist with So You Want to be an Author...

And we have other plans - for an Orwell season, a season titled Dangerous Visions - Dystopia Now featuring JG Ballard, with an introduction by John Gray and, this autumn, for a narrative history of European Detectives, presented by Mark Lawson, where we look at Europe through its favourite fictional detectives, from Montalbano to Wallander. Underpinning this novel approach to Europe, we will dramatise all ten of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck novels - little known but acknowledged by those who do know as the inspiration behind the currently popular Scandinavian thrillers and many others besides, including Ian Rankin's Rebus. You heard it first here on Radio 4 - Martin Beck, played by Steven Mackintosh, the undiscovered and unlikely, acerbic hero of European crime.

Gwyneth Williams is the Controller of BBC Radio 4. Ulysses will be broadcast on Saturday 16 June, in seven parts throughout the day. The dramas will be available to download.

Cane toads, golf ball potato crisps and the joys of listening to Clive James

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Hugh Levinson Hugh Levinson 15:27, Monday, 28 May 2012

Clive James - presenter of A Point of View

As an editor, there are some experiences that are less than happy. Like the moment when one of the BBC's in-house lawyer frowns and says that your rock-solid investigative story won't withstand assault under the libel laws. Or when you have a cracking story all set-up in Dodgistan. Only the government of Dodgistan won't give you a visa.

But there is one experience guaranteed to bring a smile. An experience I always savour. The moment when I double click on the first draft of a script from one of our contributors to A Point of View. And never more so than when the contributor is Clive James.

Clive might sometimes have given us advance warning of the general direction of what he was going to write about. Sometimes he didn't. Either way, that first reading of his scripts was like opening up a jewel box, a children's magic set, a chest of wonders.

And that began with the very first words. Consider this opening paragraph, among my favourite ever beginnings of a radio script:

"I have been registered for VAT since 1973. Great stories are often introduced by a sentence similarly factual, bald, terse. Gaul is divided into three parts. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. I have been registered for VAT since 1973." (Listen to the programme.)

Or - a close rival: "What do I know? Montaigne asked himself, and in answering that question during the course of several volumes of great essays he touched on many subjects. But he never touched on the subject of the golf-ball potato crisp." (Listen to the programme.)

Then there are the sudden saltiest of salty phrase, and the kind of wit that makes you end up with your cup of tea going up your nose - if you are unwise enough to consume Clive James while drinking a cup of tea.

In his - now celebrated - disquisition of the spread of the cane toad across Australia he observes: "The cane toads are getting bigger and smarter. Soon they'll be learning to drive. There is a school of thought, not necessarily paranoid, which holds the opinion that cane toads with human skills have already penetrated the Australian media and are even appearing as presenters of reality television shows." (Listen to the programme.)

And when considering sports: "The off-side rule, for example, was written by a Druid that the other Druids couldn't understand. After the first grand final at Stonehenge stadium, the referee was evenly distributed around the pitch." (Listen to the programme.)

More surprising perhaps were the sudden flashes of passion - for his favourite causes, such as the high arts,the rights of women and especially for liberal democracy and the courage of its defenders.

Then there were the twists and turns of the argument. Always unpredictable, always surprising, yet always in the end coherent.

In his sign-off despatch, he started by observing the madness of small children, then went on to consider the the nature of liberal democracy and the pains and joys of ageing by way of a rag doll with pockets full of chocolates.

Along the way, there were excursions to consider GK Chesterton and the discovery of penicillin before finishing with - guess what - a tribute to the courage of Aung San Suu Kyi. It sounds a bit like the work of someone with the literary equivalent of ADHD, but it makes perfect sense.

Listen, if you don't believe me.

In fact, that's what this post is about. Because for the first time ALL of Clive James's back catalogue from A Point of View is now available to download.

And there's one big benefit to that: the joy of listening to Clive's unique delivery, as he relishes every phrase. Listen and enjoy.

Just watch out for the cane toads.

FIND OUT MORE

In Our Time: Marco Polo

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 14:27, Friday, 25 May 2012

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Marco Polo. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD

Marco Polo

 

Hello

Ingrid told me that I was writing too much again. She must be obeyed. She works both for Start The Week and In Our Time and works with ultimate efficiency and patience. (I bet that was hard for you to type out, Ingrid.)

After the programme there was a lot of talk about Kublai Khan. He was thought of as being the greatest Khan. He was compared with Alexander the Great who, of course, had gone into the East but not with goods, with an army, and dropped only when he had no more worlds to conquer. We're told that there is a Muslim Alexander, a Persian Alexander, an Alexander for all seasons, just as there was a Great Khan for all seasons.

Frances Wood is beguiled by Matthew Paris, who seems to have lived in St Albans all his life and yet reached out right across to the edge of Asia with his information. He knew all the stuff about the Khan and he marvels at how knowledge travelled in those early, so-called rather primitive, medieval days.

The most sensational discovery for me was that the reason why the Mongols stopped at the gates of Vienna was not to do with any superior force, but was because the Great Khan died, and they all turned to go back across the plains and the steppes to be there at his funeral and to help choose his successor. So, we are not Mongol because of the death of the Great Khan.

The Bodleian text of Marco Polo is highly recommended by everyone, especially the illustrations.

London has hit a heat wave and, Murphy's Law, I was so hedged in by work on the imminent renaissance of The South Bank Show and a serious argument with - well, let's leave it at that. Not an individual but ...

