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Listening is about more than hearing as we discover with a poet, a dialect coach and chair of Samaritans, whose professional lives all revolve around listening to speech.

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover in this new series of 3 programmes. The first programme explores three very different experiences of listening to speech with a poet, a speech dialect coach and Chair of Samaritans. Jan Haydn Rowles is an accent and dialect coach whose interest in dialect began when she noticed how her parents who were born in different counties spoke with different accents; and that the same was true of her and her siblings. Jan not only hears sounds she sees them; "When I listen to a person's voice I don't see it, I hear it" and she offers a fascinating insight into her visual experiences of sound. Katrina Porteous has spent much of her life in County Durham and Northumberland writing about the fishing communities and coastal landscape where she lives. 'A poem begins and ends in listening' she says. For Katrina, listening extends to the sounds of the words; whether they be soft sounds or hard sounds, and beyond the meaning of the words to the rhythm of language and the music of the dialect as we discover. Jenni McCartney is our third listener. She has been working with Samaritans for over 30 years, first as a volunteer and now as Chair. "Listening is absolutely crucial to what we do" she says, Started by Chad Varra in 1953, Samaritans is a charity which provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts, and is available 24 hours a day, every day. At its simplest, Samaritans is about listening. "Every 6 seconds somebody contacts Samaritans". Listening perhaps has never been more important. Producer Sarah Blunt.

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28 minutes

Last on

Wed 23 Dec 2015 15:30

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Jan Hadyn Rowles is an accent and dialect coach. She trained as  an actor and then later as a voice and dialect coach. 

For more information about her work:


Katrina Porteous is a poet, historian and broadcaster.  She has spent much of her life in County Durham  and Northumberland and much of her work has been inspired by the inshore fishing community of the Northumberland coast and the cultural and natural history of the area.

For more information about her work:

The extracts of her Radio Poems used in The Listeners were taken from:

Dunstanburgh Castle; a secret as old as the stones, produced by Julian May. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 09/2/2004. The extract also features the actor Trevor Fox.


Jenni McCartney has been with Samaritans for over 30 years having joined as a Volunteer. Today she is Chair of Samaritans.