United Kingdom

A rich selection of documentaries aimed at relentlessly curious minds, presented by Ashley John-Baptiste and Andy Brooks.


On a Knife Edge  

This hospital based youth violence work is taking place in the four London major trauma centres and Producer Sue Mitchell was given exclusive access to follow what happens. The charity, Redthread, now has teams in each of the trauma centres and their youth workers will be alongside victims from the point that they walk, or are stretchered, in. They're away from their communities and alienated from peers and this surreal period - 'the teachable moment,' as it's known - is seen as being an effective time because the young person is vulnerable, shocked and forced to confront assumptions of invincibility. Becky Calnan is a Redthread team leader at one of the London trauma centres and allows listeners to follow her work with nineteen year old Liam. He's been attacked on the street and turns up at Accident and Emergency with blood soaking into his coat and trousers. He tells her that he's been punched, kicked and stamped on as he was making his way to court for a scheduled appointment. She knows him already: just months earlier he was stabbed in his legs in a planned attack. Becky's been working with Liam ever since. His latest injuries don't surprise her: "He doesn't eat properly; he doesn't sleep as he's out at night, and he's paranoid because of how he's living: this all feeds into making these incidents much more likely to happen." Liam tells listeners about his life of court appearances, street violence and lack of ambition. He traces the start of his problems back to 2010, when he moved to a new area of London with his Mum and sisters. He knows he could make something of himself if he puts his mind to it, but there's too much daily pressure for him to even try: "I don't know what can happen next. There are young youth running around with big knives and my Mum and Nan are scared. I'm not scared. I spat blood on them when they attacked me." But Liam's bravado cracks slightly as he acknowledges the work that Becky's doing: "She's helped me, I do appreciate that. If there are things I need to get off my chest she listens and she doesn't judge me. I don't have anyone else like that to talk to." For Redthread the work is aimed at interrupting the cycle of violence which all too often sees the victim become the perpetrator. Liam describes being stabbed, jumped on and other attacks with a calm that would be more normally placed describing a shopping trip, say, not repeated street violence. He thinks he will end up dead unless he can change, but it's a hard task. Alongside Liam, Becky is helping others admitted every day. There's George, stabbed as he sat in his car, there are two victims who have yet to regain consciousness and a youngster who appears to have been paralysed in an attack. His long hospital stay provides a good opportunity to both tackle any possible acts of retribution and to begin considering the changes as he adapts to a very different life. Redthread's hospital programme launched in 2006 and the idea has been in play in America for longer. There is an international network of hospital based intervention programmes and the idea is gaining ground, with Nottingham and Basildon being the latest areas for this approach. In London alone there were more than 1,236 victims of knife crime under the age of 25 in the year ending April 2016 according to the Metropolitan Police. The workers are called as ambulances are en route and will be there from the start, getting alongside the young person and helping them navigate the hospital system. They're trying to build the kind of relationships which many of these young people won't have had in their communities and the organisation also offer gang exit work and mental health support. Dr Emer Sutherland, consultant clinical lead for the Emergency Department at King's College Hospital, said: "We set up the scheme at King's because we wanted to do more than just patch young people up and send them on their way. Hospitals have a unique opportunity to help try and stop the victim-perpetrator cycle. This is why talking to young people, at this key moment in their lives can help steer them away from the world of gang violence many find themselves in." Once they're in hospital they have a very private space for very private conversations: "Pain in some ways is a great mind opener. "It's so powerful to the medical team, we can remember before we had Red Thread, we would see some of these young people who come in with trivial injuries and then come back with more severe injuries. We see youth violence as like any other disease, so we might see them on their way to school when they've been mugged or beaten up, then what could happen is they could join a gang to try and make them safe, even though the exact opposite is the case, then we see them going from stabbed in arms or legs to being quite viciously targeted and very vicious attacks - we find those very worrying.

Making the Grade  

Why are more and more older people taking up instruments and putting themselves through music exams? Presenter and terrible musician James Peak follows the stories of several candidates as they try for their ABRSM piano exam. James is aiming for Grade 1 piano and discovers that everyone has their own reasons for trying to make the grade. Along the way he meets Carroll who has Parkinson's Disease and Nicola who suffers from stage fright. Written and presented by James Peak Produced by Lucinda Mason Brown A Goldhawk Essential production for BBC Radio 4.