So it's been pounding pavements, hitting phones, texting, emailing, and trying to get numbers and addresses and so on. But no bad life at all. Cathy Haslam, with whom I set up a small company to continue to make the television programmes I wanted to make, and I celebrated an anniversary with a quick lunch. But now an evening of relief: off to Michael Frayn's publication party in a garden.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

The Film Programme at Cannes

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Francine Stock Francine Stock 11:00, Thursday, 24 May 2012

Editor's note: The Film Programme is broadcast at 4pm this Thursday 24th May. The programme this week comes from the Cannes Film Festival. -CM

Francine Stock in Cannes

For all its rarified reputation, the Cannes festival is for the large part a trade fair with some top-notch entertainment attached. For the serious filmgoer (aching knees and back from so much sitting, dusty shadows beneath the eyes) there's the opportunity to catch a wide range of international films and talk to filmmakers. Those in town to do deals are wild-eyed with caffeine, riding a carousel of micro-meetings and viewings, muttering into mobile headsets. Then there's the celebrity press pack who lurch and roar at the first hint of the imminent transit across a corridor of say, Brad Pitt. And the cohorts of impossibly glamorous young women stalking the public spaces just to catch someone's eye. They do, inevitably, but not usually the right someone.

The Red Carpet itself is a bit of theatre left over from an age when arc-lights swept the sky as diamond clad deities unfurled slowly from Lagonda or Rolls-Royce. The Red Carpet needs that contrast with the dark sky and the sight of people in off-the-shoulder gowns at two-thirty on a rainy afternoon whilst the audience is in sensible showerproofs seems a disjuncture too far.

So that business apart - it was hard not to be charmed by the opening film (and I didn't put up much of a fight) Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is a colour-coded elegy for the kind of 1965 family holiday where boredom became a form of transcendental meditation. Or Ken Loach's engaging The Angel's Share - part realist tragedy, part 1950s heist caper - which was greeted here with the wondering admiration that the French have felt for Loach since he first came here in the 1960s. They marvel at the way his films are accessible, whilst conveying a distinct social commentary. In Britain we take this for granted; it's what he does.

The film that in the first week knocked the festival in the solar plexus was Austrian director Michael Haneke's Amour, a study of a devoted couple in their eighties facing the separation of death. The couple are played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, actors much loved as stars from the height of French cinema of the late 1950s and 60s. Trintignant was the lead in Un Homme et Une Femme (1966), for example, whilst Riva was The Woman in what for me is one of the greatest films of all time, Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Cinema audiences have over the years watched these two grow old - something which must contribute to the intimacy and tenderness of Haneke's drama. At 89, Resnais himself was in Cannes with a new film.

Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road divided critics, some believing it a decent stab at what might be an impossible adaptation of the zeitgeist road movie, while others finding the famous trio onscreen rather dull. Andrew Dominik's big bruising American gangster picture, Killing Them Softly, with Brad Pitt as a hitman, was heavy on Scorsese homage, using crime as metaphor for the pathology of the American economic system, but it gave Pitt one hell of a closing speech.

For all Cannes is considered highbrow, many of the films on show are remarkably accessible. And 'not-in-the-English-language' does not always indicate profundity - In Another Country, a South Korean film in competition for the top prize, the Palme d'Or, with Isabelle Huppert playing three characters, was delightfully daft but little more. You certainly don't need a doctorate in film studies to appreciate the films of two of our guests this week (although you wouldn't be disappointed if you did). Wes Anderson and Ken Loach's films will both be in cinemas within the next ten days.

Francine Stock presents The Film Programme at 4.00pm on Thursday 24th May.

The New Elizabethans

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Paula McDonnell 09:00, Monday, 21 May 2012

Editor's note: Nominations for The New Elizabethans were sent in by Radio 4 listeners and then a panel of historians decided on the final list.  Radio 4 will broadcast profiles of the New Elizabethans daily (Mon-Fri) starting on Monday 11 June at 12.45pm. Here, the Editor of the series, Andrew Smith talks about the process behind the selection.  PMcD.

 

The Queen

 

It sounds like the opening line to a joke. What do you get if you put six historians and the chief executive of the Royal Opera House in the same room, for eight hours? The answer turned out to be a lot of passionate and extremely well informed argument; and, eventually, a list of men and women who in the view of the panel have shaped and given character to the period during which our present Monarch has reigned. The New Elizabethans.

Thanks to everyone who suggested their own New Elizabethans during the public consultation - our panel had your list with them throughout their deliberations. 3,600 nominations produced 950 separate names and the great majority of the people on the list have been nominated by at least one of you - and a lot more than that in many cases - though it was always our intention to allow the panel to make additional nominations based on their own knowledge and expertise.

Our panel's list has now been published and with presenter James Naughtie, we are starting to make a short radio programme about each of the selections. They will be broadcast from June 11.

For now, we're certain to have the arguments. Who has been left out? Why is someone else in? What about this writer, that footballer, a different scientist or business leader? Has the balance been struck correctly between the earlier part of the reign and more recent times? What about the balance between men and women, or people from different parts of the country?

Our panel, locked away with only BBC coffee for sustenance, considered all of these difficulties, and many more, with rigour and with fortitude. The problems inherent in drawing up such a list were thoroughly discussed on Start the Week before our deliberations began, so they came as no surprise and the panel returned to them often during three long meetings.

We asked them to choose men and women whose actions during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on lives in these islands (though they don't necessarily have to be British) and/ or who have given the age its character for better or worse - but that still leaves plenty of room for argument and interpretation.

Some of the choices and omissions seem likely to cause comment. There's no religious leader, for example - although religion and faith are certainly themes in some of the lives that have been chosen. There isn't a military general - although there is a soldier, one who will be a new name to many of you. And what about the two pairings? John Lennon and Paul McCartney are put together for a single programme as are John Hume and David Trimble, the latter sharing New Elizabethan status as they did their Nobel Peace Prize.

Those of us working on The New Elizabethans project already know that any list of this sort is guaranteed to spark arguments. Its mere mention in any social gathering fires off a series of sharp discussions and questions. How are you deciding? Who's deciding? On what basis? Let the debate begin.

Andrew Smith is Editor of The New Elizabethans

 

Desert Island Discs now includes programmes from the Roy Plomley years

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Katherine Campbell 18:00, Friday, 18 May 2012

Margaret Lockwood records for the BBC. Her Desert Island Discs programme was made in 1951 and is the earliest download available from the latest archive launch.

