Episodes

  • Who's Looking At You?

    · Seriously...

    Once upon a time, total surveillance was the province of George Orwell and totalitarian states, but we now live in a world where oceans of data are gathered from us every day by the wondrous digital devices we have admitted to our homes and that we carry with us everywhere. At the same time, our governments want us to let them follow everything we do to root out evil before it can strike. If you have nothing to hide, do you really have nothing to fear?In Who's Looking At You , novelist and occasional futurist Nick Harkaway argues surveillance has reached a new pitch of penetration and sophistication and we need to talk about it before it's too late.This is our brave new world: data from pacemakers are used in criminal prosecutions as evidence, the former head of the CIA admits 'we kill people based on meta-data,' and scientists celebrate pulling a clear image of a face directly from a monkey's brain.Where does it end, and what does it mean? Surveillance used to end at our front door, now not even the brain is beyond the prying eyes of an information-hungry world. The application of big data brings many benefits and has the potential to make us wealthier, keep us healthier and ensure we are safer - but only if we the citizens are in control.The programme uses rich archive to illustrate how the 'watchers' have adapted to technology that has super-charged the opportunity to snoop. It examines the arguments of those who claim the right to keep their secrets while demanding that we the people give up more and more of ours. Transparency for the masses? Or simple necessity in a chaotic technological future? What happens to us, to our choices under the all-seeing eye? One thing is certain: if we don't make choices about surveillance, they will be made for us.

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  • Dads and Daughters

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    The relationship between fathers and daughters has been the subject of countless cultural explorations down the centuries, from Elektra's distress to Bonjour Tristesse. Some of them are idealised ('To Kill A Mockingbird', 'All the Lights We Cannot See'); some highly damaging and dysfunctional ('This is England', 'The Beggar's Opera'); some, as any A'Level pupil who's studied 'King Lear' can attest, are both. What is clear in all these cases is just how particular and powerful the relationship can be, and in this highly personal programme Lauren Laverne heads home to team up with her own dad, Les, to talk about their relationship and how it matches up with some of these cultural imaginings. Among anecdotes about growing up in Sunderland and later on Les playing roadie to Lauren's gigs with the likes of the Ramones, we also hear from artists who in one way or another are engaging with the dad/daughter relationship now, including Helen MacDonald, Glyn Maxwell and The Unthanks. Presenter: Lauren LaverneProducer: Geoff Bird.

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  • It's Just a Joke, Comrade: 100 Years of Russian Satire

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    The Russian Revolution unleashed a brand of humour that continues to this day. In this two-part series, comedian and Russophile Viv Groskop explores a century of revolutionary comedy and asks how it continues to shape the national psyche. The series will rediscover comedy of the Revolution: Bolshevik satire, early Communist cartoons and jokes about Lenin, as writers, satirists and comedians recall the jokes and cartoons shared by their parents and grandparents. Viv will investigate the birth of the 'anekdot' and trace the development of dark humour through the purges. She will look at how dissident humour in the late 1950s influenced comedy in London and New York, and meet contemporary comedians to gain an understanding of the shape and sound of the comedy circuit in Russia today. Producer: Georgia Catt

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  • Hull 2017: The Spirit of Hessle Road

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    Hessle road is an infamous working class district in Hull. But to those who live and work there, it's much more than that - it's a place of character, community but also hardship. This montage documentary pieces together the ghosts of Hessle Road's past through some of its most colourful characters.It's a collection of moving, funny tales over a bed of traditional folk music from the beating heart of Hull, crowned as City of Culture 2017. Hull's heritage is anchored in the sea. Its fishermen, the last of the great hunters, lived in the most colourful community in the world but were exposed to extreme danger in the perilous waters within the Arctic Circle. Their lives were held together by a set of primitive folk beliefs - magic and music. But behind the closed doors of this community are darker stories - 6,000 men left Hull for the sea but never returned. The families of those lost still live in the city's terraced houses."They were the underdogs, fighting against nature at sea and social prejudice at home.... George Orwell talked about society standing on the shoulders of the miners. But the port of Hull prospered on the backs of the trawlermen." - Historian and photographer Alec Gill, who has documented Hessle Road since the 1970s.Among the Hessle Roaders we meet are the last remaining "headscarf revolutionary" Yvonne, a former night club singer and friend to Lillian Bilocca who marched to Downing Street to change the safety laws on trawler ships - and the raucous folk veteran Mick McGarry and HillBilly Troupe, keeping Hull's folk music scene alive.Produced by Hana Walker-BrownA Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4.