John Toal meets former death-row inmates Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle at the retreat they have set up in rural Ireland to offer restorative treatment to other victims of wrongful conviction in order to help them back to a normal life. Peter Pringle was sentenced to be hanged in Ireland in 1980. Sonia 'Sunny' Jacobs was sentenced to the electric chair in the United States in 1976. Sunny was accused of killing two police officers at a highway service area in Florida. Peter was accused of killing two police officers in rural Ireland during a botched bank robbery. Both had their sentences commuted to life and were later exonerated of their crimes. Peter and Sunny spent over 15 years each in prison for crimes they didn't commit. After their release, life in the outside world was tough. They struggled to re-integrate into society. Practical things like crossing roads, opening doors or even being touched joined a long list of everyday challenges. Neither could escape the feeling that they had re-joined a society that had moved on without them. In 1998 Peter heard Sunny give a talk about her death-row experience. Traumatised by her story and shocked by how similar their experiences were, Peter offered to drive Sunny to her next speaking engagement and their relationship grew from there. Now married, Peter and Sunny run the Sunny Centre in rural Connemara, a retreat for people from around the world who have been wrongfully convicted and who are trying to retrace a path back into normal life. For this programme, John Toal travels to the depths of the Irish countryside to hear Sunny and Peter's story. He hears how a combination of yoga, meditation, healthy food and the freedom to share their experiences with people who have been through similar trauma can assist those exonerated of dreadful crimes on their path back to normality ...and whether or not an exoneree can ever truly feel free again. Producer: Jennifer Goggin.

Acting Disabled  

BBC Disability Correspondent Nikki Fox looks at the way disability is portrayed on television and in film, and asks if enough opportunities are being offered to disabled actors, particularly in roles where disability is irrelevant. Actors Lisa Hammond of EastEnders, Mat Fraser from American Horror Story, Julie Fernandez from The Office and Eldorado, and Liz Carr from Silent Witness share their experiences. We also hear from the Chairman of the Casting Directors Guild Andy Pryor, agent Louise Dyson, film critic Nick Duncalf, and Alison Walsh, the BBC's Disability Lead. Presenter: Nikki Fox Producer: Phill Brown An Alfi Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Out in Africa  

Charles Adesina explores what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in Africa. Africa has been called the world's most homophobic continent. In the majority of African countries, homosexual activity is illegal, with long jail sentences or worse awaiting those who break anti-gay laws. Charles Adesina, a filmmaker and gay man with Nigerian roots, goes on a personal exploration to discover how deep homophobia really runs in families and communities. He hears about Africa's own rich heritage of same-sex relationships (including female healers who explain their lesbianism by saying that they are possessed by a male ancestor) and examines how colonial history and religion have influenced social attitudes to LGBT people in Africa today. The role of parents in helping their LGBT children find acceptance, he discovers, is key. In South Africa, Charles meets a group of courageous grandmothers ("Gogos" in Zulu) who have taken it upon themselves to learn what it means to be lesbian or gay, and defend their LGBT grandchildren from family hostility. He visits Mpho Tutu-van Furth, daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who famously said that he would never worship a homophobic God. Mpho, herself an Anglican priest, married a woman last year - and argues that a God of love cannot be opposed to the kind of loving relationship she shares with her wife. Charles also visits Cape Town's People's Mosque to hear the story of openly gay Imam Muhsin Hendricks, who works with LGBT Muslims and their parents to convince them that a compassionate understanding of Islam embraces people regardless of their sexuality. Yet it becomes clear that cultural change will be inevitably slow. A CTVC Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

The Kids Who Decide What All the Other Kids Talk About  

Journalist Paul Mason reports on a group of university dropouts who are using social media to influence young people on a huge scale. In an old cotton mill in Manchester, the one-time students have created a new kind of business. They claim to be able to make any topic the number one trend on Twitter in under 30 minutes. The CEO of this company - Social Chain - is Steve Bartlett. At 24 years old he's one of the oldest at the company. He appears to have cornered a new market, buying up social media accounts with enormous numbers of followers, and then using them as a means to advertise. Most of these accounts were started by students in their bedrooms - doing it for the fun of it. But Steve realised their influence was enormous and went about persuading the owners of the accounts to join him in growing his business. Unlike traditional advertising, the message comes through a secondary source. It's 'word-of-mouth marketing' - the Holy Grail for advertisers. Nothing has more impact on our shopping habits than a friend or someone we trust recommending a product to us. Social Chain now owns over 400 of the most popular Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. Collectively they have over 300 million followers. After just two years, the company now employs over a hundred young people in offices in Manchester, Berlin and New York. The average age of staff is just 22. £1.25 billion went on marketing on social media alone in 2015. Paul Mason examines this new economy - the commodification of influence. He considers the ethics of this way of advertising and how it affects trust in the information we're given. Social Chain closely follows regulations laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority, but Mara Einstein, author of Black Ops Advertising, argues that just as the military has moved from face to face action to covert operations, so advertising has moved from being obvious to more hidden - in particular through social media. Paul explores the concerns with some of the people who use social media more than any other - the so-called 'millennial generation'. A PRA production for BBC Radio 4.

