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Attention All Shipping

4 Extra Debut. Peter Jefferson's elegy to the Radio 4 programme that inspires as it informs, the mundane but strangely beguiling Shipping Forecast. From February 2012.

"I love it. It's the nearest thing to poetry that I ever got to read on the radio - wonderful cadences" - Charlotte Green, Radio 4 announcer and newsreader is just one of dozens of professional broadcasters who've been transfixed by the strangely elegiac nature of the curt and abbreviated language of the formal statement of weather conditions around our island. For Archive on 4, Charlotte's former colleague, Peter Jefferson presents an elegy to the Shipping Forecast, travelling via the archive through the history and romance of the sea areas that daily make their weather known to seafarers.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the Straits; - on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

But Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach' also perfectly encapsulates the spirit in which many Radio 4 listeners embrace the Forecast; gazing into the depths of the night, a seascape of indigo swept by a distant lighthouse beam. So is the Shipping Forecast as much a hymn to our former seafaring island as formal meteorological bulletin, to be shared and enjoyed by landlubbers who've long escaped all contact with the sea and ships....?

Peter travels to Exeter where the Forecast is compiled from the Met Office's supercomputer's myriad pieces of data... and talks to sailor and radio-lover Libby Purves, national poet of Wales and composer of an ode to the Forecast, Gillian Clarke and to photographer Mark Power, who shot a stunning sequence of black-and-white images of the sea areas.

Producer: Simon Elmes.

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