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  • Passing Dreams

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    A portrait of singer, songwriter and truck driver Will Beeley.The myth of the road is deeply rooted in America - it's the thing that delivers escape, promises freedom, fuels new hopes and, once upon a time at least, thoughts of a new nation. And it provides its own opening onto the vastness and variety of the country today.The distances can be dizzying. And these days Will Beeley spends more time on the road than he does at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city in the desert, with Route 66 running through its heart.In another life Will Beeley was a musician - a singer and songwriter - an anxious romantic at the end of the 1960s and a smooth-voiced folkie ten years later. He played gig after gig, made records and, for a while at least, hoped for the big time. But now, like a different road taken, a different stop along the way, he spends his life behind the wheel of a hulking truck, sharing the driving with his wife, as the highway and the days blur by.It's a unique vantage point. And as America spools past outside, framed by the huge windscreen, does he - like all of us now and then - think of times gone by, of unfinished business, of what might have been? Or is his attention fixed ahead on the road as it rolls towards him, flowing beneath his wheels?Producer: Martin Williams.

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  • My Muse: Lynne Truss on Joni Mitchell

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    Not everyone appreciates the tonalities, lyrics or even the shrieky voice of Canadian artist and musician Joni Mitchell but in a dusty class room in 1971 Lynne Truss decided she loved the writer of Woodstock, Big Yellow Taxi and Both Sides Now. It was a bond forged in the face of the frosty indifference of fellow pupils in Miss Cheverton's music class at the Tiffin Girls School in Kingston Upon Thames.Even Lynne is slightly mystified when she was asked who was her muse that, as a person mostly famous for writing a book on punctuation, she replied; Joni Mitchell. Lynne explores why a series of albums from Ladies of the Canyon to Heijra taking in Blue, Court and Spark and The Hissing of Summer lawns' has wrought such influence over so many.For her aficionados Joni Mitchell is more than a song writer. Lynne observes that for some the attachment goes beyond the personal; its a complete identification with the struggles of dealing with high emotion and how to cope. In the programme she speaks to the poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, the author Linda Grant, Elbow's front man Guy Garvey, her latest biographer the Syracuse University academic David Yaffe and Gina Foster the singer with the UK act Joni's Soul, which she insists is not a tribute but a celebration act. Lynne contends that despite at the time being overshadowed in favour of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and others Joni Mitchell will come to be regarded as the greatest exponent of the art of singer-song writer from that era and concludes that what makes her a muse can be found less in the brilliant lyrical summations of eternal questions like love, loss and freedom but more in her absolute commitment never to compromise her art - to remain true, above all else, to her own muse.

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  • Art in Miniature

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    Tiny bathers relax in a puddle of oily water on a pavement; a galleon sails on the head of a pin, a dancer twirls next to a mote of dust under a microscope - Dr Lance Dann, lover of miniature worlds, crouches down on hands and knees to better observe the world of tiny art.Prompted by advances in technology, and the enduring wonder of things created on a really, really tiny scale, Lance Dann follows his own obsession with the miracle of miniature art.Knocking on the tiny doors of creators from street artist Slinkachu, whose mesmerising cityscapes are created, photographed and abandoned in the street, to the collection of antique miniature portraits in Sotheby's where expert Mark Griffith Jones delicately reveals the hidden treasures that span from over 500 years of art history.The 21st century has experienced a revival of the small in art Desiree De Leon has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers for her Instagram account of small doodles, whilst the 'the chewing gum man' Ben Wilson, has gathered a loyal following for his hidden gems scattered about the London streets. Every morning Ben gets up and starts creating tiny tiles on which his innermost feelings are expressed - and then he leaves them on the Underground for people to find.Then there is the barely visible - Willard Wigan MBE - the poster-boy of microscopic art, a dyslexia sufferer who has found relief in the creation of tiny art works. Recognised globally, his sculptures, which are small enough to fit on the head of a pin, sell for six-figure sums. "I work between my heartbeats. I have one-and-a-half seconds to actually move. And at the same time I have to watch I don't inhale my own work."Then there is the nearly invisible - Jonty Hurwitz - who sculpts with Nano-technology, and sometimes loses sight of it in the process. "When I found the sculpture it was one of the most moving moments of my life, you see all these grotesque pieces of dust as the microscope is moving around and suddenly there's a woman, dancing"What is the enduring appeal of the miniature in art, and where has this revival come from? To discover where it hides, why it appeals, and how the artists' work on such delicate objects, Dann plays with scale, sound and voices to bring a closer, more microscopic focus on the art world. Presenter: Lance Dann is an associate member and former sound designer of The Wooster Group, a writer and director of a range of radio dramas including podcast "Blood Culture", commissioned by The Welcome Trust, and won a Prix Marulic for his production of Moby Dick for BBC Radio 4. Producer: Sara Jane Hall iPlayer photograph: Slinkachu.