Reimagining the City: Reykjavik  

The musician John Grant on Reykjavik, a city he fell in love with on tour. "In 2011 I was asked to come and play in Reykjavik... three months later I was living here... I go where I feel welcome and safe, and this is one of those places for me." John Grant is an accomplished linguist - he speaks German, Spanish, French and Russian, amongst others. Icelandic, however, has been a real challenge. "The combination of sounds, the phonetics of Icelandic, are beyond evil...I get giddy about synthesisers and language grammar." But it soon becomes clear that John is now fluent. Talking with the owner of one of his favourite coffee shops, she reminds him that within two days of living there he could make himself understood. John guides us around his adopted city, paying particular interest to book shops, architecture and interesting stair wells. It's a very different landscape from Michigan, where he grew up: "The world was hostile and there was a lot of nastiness directed at me because people thought they could see I was gay...'Look at that faggot', that kind of thing. So I developed a fear of leaving my nest." Reykjavik is the first city he has called home for a long long time. Produced by Rachel Hooper A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

The Many Faces of Ebenezer Scrooge  

Christopher Frayling explores how Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol has endured in popular culture for over 170 years. Victorian families sat around the fire to read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, over the festive season. It became an annual ritual. Now we might sit around the TV and watch It's A Wonderful Life - an Americanised version of the story. In between, there have been countless takes on the book - adapted for public readings, radio, television, film and stage. Cultural historian and writer Christopher Frayling considers how this short novel has shaped Christmas as we know it today, and discusses the circumstances in which it was written. Hearing from Dickens performers Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyes, as well as historians and fans, Christopher examines how the book's potent mixture of nostalgia, social concern and celebration has become part of the cultural bloodstream. He assesses versions starring everyone from Alastair Sim to the Muppets, via Blackadder and the Goons, getting to the very heart of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens wrote of his novel, "may it haunt your house pleasantly". It has done so - in ways he could not have imagined - for over 170 years. Producer: Jane Long A Hidden Flack production for BBC Radio 4.

Burn Slush! The Reindeer Grand Prix  

Competitive reindeer-racing is a popular sport in the Arctic Circle. In Finland, the season runs from November to April and good jockeys are local celebrities. They need strong biceps and serious guts - strapped onto cross-country skis they're hauled behind reindeer at up to 60km/hour. Cathy FitzGerald travels to Lake Inari in the snowy north of Finland to find out more about the sport. Presented and produced by Cathy FitzGerald. A White Stiletto production for BBC Radio 4.

The Prince Monolulu Quandary  

Stephen K Amos investigates the incredible true story of Ras Prince Monolulu, the first black man ever to appear on British TV screens. Standing tall in his billowing robes, lions paws swing from his neck and ostrich feathers adorn his hair. He shouts his catch phrase to an eager crowd, "I gotta 'Orse, I gotta 'Orse to beat the favourite." His smile is wide, his eyes full of spark and secrets, and the crowd is captivated. Monolulu made his fame on the race courses of England in the 1920s but soon became a national treasure enchanting the nation until his death in the 1960s. But today his story has fallen through the cracks of history. There's no blue plaque and no museum. So who was this man? Where did he come from? What drove him to fame and how did he charm the nation for over forty years? Comedian Stephen K Amos sets out to discover the incredible truth behind this mystical character, meeting people who remember the Prince and the vigilant detectives striving to get to the bottom of his story. The tale takes us from Ethiopia to Honolulu, from Germany to Soho. Lifting the gossamer webs of Monolulu's carefully woven stories, Stephen reveals the truth of this man and finds than it's even stranger than fiction. It's a story of invented exotic identities and the struggle for survival. Producer: Claire Crofton A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

It's Obscene!  

