A blog of Radio 4. Not about Radio 4 but of it. We point to the bits we like, the bits you might have missed, the bits that someone might have sneakily recorded. And other bits of speech radio might find their way here too.
Of course, one day this might turn into something else, maybe a new skin for Radio 4, maybe a new way of curating radio, or maybe it won't.
Your hosts on this not very wild ride are Steve Bowbrick, Russell Davies and Roo Reynolds. Drop us a line with your thoughts, unless you wish to complain about continuity announcers and their accents.
It went like this: Matt Jones got a bit excited about the unprecedented collision of Welsh language politics and groovy Catalan network-sociologist Manuel Castells on Analysis. Russell and I noted that the edition he was going on about had been overwritten and whinged a bit about the absence of a proper Analysis archive. I suggested it would be fun to read out a transcript of the show for the speechification podcast.
So I beetled off to find the transcript (a feature of Analysis since before there were podcasts - or web sites for that matter) and found that… there isn’t one. I wrote to the Analysis people wondering where it was and got an apologetic email from (award-winning) series editor Hugh Levinson. Hugh said that the transcripts had been cancelled because they were too expensive but offered me an MP3 of the show.
Bingo, I thought. I told Hugh it was for Speechification and he wrote back with some nice words about Speechification and an MP3. So, with a short delay (and a very BBC bottleneck) I bring you a really fascinating edition of Analysis about the passions and contradictions of indiginous language politics presented by Welshman Mukul Devichand (and featuring cheeky Catalan Manuel Castells) (MP3).
Although comedy on Radio 4 can be a patchy affair, there’s usually something good on. Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better and Armando Iannucci’s Charm Offensive have both finished now, but That Mitchell and Webb Sound started again this week. I’m quietly hoping that Cowards will come back to radio again too.
Recently I’ve particularly been enjoying Dave Gorman's Radio 4 show Genius, now nearing the end of its third series. Imagine the The Halfbakery as a radio show, hosted by Dave Gorman, and you’re most of the way there. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that many of the contributors to Genius are themselves ‘bakers too.)
This week’s episode, the penultimate in the series, tickled my ribs greatly. Particularly this suggestion from David Bateman from Liverpool:
My idea is to make the Isle of Wight symmetrical. The Isle of Wight is already very nearly symmetrical from east to west anyway, so we will simply perfect this symmetry. This exciting and forward-looking project will give an immense boost to the tourist industry at a surprisingly small cost, and with the destruction of only one major town. Ventnor.
Utter genius. (MP3, Real)
There’s often an interesting bit of speech hidden away on Radio 3, something you stumble over when all other options have been exhausted. This programme about artificial intelligence is just such a thing. A serious, thoughtful and interesting exploration of the 50 years of progress in the field, by Prof Maggie Boden, who actually knows what she’s talking about. I missed the first minute or so, but I don’t think you miss anything essential. (MP3)
I love how this is starting to work. Matt Jones emailed us at the weekend about an excellent episode of Excess Baggage about maps. Which we stuck up. Which led Garret Keogh to alert us to this fantastic episode of This American Life, also about maps. If you don’t know This American Life it’s a podcast that’s well worth subscribing too. Easily the best radio programme in the US, possibly in the world. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.
Here’s a real find. While I was hunting around for links to use in the 'Wrestling for Britain' entry I came across this 2001 page from the Radio 3 archive. Five short programmes from a series called Work in Progress in which George Szirtes, poet, translator - and presenter of the wrestling programme - talks about writing a novel set in the wrestling world (a novel which, unless I’m mistaken - hasn’t yet been published).
I love stuff about the creative process - I’ve often thought of doing a blog about it. Anyway, the Work in Progress pages appear to be a creative process goldmine - although obviously of quite Radio 3-type stuff (lots of poetry and theatre, no video games). Dozens and dozens of Real streams, from people like Roy Strong and Paul Muldoon, Vadim Jean and Ian McEwan.
Pic of George Szirtes from georgeszirtes.co.uk.
Here’s another programme from the archive. I’m not going to go on about it: the programme is just beautiful. It’s a half-hour feature about Tibor Szakacs, a Hungarian exile who came to Britain after the catastrophe of 1956 to make his fortune as a pro wrestler. It’s written and presented by poet and wrestling enthusiast George Szirtes who came to Britain with Szakacs in 1956. It went out in March 2005 (MP3).
Pic from the quite wonderful Wrestling Furnace Picture Gallery.
Matt Jones alerted us to this episode of Excess Baggage, and in particular the feature on atlases. It’s an excellent look at what goes into the making of a map, seen through the latest edition of The Times Atlas, which has had to make 3,000 place name revisions since its last edition; four years ago. And its another Radio 4 programme page with a useful set of links. Great stuff. (MP3)
Listening to the Commons (well, the Tory half anyway), baying for a withdrawal when Gordon Brown dropped the word ‘misleading’ into a response during PMQs this week, I felt (oddly, you might suppose, given I’m a lifelong Labour man) my heart swelling with pride in the unruly vigour of our central democratic institution.
Don’t talk to me about bringing an end to 'Punch & Judy' politics. Punch & Judy are fundamental to the process. Long may they reign! I do understand that plenty of people feel alienated by all the ‘ya-boo’ and I also agree that it’s probably not the best incentive for non-toffs to join up but, to be honest, I really want my MP to be fully Punch & Judy-compliant and robust enough to mix it up with the shouty types when necessary.
And another thing. I really don’t like the look of all those tidy, civilised horseshoe assemblies (like the ones they’ve got in Wales and Scotland) with their microphones and their wait-for-your-turn and their nasty Mr Sheen shine. Enough: I’m turning into my father. This morning’s Week in Westminster has a bit of ya-boo and an interview with marvelous Parliamentary irritant Dennis Skinner that really cheered me up (especially the bit about calling David Owen a ‘pompous sod’). (MP3, Real, podcast).
Pic from parliament.uk.
I’m writing this with the sounds of Cartoon Network in the background, with my son giggling away and with a jackhammer banging long and hard in the street outside. Plus there’s the miscellaneous bleeping, whirring and cajunking of the average domestic environment. And The Sounds Of Science has made me hear it all anew, wondering why I like what I like and what I’d miss if it wasn’t there. It’s 30 minutes of thinking about the science of sound - why do we hate the sound of vomiting and like the sound of the sea? Is a sense of harmony innate? Why does the music of a barely contacted tribe sound like a 50s traffic jam? (Here’s an MP3 of programme one)
The programme page is well worth visiting too. There’s a bunch of interesting links at the bottom of the page. Quite well hidden, but this is a bit more like it Radio 4. Hurrah! (And here’s a related article)
Here’s another quickie. I heard this one in the car and it had me sort of chortling (gurgling?) with pleasure. Not because it’s funny (although it is) but because it’s almost perfect radio. Presenter Vivienne Parry’s a proper grown-up broadcaster with a personality, opinions and loads of wit. She oozes confidence and pleasure in what she does (and she used to present Tomorrow’s World!).
In this half-hour feature (obviously my favourite kind of show, looking back through Speechification’s lengthening archive), she asks “what did the doomed heroines of all those Victorian novels actually die of?” and she rounds up a bunch of fascinating doctors and literary types to provide some answers. This is precisely what I pay my licence fee for (MP3, Real).