 

John Calver writes about the painstaking proccess in sourcing and restoring 456 programmes and downloads from the Roy Plomley years to the Desert Island Discs site.

The new addition to the Desert Island Discs archive consists of all the complete programmes presented by the programme's devisor and presenter for 44 years, Roy Plomley. These 456 editions range from Margaret Lockwood in 1951 to Plomley's final interview with Sheila Steafel in 1985. Since January this year, a team from Loftus have been working to prepare these shows for streaming on the website and creating downloadable versions, and even in some cases, rebuilding them.

Up until 1976, as a rule the music was edited out of the majority of the programmes and only the speech was archived. In almost all these cases any references to the castaways' choices of record were also cut out and there's no indication where these choices came in the body of the interview. Lost too, in some cases, was any discussion of the castaways' choices of book and luxury.

Of the 43 full episodes we've been able to offer between 1951 and 1975, seventeen are off- air recordings made by radio enthusiasts who have left their recordings to the nation via the British Library Sound Archive. We are grateful to them and to the British Library who offered us programmes from their collection that were missing from the BBC archives.

Where the music choices are missing, we have reconstituted - as far as is possible - the original programmes by adding in extracts of the music, and as far as possible the chosen performance, we know the castaways chose. (All these details are on the relevant Castaway page of the website). However these programmes are not exactly as broadcast.

In the case of circus owner Gerry Cottle's Desert Island Discs from 1984 (source for speech - BBC) and the water colourist Edward Ardizzone from 1972 (source for speech - British Library) we rebuilt the programmes using records from the BBC gramophone library. Listeners will find that the music in these episodes, having been sourced in most cases from remastered CD versions of the original vinyl records, has better audio quality than the surrounding speech.

For Edward Ardizzone we were able to source every single correct version of the eight records. When it transpired that the version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons by The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields sent to us by the Gramophone Library was from 1975, rather than Ardizzone's choice of from 1970, we sourced the right version from our own collection. So we've paid considerable attention to getting the details right and are confident that, some 40 years on, this is as close to the original programme as possible.

For Quentin Poole, Desert Island Discs youngest-ever contributor in 1970, we were lucky to have an off-air recording sent in by Quentin himself however the audio quality needed improving. In addition, one music choice and the signature tune were missing so these were added back in and made mono to match the original.

In the case of James Mason's 1981 programme, the BBC's copy featured none of the musical choices and no reference to his luxury or book, whilst the British Library had a full off-air recording from an enthusiast but of poorer sound quality. We decided it was best to offer the listener the full programme albeit in less than perfect quality.

For most of the older programmes a certain amount of noise reduction and audio restoration was applied to remove clicks, splats, speed variations, hums and whistles to improve the listening experience, but there is still a small amount of unwanted noise in the final recording.

Looking ahead, if anyone has private copies of past Desert Island Discs in their personal archives, the BBC would be pleased to hear from them via the Contact Us form which can be found on every castaway page on the website.

In Our Time: Clausewitz and On War

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 15:15, Friday, 18 May 2012

Editor's note: In yesterday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Clausewitz and On War. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD.

Clausewitz and war

 

Hello

Not much to report from post-programme palaver this week.  Two-thirds of the guests had to push off immediately to give lectures.  The other third wanted a general chat about the reach statistics and broadcasting health of In Our Time.  Tom Morris happened to have the latest RAJAR returns in his hand and happens to carry the statistics around in an imperishable casket inside his mind, and I’m sure one satisfied professor left Broadcasting House.

Off into the streets, down Regent Street and Burlington Arcade and across Piccadilly to the barber’s.  And then down to the House of Lords via St James’s Park.

But hark!  What is that I heard in the distance?  Yes, it is the beating of a drum, it is the sounding of the bugles, it is the march of the soldiers; it is the rehearsal for Trooping the Colour.  I think that rehearsals are often much better than the main event and this was certainly a treat.  One of the facts that made it particularly piquant was trying to relate what was happening on Horse Guards Parade to Clausewitz’s notions of violence, annihilation, limited war and so on.

These, as it were, showpiece soldiers, who had certainly been fighting in some of the nastiest places on the planet, were in their red tops and bearskins and marching the slow march when I got there.  Hundreds of them, in various formations, preceded by an officer with a raised sword and another officer on a horse walking behind them.  The band seemed to be bigger even than the marching soldiers and that slow march is something to behold.  It’s one of the instant passages back to imperial ignorance and innocence.

It’s very moving to see who is watching this parade.  Tourists, of course, in their great numbers, but also many men who I assume would have been old soldiers.  Looking as keenly as trainspotters.  Muttering recondite facts to each other.  Not letting the bygone age go by without a salute.

The pelicans had fled of course.  It is well-known they don’t like the sound of the drum.  But the little ducks were bobbing along there in St James’s Park, crowding the edge of the lake, listening, I presume, to the music and paddling in slow motion underneath the surface.

At the end of Horse Guards Parade, a proper old-fashioned cyclist, i.e. with a real bike and an anorak and corduroy trousers instead of desperate Lycra, said to a policewoman, “I can’t go anywhere.  Why can’t I go through here?”  To which she replied, “They are rehearsing Trooping the Colour”.  He said “I’ve just tried to get to Buckingham Palace, why can’t I go there?”  To which she replied, “They’re getting ready for the Jubilee”.  And then he said “And I want to go round to Whitehall”.  To which she said, “There might be protests there”.

It’s surprising how tolerant he was of this.  It’s surprising how tolerant British people are.  It’s only their toleration that keeps this country going.

So over to the Palace of Westminster where many of the chief bogeymen and boys of Britain now tell us all what to do with – perhaps one may be allowed to say – a passionate intensity which, as you know, W B Yeats referred to in his famous poem in the lines:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”.

Is that a cruel thing to say?

Met Joan Bakewell.  Always seem to meet Baroness Bakewell which is very nice.