Matthew Syed of the Times explores the vexed role of money at the pinnacle of contemporary sport and challenges the popular notion that leading sportsman pay is obscene. It's obscene, Syed argues, that many of the top jobs in this country are based on privilege rather than merit. It's obscene that much of the world's population are born into hardship. But saying it's obscene for a football player to be earning a lot of money, working in the most fiercely meritocratic environment imaginable? That's just prejudice, he says, and it deserves to be challenged. Pointing out that entry costs to a career in football are almost non-existent and the opportunities broad, Syed will visit players and managers such as Claudio Ranieri and Joey Barton to make the case that the joy of sport is in its transparency, and that football more than any other sector holds a torch up to the covert networks, cosy alliances and hidden hand-ups that characterise other industries. Alongside fellow journalist Alyson Rudd and tennis player Janko Tipsarevic, Syed aims to take an axe to one of the holiest totems of consensual opinion. Producer: Sean Glynn A Resonance production for BBC Radio 4.

As Many Leaves  

"I didn't realise how physical a process grief was - like being hit by a car." One evening in the autumn of 2013, the American financial journalist and broadcaster Sally Herships received a short email from her husband telling her he was never coming home again. At first she thought it was a joke, but when she got home he and a suitcase had gone. As Sally's life unravels, she begins to keep an audio diary. It's a way both of processing what's happened to her and of creating a support mechanism as she tries to cope with the aftermath. From the night he left, her husband cuts off all contact and Sally, broken-hearted, is tortured by a single question. Why? "I think this is one of the stages of heartbreak. There's the ice cream stage, the comfort food stage and the doughnut stage. Maybe they all fall under comfort food, but I'm lactose intolerant so I can't really have ice cream. I'm just making up for that with doughnuts." Sally's vulnerability, defiance and the mundane practicalities of survival are laid bare in her recordings and in her reflections on how she strove to heal herself after this seismic betrayal. With specially composed music by Nina Perry and Danny Keane. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.


Poet Mab Jones explores the concept of 'Hiraeth' in the poetry of Wales and further afield Hiraeth, a central theme of Welsh language poetry and song, is a feeling of something lost, a long time ago, whether national identity or a once-important language. It has deep roots - some link it to the loss of self-determination in 1282. It has no equivalent in English, often translating as 'homesickness', but incorporating an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to experience a deep sense of incompleteness. Longing and absence has infused Welsh songs and poetry for centuries, so perhaps in the national temperament there's a perpetual tension between staying and leaving, a yearning for something better, a grief for something left behind. But there are equivalents in other languages - in Portuguese, 'saudade' is an impossible longing for the unattainable, so there are occurrences of the sentiment across a wide cultural spectrum. But if the English don't have a word for it, does that mean they don't feel it, or that they don't need it? For some, like Mab's former Professor at Swansea, M Wynn Thomas, 'hiraeth' can function as a default nostalgia button, and a dangerous tendency to believe things were better in the past. It's an experience characteristic of the powerless, the dispossessed; it's the signature tune of loss, but is this hopeless and persistent longing holding this small nation back? Mab Jones is a poet and performer both humorous and deeply serious. She stands outside the Welsh language tradition, claims she doesn't feel hiraeth (not for Wales anyway - possibly for Japan), and for Radio 4 questions and pokes at the concept, visiting the National Eisteddfod for the first time in an attempt to put her finger on exactly what it is. Exploring the concept through poetry that expresses it, from the poets Menna Elfyn and Ifor ap Glyn she hears poems and songs that deal with aspects of Welsh history that might explain the continued existence of the word in Welsh - forced removals from much loved homes through industrialisation and military eviction. And she talks to writers who live between two worlds and struggle with a sense of belonging: Pamela Petro, an American writer who fell in love with the landscape of Wales in her twenties, and Eric Charles Ngalle, a Cameroonian poet and refugee, who made a life in Wales while unable to turn his mind to his original home, and the trauma that made him leave his family aged 17.

The Green Book  

In the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, travelling in the United States was fraught with difficulties if you were black. At best it was inconvenient, as white-owned businesses refused to serve African American motorists, repair their cars or offer them hotel accommodation. At worst, travel could be life-threatening if you walked into the wrong bar in the wrong town. That's why in 1936 Victor H Green, a Harlem postal worker, published the first edition of The Green Book. The guide listed hotels, restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African Americans and was an attempt, in Victor Green's words, "to give the Negro traveller information that will keep from him running into difficulties and embarrassments". 'Embarrassments' seems rather a tame word for the outright hostility and physical danger which many black travellers experienced in segregation-era America. The Green Book became a catalogue of refuge and tolerance in a hostile and intolerant world. Alvin Hall hits the highway, Green Book in hand, to document a little-known aspect of racial segregation: the challenges - for mid-20th century America's new black middle class - of travelling in their own country. Alvin's journey starts in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was born and raised, takes him through Alabama and Tennessee and concludes in Ferguson, Missouri. The guide ceased publication soon after the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But, as Alvin discovers in Ferguson, many African Americans still feel far from safe as they drive. Alvin asks whether the Green Book ceased publication too soon. Interviewees: Carolyn Bailey-Champion, Dr. Charles Champion, Leah Dickerman, Jerome Gray, Prof. Allyson Hobbs, Ryan Jones, Maira Liriano, Ron McCoy, Robert Moman, Dr. Gwen Patton, Calvin Ramsey, Tiffany Shawn, Rev. Henry Steele, Bryan Stevenson and Rev. Starsky Wilson Producer: Jeremy Grange Archive audio courtesy of PBS, CBS and CNN Photos: Jonathan Calm.

Bursting the Social Network Bubble  

Bobby Friction has started to realise that his day-to-day online activities are not only being monitored but in some senses manipulated. How often he interacts with specific friends, pages or sites sculpts and filters everything and everyone he comes into contact with online. Since the Brexit vote and the US election these bubbles have become a really big issue - with talk of fake news, post-truth politics and online communities increasingly divided. When, like Bobby, you decide you've had enough of living in a social media bubble, what can you do to change things? Is it possible for an ordinary person a user of social media to beat the system or is it only technology nerds who can do it? And really - is there any benefit to breaking out of the bubble? The Producer is Perminder Khatkar.

GCHQ: Minority Report  

The domestic challenge facing Britain's biggest secret intelligence service. What's stopping members of the ethnic minorities from playing a key part in Britain's spy network: discrimination, loyalty or simple old-fashioned prejudice? DJ Nihal Arthanayake, Five Live and Asian Network presenter, gets rare access to GCHQ, the government's secret communication headquarters in Cheltenham Spa. He talks to staff from the black, Asian and ethnic minorities and hears from members of those communities outside about their attitude to the intelligence-gathering organisation. A report leaked to the Sunday Times six years ago suggested that black and Asian intelligence officers were concerned about there being a racist culture. If GCHQ's workforce was truly representative of Britain's ethnic makeup, then 12 per cent would be black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities, but it's not even a quarter of that. Can the organisation change? Produced by Mark Savage.

A Vision on Peckham Rye  

"Sauntering along the boy looks up and sees a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough, like stars" When Levi Roots was 15, a teacher read out William Blake's The Tyger to the class. For Levi, it was a life-changing moment. The singer and entrepreneur had only just learned to read and describes the poem as exploding into his brain the way no words ever had before. Levi returns to South East London to find out more about his favourite poet and uncover the story of Blake's supposed first vision of angels bespangling the branches of a tree on Peckham Rye at the age of "8 or 10". Writers, poets and artists continue to draw inspiration from this idea and we hear from some of them about why Blake, and especially this story, continues to have such powerful resonance. David Almond, explains how Blake crept into his novel Skellig and why he thinks that childhood imagination is different from that of adults. Chris McCabe has been researching the poetic vibrations of the area across the centuries for a book about the lost poets of Nunhead Cemetery, Cenotaph South, and accompanies Levi on a quest to find Blake's tree. The filmmaker Sarah Turner recreated the angel incident for her film Public House, about the successful community takeover of a local pub. Levi, his guests, and students from Harris Girls Academy, a school that sits on the Rye take some time to look into the trees and see if they can find any traces of Blake's angels. What could those angels be and why does Blake, despite his difficulty, seem to ignite the passions of young people? The programme includes readings by Peter Marinker, Chris McCabe, Levi Roots, Georgia Peskett, Barnaby Steed, David Almond and the students of Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich. The choral piece, Criers of Peckham Rye, was for the film Public House by Duncan Macleod and performed by Dulwich Folk Choir and Duncan Macleod. The programme features other extracts from the film Public House made and sound designed by Sarah Turner. Producer: Natalie Steed A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Being Bored: The Importance of Doing Nothing  