Fixed up a trip North to see my Mother over the weekend.  One of the nurses in the hospital said that it is absolutely tuming down.  You don’t hear tuming very often, so I thought I’d put it in this newsletter.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

PS: I went into the Chamber where the Lords were debating on the Queen’s Speech.  Lord Cameron of Dillington was discussing, in expert detail, the most effective way to help African farming which he saw as the great growth area for Africa.  The Bishop of Wakefield followed and talked first of all about his great sorrow for the loss of men from the Yorkshire Regiment recently in Afghanistan, and then discussed the possibilities facing the British forces in that arena of war.

This was far, far away from the “passionate intensity” that I mentioned above.  I suppose that mainly refers to my reaction to the Question Time sessions I hear on Radio 4.  Am I the only one who finds their affected, fabricated, artificial, play-acting, overloud yelling not only raucous, but sadly and wearisomely tedious and way past its sell-by date?  I hope not.

 

My Own Shakespeare - Andrew Marr

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Andrew Marr Andrew Marr 11:20, Friday, 18 May 2012

Editor's note: The 'My Own Shakespeare' series is made up of short two and a half minute programmes which are being broadcast across BBC Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra. We asked public figures from a wide variety of spheres which was their favourite piece of Shakespeare - our interviewees included Stephen Fry, Zoe Wanamaker, Jools Holland, Gareth Malone, Benjamin Zephaniah and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Andrew Marr kindly agreed to take part in the series. We asked Andrew which piece of Shakespeare he'd save from a burning building? -CM

Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr took part in My Own Shakespeare

Choosing one piece of Shakespeare is of course bonkers, but bonkers games can be fun and thought-provoking.

I'd imagined I would have to go for one of the musically captivating passages from The Tempest or A Winter's Tale, or my favourite play as a piece of entertainment, As You Like It, but found myself driven back to the great tragedies as the most extreme examples of Stratford Bill as someone almost beyond literature.

Clearly the two greatest of the greatest are Hamlet and Lear - but Lear reaches even deeper into the recesses, both of human horror and salvation through love, (and, yes "fewer quotations") which is why I ended up with that. Nothing written in that bloodiest of centuries, the twentieth, by any existentialist or poet, or any religious leader, comes close to the uncanny insight here.

Download My Own Shakespeare to hear Andrew Marr's interview in full.

The Film Programme: A Tribute to Colonel Blimp

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Francine Stock Francine Stock 11:05, Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Editor's note: The Film Programme is broadcast at 4pm this Thursday 17th May. The programme this week is dedicated to celebrating the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Presenter Francine Stock has written this blog to explain why this film from 1943 has an enduring appeal - CM.

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese pays tribute to Colonel Blimp

Very little in Powell and Pressburger's 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is what it first appears. The fleshy form of Major- General Clive Wynne-Candy, so similar in outline to David Low's satirical 1930s Blimp cartoons, does not in fact encase an inflexible and insensitive buffoon. The upright German officer he faces in a duel will prove a lifetime friend. The girl that the younger Clive Candy glimpses in a First World War hospital is not his lost love but a nurse who resembles her. And that lost love? Well, Candy thought she was a treasured chum - it's only later, too much later, that it occurs to him that he loves her.

This is the story of a soldier during three wars, Boer and two global conflicts which never shows a battle nor a romanticised love scene nor any great sentimental set-piece. Visually luscious, it is emotionally restrained and yet profoundly moving.

It's partly to do with perspective. So much of Blimp is suffused with hindsight. If only we'd known at 25 what we've learnt since. This is a film about the view from old age, made by two friends aged just under and just over forty: the Briton, Michael Powell and the Hungarian émigré Emeric Pressburger, had a prescient sense of what it might mean to look back at achievements, loves and friendships.

The film itself has also undergone a kind of revision. Churchill objected to its production, fearing it would ridicule the military and undermine wartime morale. Now it seems a greater testament of a particular kind of outdated British fortitude than the propaganda posturing of Mrs Miniver or the staginess of In Which We Serve (although Clive Candy shares with Celia Johnson's commander's wife in that film a certain resolution underscored with sadness).

For years, people have celebrated Powell and Pressburger's later films, such as A Matter of Life and Death or The Red Shoes, but Blimp with its forty-year span (a challenge of ageing met by Roger Livesey as Candy and Anton Walbrook as his friend -and enemy - Theo) is in many ways the most complex, the one that really gets under your skin.

Martin Scorsese says he's seen people weep in the sequence where Candy relates to Theo the history of his marriage, ending with his wife's death, yet it is a short scene that, far from demanding tears, dispenses facts with remarkable economy. A great champion of the film's recent glowing restoration, Scorsese claims to find more in it now, as he grows older. He can also trace its influence in his own work, including Raging Bull.

You might not think that a British buffer would have much to offer an American boxer but then it's far too easy to underestimate The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. And the title is not as misleading as it seems: the leading character may not die in the film. But our perception of him as a blustering old reactionary is blown - as he might say - to smithereens.

Francine Stock presents The Film Programme at 4.00pm on Thursday 17th May.

The Perfumed Mountaineer

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Paula McDonnell 11:46, Monday, 14 May 2012

Editor's note: The Perfumed Mountaineer was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 14 May 2012, 11am-1130am. PMcD.

image for the Perfumed Mountaineer on BBC Radio 4 - 525 x 300 px

 

 

Picture this: it is cold, the wind is hammering from the north, you are on an exposed ridge somewhere on the craggy backbone of England, shivering and snuffling and regretting your wet day out in the countryside when some chancer from the BBC, waving a wind-socked microphone under your chin, offers you from a small bottle not a slug of restorative brandy but a sniff of a dry-blood-coloured and rather acrid smelling ancient perfume called Bond Street and asks you if you spot the connection between the smell and the view. 