Is boredom under threat? There are more TV channels than we can count, Smartphones keep us engaged around the clock, and the constant white noise of social media coerces us to always 'interact'. In fact, there is so much to stimulate our everyday lives in this digital age that we need never be bored ever again. So do we still need to be bored? And what would we miss if we did eliminate boredom completely from our lives? The happily bored Phill Jupitus takes a creative look at our attitude to this misunderstood emotion. He will examine what boredom is, and how it has influenced our leisure time, our workplaces, our creativity and our evolution. Phill will examine its impact on comedy, art, music, and television, taking us from punk to prison, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Sherlock Holmes, from Danish sex clubs to London's 'Boring Conference'. This will be a lively look at the simple, very real and essential emotion of boredom, and a stout defence of the right to sometimes just sit down and do nothing. Interviews include - the Reverend Richard Coles, the writer Natalie Haynes, the artist George Shaw, the comedy writer & producer Robert Popper, the psychologist Peter Toohey, the punk musician Gaye Black (formerly of The Adverts), the psychologist Sandi Mann, the BBC newsreader Simon McCoy, Dr Teresa Belton and the social media entrepreneur Jodie Cook.

No Platform  

The NUS policy of 'No Platform', which blocks members of six proscribed organisations speaking on university campuses, has been the subject of a huge amount of debate recently. Similarly, the related issue of establishing so-called 'safe spaces' within universities, which results in speakers being blocked because their opinions might offend or upset members of the student population, has been widely discussed, with many commentators suggesting the creation of a new generation gap opening up between middle-aged graduates concerned about free speech on campus and younger students who say this older group is out of touch with a politics more concerned with identity than class. As Professor Andrew Hussey explores in this programme, in fact both 'No Platform' and 'Safe Spaces' were created by that older generation, having been born out of the student politics movements of the 1970s and 1980s, and while they were primarily concerned with keeping the violent message of the far right away from campus, they also saw many other speakers either barred from talking or angrily shouted down. Hussey will hear how no platforming, made official NUS policy in 1974, took its inspiration from the disruptive methods of anti-fascist campaigners in the 1930s. Having examined this history, Hussey will set about (with help from contributors including David Aaronovitch, Kaite Welsh and Richard Brooks from the NUS) examining whether there has indeed been a shift in recent times, making the current incarnations of 'no platform' and 'safe spaces' a real danger, as many have suggested, to free speech on University campuses. Along the way he'll consider archive both recent and dating back to the 70s/80s, and examine what for him is one of the most troubling aspects of this whole debate - the use of 'safe spaces' as an excuse to barrack and intimidate speakers through the employment of the 'heckler's veto'.

The French Culture War  

A year after last November's terror attacks in Paris, journalist Nick Fraser explores the deeper culture war taking place between a new generation of French Muslims and the defenders of hard-line secular Republicanism in France. As a country and a civilization, France prides itself on its own model of Frenchness - non-ethnic, republican, integrationist, based on legality and citizenship and, in cultural terms, emphatically secular. It's based on a concept unique to France - laïcité. But aversion to laïcité is now widespread among banlieue and Muslim young, and it would seem that integration on the scale advocated by its supporters hasn't happened. By common consent, French secularism has hidden the country's real and growing race and culture divisions - some argue it's exacerbated them. The government takes matters seriously enough to be spending millions on a new programme of civic education designed explicitly to counter apathy and hostility to republican values, and promote secularism. This summer, PM Manuel Valls called for a pact. "Our country must prove boldly to the world that Islam is compatible with democracy," he told the press. Meanwhile the hard right talk of the Grand Remplacement - effectively a cultural takeover and an 'Islamisation' of France. Even in mainstream cultural and political debate many Muslims feel laïcité and secularism are being targeted specifically against them - from the ban on the veil in public space to the burkini row earlier this summer. Secularism is being used as a weapon of anti-Islamic sentiment, they argue, even as a cover for racism. Liberal defenders of laïcité point out that this is a political misuse of the idea but not its truth - arguing that separation of religion from the public space remains necessary and desirable in France. Talking to writers, satirists and cultural activists, Muslim and secular, Nick Fraser asks if the French Republican idea can survive. Producer: Simon Hollis A Brook Lapping production for the BBC.

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