I don't usually climb rocks and I am not too liberal with the cologne but I knew the story of Walter Poucher - the perfumed mountaineer - was worth telling as soon as Hayden Lorimer, a cultural geographer at Glasgow University, suggested that we might try to make a radio programme about him and his remarkable double life. 

Hayden does know his hills, he runs up and down Scottish ones for pleasure, he has also always seemed properly fragrant, so, I was very pleased to set off with him into the English Peaks and Scottish Highlands but also down Jermyn Street in central London to the back rooms of a perfumery in pursuit of people who either knew the man himself or knew about the life and works of Walter Poucher.

Poucher was born in 1891 and died in 1988.  He had two careers.  His day job was as a chemist turned perfume inventor.  For six months of the year he worked for the perfumers, Yardley.  Bond Street, which he invented, was one of Yardley’s signature fragrances. 

The air of Britain for decades was scudded with little smelly clouds of it.  Poucher also wrote a three-volume book of smells, an encyclopaedia of cosmetics and perfume recipes, which is still in print and still in use.  For the other half of the year he travelled throughout the uplands (the Surrey ‘Hills’ counted as ‘up’) wearing plus-fours and red socks (good, he said, for attracting attention in a white-out) taking photographs of every possible angle of the majestic mountain scenery of Britain. 

For his second life was as a pioneer landscape photographer in these places and he went on to produce dozens of illustrated studies and practical guidebooks to the hills of Britain.  He created what now seem like classic landscape portraits.  If you imagine a British mountain scene in your mind’s eye the chances are you are seeing a Poucher.

A perfume inventor and a mountain photographer on their own are interesting but perhaps not quite interesting enough to merit a Radio 4 feature.  But when brought together and especially when the single subject himself field-tested his inventions on the high places of Britain and you have a life that surely merits a little study.  Poucher was known for wearing more than red socks on the hills and for the rather male world of mid-Twentieth century mountaineering a man in eye makeup and foundation on Scar Fell or Snowden was quite a sight. 

Hayden bought old red-capped bottles of Bond Street and unopened Bond Street scented soap from eBay and scoured second hand shops for Poucher’s books, I persuaded a charming professional nose, Sheila Foyle at Floris, to analyse Walter’s smell, Poucher’s biographer Roly Smith agreed to meet us at a Poucher viewpoint, and Dennis Gray who, as a young mountaineer, posed as a bit of foreground in a Poucher picture, remembered meeting the man.  And it turned out that I too had a trace memory of him. 

If, like me and Hayden, you spent the early 1980s watching TV you might remember a dreary November evening enlivened with an edition of the Russell Harty talk-show on which his guest, the singer Grace Jones, looking terrifying in PVC and gloves, started attacking her host for apparently turning his back on the diva in order to talk to another guest. 

That other guest is an elderly gent in smart suit but also clad in golden gloves and with striking sky-blue eyeliner.  He looks terrific if a little bemused by the attack. 

That was Walter Poucher.  And how modern the overall effect of his makeup and mode now seem. 

When it comes to staging and managing your life Walter perhaps was ahead of the game and knew things that would have surprised both Grace Jones and Russell Harty. 

He already was familiar with both the joys and comforts of man-scara and guy-liner.  Here was a funny old buffer who might have been booked on to the talk-show as a bit of camp relief but who seems thirty years on to have been a very telling specimen of metrosexual man fully at ease with himself and decades before he was supposed to have evolved.

Tim Dee is Producer of The Perfumed Mountaineer BBC Radio 4 

My Own Shakespeare

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Clarissa Maycock 14:53, Friday, 11 May 2012

Editor's Note: My Own Shakespeare invites public figures to talk about the piece of Shakespeare that inspires them most.The short programmes will be broadcast across Radio 3 and Radio 4 in May 2012 and be available to download afterwards. Producer Lucy Collingwood has written a blog about the making of My Own Shakepeare - CM.

Stephen Fry and Melvin Bragg

Stephen Fry and Melvyn Bragg are two of the contributors for My Own Shakespeare

Bringing all of the elements for My Own Shakespeare together has been a fairly lengthy but rewarding experience. The series idea has been in the Radio Drama pipeline for some time but our production process started properly in Autumn 2011 when we began approaching potential interviewees.

Once those we approached expressed an interest in being involved, finding a good moment to interview some of the world's busiest people became our next challenge. Armed with a microphone and portable recording equipment (and the Complete Works of Shakespeare in a backpack!), we'd set off to catch individuals between meetings, in quiet corners of offices, kitchens, sitting rooms and other recording studios for a twenty minute conversation about their favourite bit of Shakespeare. We'd ask the simple question which piece of Shakespeare would you save from a burning building? The answers were fascinating.

Our aim was to find out why they were personally drawn to their choices. It became clear that many of our interviewees felt most strongly about the Shakespeare speech or play they'd first come across or learnt about at school. It seems that the Shakespeare experienced as a young and impressionable student stays with you forever. I learned that Margaret Drabble's school play involved a young and talented sixth former, Judi Dench, as one of the leads. Neil MacGregor as the youngest boy in his class was forced (in true Shakespearean style) to play Katherine in Henry V. Shakespeare's words seem to wind themselves into people's heads. I heard several stories of interviewees learning speeches off by heart and recalling them in idle moments. And were there some particularly popular plays amongst all of the choices? Yes. Overall, King Lear and Henry V seem to have come out on top.

After completing the interviews, our next task was to record a company of high profile actors reading the chosen pieces of Shakespeare. And at the same time, we were asked by the Shakespeare's Restless World team if we could record the Shakespeare for their programmes too. The result was a mammoth jigsaw puzzle of a casting exercise where we asked a handful of actors to record with us for a short amount of time and to play a wide variety of different Shakespearean roles! The actors were brilliantly versatile switching from play to play and from hero to villain with hardly enough time to pause for breath. Being in studio listening to Rory Kinnear perform his 'To be, or not to be' soliloquy from Hamlet, to David Warner read Lear's 'we two shall sing like birds o' the cage' speech and Chiwetel Ejiofor tackling 'Once More Unto the Breach...' has to be the highlight of my year so far.

Once all the Shakespeare was recorded, we had yet another challenge ahead of us: to condense all of these fascinating conversations and wonderfully performed scenes into short programmes of approximately 2 and a half minutes. It's taken a lot of listening, editing and re-editing. We've had to be ruthless with what we've chosen to keep but hope that each programme offers insight into each person's choice and through that choice, some small insight into the interviewees themselves.

Lucy Collingwood is a producer for BBC Radio drama

In Our Time - Game Theory

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 10:08, Friday, 11 May 2012

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Voltaire's Candide. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep -CM

Two men playing Paper, Scissors, Stone

Hello

Well, I was rather relieved there was not more mathematics, although having anticipated mathematics I'd made extra efforts before the programme. It's fascinating how ideas can be translated into algebra. Faraday, as I mentioned, was both fascinated and annoyed that Clerk Maxwell had done that with his famous equations.

There's no doubt, according to the three people who were round the table, that this game theory, which sounds like fun at the snooker table or on the Monopoly board, is, in fact, a chink in a new world which will be as important, or more important, than were the originally rather loose and marginal worlds of prime numbers, for instance. I was told by a young lad who works in my office here when I got back that all his science friends at university wanted to go into game theory.

So there! That is the future. Twitter thought so too - I'm told In Our Time was 'trending' this morning.

Afterwards I lurched out into the refreshing London rain and around to the recording studios, where I did the commentary for one of the new South Bank Shows we're doing for Sky Arts; this one on the Grime music which has come out of Bow. It is beyond the belief of Dickens. On one side of Bow is Canary Wharf, the biggest wealth-created part of Europe. On the other side is the new multi-billion pound Olympic Village. And between them is Bow which has one of the worst child poverty problems in the country. Or had. Now it is being hastily reconstructed. But out of it has come this music, Grime, from the three flats - literally three blocks of flats - and these young lads who've forced their way through, through studios called - understandably if you see them - the Dungeon, through local (very, very local) pirate radio stations, etc. It's a wonderful story in terms of endeavour and their determination to be British, and to have their music as British in their own dialect (east London) is - well, you might get round to seeing it.

So the commentary for that and then a stride down to the House of Lords (sorry about the repetitive nature of this), where there was a meeting with a couple of people who wanted to do programmes about - Cumbria! - and then lunch with Gillian Greenwood, with whom I've worked very happily in arts programmes for about thirty years now. She's working on the new series as well. She was the executive producer of the television series Class and Culture and we met to talk about possible future arts programmes. After which into the Chamber itself and listening to statements about the NHS and about security and chatting away to Baroness Bakewell, who is becoming not only a favourite but a star of the House of Lords. On some days she speaks in two debates.

Then - well, you'll be fed up with all this by now - back up Whitehall, where in the morning there had been two massive, loud and exciting demonstrations, and into Soho which is beginning to fascinate me more and more. Once the slut of London, it's now the chic of London. Small shops, every one. Not a chain store in sight. Street after street in this crannied square mile of small shops, dwellings, odd places. There is a mission centre for Chinese workers. There is a shop where you can get Brazilian waxing. There is a bow-fronted clothes shop with the title Sir Tom Baker over it and wonderful clothes in the middle. Lots of little high-powered clothes shops. Sort of Savile Row crossed with rock and roll. There are shops selling Christmas decorations and shops selling antique clothing. There are shops selling - well, all sorts of things which can't be mentioned in a family newsletter, but nevertheless there's a buzz about it, because the street talk and the street traffic is young people in the film and television business, so full of the feeling that this is the place to make the stuff.

And so a little drenched to the office and this newsletter and that's quite enough from me.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

PS: One of the best bits was passing the Duke of Wellington in Wardour Street and being met by a bunch of exceedingly cheerful Northerners who wanted to shake hands, buy me a pint and talk about the North. Thank goodness I had a legitimate objective which was to get back to the office and get some work done so that people could go home on time.

PPS: And after the office back into Soho, trying to copy down signs of some of the shops for future reference, through Chinatown, making for Cecil Court, currently my favourite street in London. Perfect for browsing.

Bookclub: God's Own Country

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Jim Naughtie 15:30, Sunday, 6 May 2012

Ed's note: Radio 4's Bookclub is on at 4pm this Sunday 6 May and is repeated on Thursday 10 May at 3.30pm. You can also listen online after broadcast or download the podcast - CM

Ross Raisin

Ross Raisin at the Bookclub recording

I hadn't read Ross Raisin until we chose God's Own Country for this month's Bookclub. I realised after only a few pages why it had caused a stir.

Ross became The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2009 as a result of the book and most readers will understand why. It's difficult for a first-time novelist - particularly of Ross's fairly tender years - to find an authorial voice with confidence. He does. From the moment you encounter Sam Marsdyke, wandering on the North Yorkshire moors, you're quite clear about what kind of journey this is going to be: disturbing and dark and above all irresistible.

Sam is troubled, and difficult to pin down at first. How disturbed is he? Does he speak the truth to us? Only an author who draws a character in confident strokes can carry this off. Sam is a figure that everyone will recognize, but not understand, and Ross is able to keep Sam's ambiguity under perfect control all the way to the end of the story. It is quite a feat.

I couldn't help thinking that he was a very contemporary character. He's got lost somewhere along the way and feels out of touch with the rural community around him, retreating into the depths of a personality that's troubled and unpredictable. "He's a reject. He's disenfranchised. No-one likes him much," Ross told our readers. Yet that remoteness doesn't make him a character you want to forget : you're drawn to him because the nature of his problems is elusive, and the consequence of it gives the book a genuine sense of menace and tension. When we meet him first, he's spying on ramblers up in the hills, and the idea of pursuit and deceit remains until the last page.

I won't give too much away. As with all Bookclubs when we're talking about a plot that deserves protection, we played the game.

The skill with which Ross tells the story of Sam, and the girl at the centre of the story, is unusually well-developed for a young writer. He invented dialect words to enrich the atmosphere, and the writing has a confidence about place and dialogue that's genuinely impressive. I wasn't at all surprised to learn in the course of our conversation that Ross had come under the influence of an inspiring English teacher at school.

"He was fantastic. Did Far from the Madding Crowd with us. He broke the book down and I understood it. I won't name him when I say this but he was into the sexual metaphor and imagery which is Hardy, of course. I'd never thought of that when he pointed it out. He asked if anyone understood the metaphor of shaving off the sheep's wool - and the way they were looking at each other, Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak and I was the one that got it. ' It's 'cos of sex isn't it, sir?'"

A fast learner. Hardy has obviously been a great influence on him, and not only in the way God's Own Country is rooted in a landscape that we come to know intimately. Ross manages to delve with apparent ease under the outward appearances of his characters...much more is hidden than is revealed.

In the second half of the book, there are no indications as to when a thought is being rendered in direct speech. You're left to wonder, and that is part of the mystery surrounding Sam. Do you believe him towards the end of the book? Is he deceiving you, as well as himself? Has he lost his mind?

I should also say, if you're feeling too gloomy to plunge into such a story, that it's very funny, too.

I hope you enjoy our discussion. You will be hearing more of Ross Raisin.

Our next book is Philippa Gregory's novel set in Henry VIII's court, The Other Boleyn Girl, which you can hear on Sunday June 3rd at 4pm. And I should give you notice of two recordings coming up which you may want to come to (details on the website www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006s5sf of course) -Michael Ondaatje on The English Patient on June 19th, and Victoria Hislop on The Island on July 10th, both in London.

Happy reading

Jim

Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub

  • Visit the Bookclub website where you can listen to the cast archive of author interviews, download the Bookclub podcasts and sign up for the email newsletter.
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In Our Time: Voltaire's Candide

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 17:05, Friday, 4 May 2012

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Voltaire's Candide. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep. PMcD.

Voltaire's Candide

 

Hello

A few weeks ago I was wandering through Soho, which has become a real pleasure now that I have offices there. It's riddled with back alleys, slits in a wall which connect streets or run to dead ends, a sudden sheer prospect of a new block of flats and lots of dingy doorways (slowly being tarted up - tart is not a bad word in this context). It's a muddle and a mix and, in its way, just as good a part of London to be in as was the South Bank, where I happily hoofed up and down the Thames most working days for 33 years and got beyond Tower Bridge one way and up to Vauxhall the other way.

In this riddle and higgledy-piggle of Soho there is Chinatown, which is a thing to itself, especially when they put out their dragons and great lanterns, and all the gaiety of the East suddenly comes to the southern side of Shaftesbury Avenue. And if you take a left and a right through the main street in Chinatown you come to a place called Cecil Court, which has some wonderful shops of second-hand books, curious jewellery, oddities and the most marvellous shop (I don't suppose I should mention the name because this is a public service newsletter) which sells all manner of miniatures of all sorts, of lovely little boxes, of small bronzes, all displayed with magnificent precision and neatness and run by a most bonhomous man or his assistant, another even more bonhomous man.

Well, to get to the point (although sometimes it's very nice not to get to the point, especially when you wander round that part of London and see the stage doors of theatres and the inside of tattoo shops, and the heap of people seeming as aimless as I myself am and yet they must be doing necessary things to keep the world turning round), I like to go and have a sniff around this particular shop and buy, now and then, one of the little plaques that I sort of collect - I say 'sort of collect' because I'm not a collector I'm a magpie and when I think that particular part of the wall is full enough then that will do. But the point is, about three of four weeks ago, I came across a smashing little early 19th century rendition of Voltaire.

So there he was and I bought him because of 'Lettres Philosophiques' and 'Candide', which I'd read at university more than 50 years ago as (somehow) part of the course in Modern History (that is, 412 AD to 1832). I knew exactly where I wanted to put it at home. I have a few pieces of medieval English alabaster - necessarily on religious subjects - and one particular one, which still has some of the original colour, is of St Peter with his big key and his Book of Life, and I popped a little nail in the wall and hung the little medallion at the feet of St Peter. Voltaire, as it were, under the heel of the man who would admit all good Christians to Heaven, but at the same time undermining him and rather than looking up to him, looking away from him. It's all very childish, but it gives me a lot of pleasure to look at this juxtaposition.

So up comes 'Candide' and I read it again and discover that I'd forgotten most of it. I had no idea that so much could be packed into so little. When David Wootton said it was only 15,000 words long, I could scarcely believe it. There's so much action at breakneck Keystone Kops speed and so many references - historical, theological, philosophical, anthropological, etc.

Such an extraordinarily prolific man and so admired for being prolific. It's odd how fashions change, isn't it? Until fairly recently, to be prolific was to be admired; now to be prolific is to be suspected. Economy is all. Except on the markets.

I thought they were such a good bunch this morning and so sporting to let fly, which they did.

I think my time is up. Ingrid deserves a better bank holiday than this.

Not much walking at the moment. Sluicing with rain here and we all rather glumly say it's good for the country. It isn't much good for paddling around when you end up soaked in a barely heated office. Still, remember the flowers that bloom in May.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Radio 4 Extra Comedy Club: Machynlleth Comedy Festival

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Paula McDonnell 13:21, Friday, 4 May 2012

Editor's note: BBC Radio 4 Extra's Comedy Club is going to the Machynlleth Comedy Festival this weekend, Producer, Luke Doran give a view from behind the scenes. PMcD.

Arthur Smith at Machynlleth Comedy Festival

There are two things you notice upon arrival at Machynlleth. The first is the location. Tucked away in the Welsh county of Powys, this town of around 2000 people is not easy to get to. Whether it's a scenic 4 hour train journey from London, or a satnav testing drive across the country, Machynlleth is a destination that has to be sought out, rather than stumbled upon.

The second is the high street itself. At first glance it looks like a typically picturesque market town, from the sweet shop, to the local pubs, to the clock tower that dominates the street.

Then you notice something, or rather you notice nothing, because there are no posters plastering the walls, no flyers littering the pavements and no banner draped across the street. Even the local community could be forgiven for not knowing they are hosting one of the most exciting Comedy Festivals in the UK. And it starts today (in fact, I have seen more posters for a wrestling match at the Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre than posters for the Comedy Festival).

Now if you've been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival you will know how comedy festivals can easily wallpaper a city with posters and flyers promoting the latest 'must see' shows. However, we're not in Edinburgh now.

The Machynlleth Comedy Festival only started in 2010 with just 500 attendees. Last year that doubled to 1000, and this year they are expecting around 2000 people.

So what attracts all these punters, and us here at Radio 4 Extra, to make the journey? Well really it's the quality of the line-up. Organiser Henry Widdicombe is a man who knows what he likes from his comedy.

In his words it has to be "innovative, progressive, intelligent and interesting", and this can be seen in his hand-picked programme. Last year the big names included Rhod Gilbert and Daniel Kitson, and this year the standard has been maintained with Stewart Lee, Robin Ince and Richard Herring all performing.

Look further down the bill and there's a lot to enjoy, from the best young stand-ups (Josh Widdicombe, Josie Long, Isy Suttie) to intriguing new talent (Holly Burns and the sketch troop Sheeps both look exciting) and the rather baffling (a rumoured 'mental maths' test on Sunday morning). Add to this some live music, a boat trip, bilingual comedy, a life-drawing class, a comedy shed and some good quality local food and beer, and you start to understand why people make the effort to come here.

This weekend Arthur Smith and I will be hoping to bring you some of the unique atmosphere that makes this festival so popular. We will be speaking to the performers and taking part in the events that make it so unique (including the life drawing class, in which a comedian will be the nude model... sorry ladies, it's not Arthur).

So listen out for us across the Comedy Club this weekend where we will be shouting loudly about the quiet comedy festival that's become the best kept secret on the circuit. Who knows, next year they might even get a banner.

Download Saturday Live's Inheritance Tracks

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Paula McDonnell 09:01, Friday, 4 May 2012

Editor's note: Inheritance Tracks is a feature in Saturday Live where a guest chooses a song that they inherited from their parents and one that they would pass on to the next generation. Over 200 Inheritance Tracks are now available to download - from guests such as Heston Blumenthal, Simon Callow and Tamsin Greig. The new Saturday Live programme with the Rev. Richard Coles and Sian Williams starts on Saturday 5 May. PMcD.

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal is one of over 200 guests who have shared their Inheritance Tracks with Saturday Live, and now you can download them.

I sometimes feel like the Ken Barlow of Saturday Live, not because I've slept with thousands of women but more to do with the fact that I'm the only remaining member of the original team that launched the programme way back in 2006.

As we spent that summer trying to come up with new ideas for a new programme which had the unenviable task of replacing John Peel's Home Truths, many odd suggestions came to the fore, most ending up in the bin.

Not quite Monkey Tennis or Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank but I think an air despondency filled the office when the only item on the white board at one point was 'What's In My Pocket?' - a revealing insight into the lives of the famous gleaned from the contents of their bell bottoms, duffle coats, gilets and mackintoshes - I still think this is a great idea by the way.

As we sat staring out of the window at the summer skyline seeking inspiration from daubs of cirrus a thought suddenly struck my colleague Becky Vincent; what about getting people to pick two pieces of music, one that has been passed down to them and one that they in turn would like to pass on? I shouted; 'brilliant, and let's call it inheritance tracks!'.

Initially my suggestion for the name was turned down by the bosses, I don't know why, maybe because they didn't want to attract riff-raff from Money Box Live. Anyway in the end they went for it and the rest is history.

Good on Becky though, what a wonderfully simple idea yet one which says so much. It's my favourite part of the programme and I've had a fantastic time recording them over the years.

I've even built up a photo album of myself with my arms wrapped around various celebrity torsos from Errol Brown (what a dude) to Jerry Springer (who didn't mind me shouting 'Jerry! Jerry!') to Roger Moore (what a dude) to Twiggy (yes she is beautiful) to Barry Humphries (resplendent in cherry red corduroys) to Gordon Ramsey (not as scary as I thought he would be) to Rolf Harris (who brought his wobble board) to Harry Connick Junior (who had the biggest entourage ever) and my favourite, Ronnie Corbett who was just Ronnie Corbett - and he's one of the few people who make me look tall. I expect my album to make a tidy valuation on Antiques Roadshow in about fifty years time.

I often think of it as a bit like a mini Desert Island Discs but in many ways Inheritance Tracks can be much more revealing. I've brought all sorts of people into our little office here in Broadcasting House to record them, put a microphone in front of them and they've left an hour later sometimes laughing, sometimes in tears and sometimes swearing such is the emotion that picking these two simple tracks can arouse. And I know from your emails, letters, texts and tweets that you've often been touched by them too.

That's the great thing about Inheritance Tracks, sometimes we recognise something about ourselves in the stories or the choice of music.

And now we're going to share the back catalogue of Inheritance Tracks for you to explore and enjoy. As from this Friday, 4 May you will be able to find them on the Radio 4 website where you can download the choices of the likes of Rob Brydon, Jenny Agutter, Julian Lennon, Emmylou Harris, Paul Daniels, Vera Lynn, Val Doonican, Ozzy Osbourne, Lindsay Wagner, Chaka Khan... and dozens more. There is some great stuff in there so do give them a listen.

Will 'What's in My Pocket?' appear on the new extended Saturday Live? Well you'll just have to wait and see...

JP Devlin

JP Devlin is producer of Saturday Live

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