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  • Make It Real

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    The poet Ross Sutherland takes a visceral look at the art of professional wrestling - from its violent theatre to its tendency to bleed through the fourth wall. Exploring the porous boundary between the reality of the ring and the world outside, searching for the edges of the story.Ross speaks to wrestlers and writers, diving into the world of two of the UK's independent wrestling promotions - Progress Wrestling and Insane Championship Wrestling. We eavesdrop on a violent wedding, speak to a villain carved out of the Conservative Party and explore wrestling's complex relationship with pain and politics.Image credit: Robbie Boyd (Warrior Fight Photography)Produced by Eleanor McDowallA Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

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  • My Secret Wig

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    Lots of people wear wigs, and go to great lengths to keep them secret - but why? Perhaps it's because the hair on top of our heads means so much to us. It's a crucial part of our identity, the person we see when we look in the mirror, so what happens when it's not there?It's a question Brian Kernohan has asked himself. Yes, his hair's thinning a bit on top, but it's his secret - until his hairdresser points it out. Brian wouldn't dare suggest a wig - even though he's always wondered if he could try one?Brian investigates the secret world of wigs with the help of alopecia sufferer Geraldine, who runs a secret wig shop which ensures discretion for all her customers. He explores the stigma attached to wig wearing, and finds out how tastes have changed since the 17thcentury when Louis XIV put wigs at the cutting edge of fashion. He meets cancer patients who have learnt to "embrace your inner bald", as 16-year-old Sophie puts it, the wig shop owner who surprises customers by wearing her own stock, and meets the opera singer who loves to wear wigs on stage. But still, Brian is nervous when he is fitted for a wig, and is even more terrified when he has to wear it in public. What if someone realises he's wearing a secret wig - and why does he care so much? Producer: Freya McClements.

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  • PowerPointless

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    With more than 30 million presentations being given around the world every day, PowerPoint has become the single most ubiquitous tool for presenting ideas. Yet it's the software many of us love to hate - vilified for simplifying the complex and complicating the simple. 30 years on from its commercial launch, Ian Sansom asks, 'What's the real point of PowerPoint?' as he embarks on what surely must be a world first - a PowerPoint presentation for the radio.How do I move this on to the next slide? There we are. Thanks. Armed only with an auto-content wizard, some zippy graphics and a hefty set of bullet points, Ian ventures forth to assess the true impact of this revolution in communication. He speaks with the software's pioneers, meets some of its notable detractors and asks how PowerPoint has influenced corporate life and spilled out into some improbable areas of our culture. As he discovers how science-fiction is helping to inform the next generation of presentation technology, Ian asks if PowerPoint has empowered the individual - or if our boardrooms, lecture halls and even our spiritual affairs are to be forever condemned to the fate that has come to be known as 'Death By PowerPoint.' What do I do now? Press escape? No, I want to bring it back to the start. F6 I think. Where's the remote thingy..?Producer: Conor Garrett.

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  • Queens of Chapeltown

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    After the violence directed at black people in Nottingham and Notting Hill in the 1950s, and the naked racism expressed in Smethwick during the 1964 general election, a group of pioneering West Indians came up with a simple and defiant riposte: Carnival. In Queens of Chapeltown, Colin Grant goes behind the scenes of Carnival to its Leeds West Indian HQ in Chapeltown - amidst the glue guns, sequins and feathers - to capture that moment of extraordinary transformation, 50 years on: the birth of a tradition which, for one weekend in August, would wash away the bad taste of anti immigrant sentiment with a burst of colour and flash of exuberance that would forever change Britain. Grant travels to Leeds to talk with the pioneers and celebrate the endurance and growth of Carnival.Produced and presented by Colin Grant.

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  • Diana: A Life Backwards

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    Marking the 20th anniversary of her untimely death, Archive on 4 presents a unique and moving portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales - her life documented in reverse chronology. Diana, Princess of Wales was arguably the most famous - and most photographed - woman in the world. Her life has been exhaustively discussed and disassembled in the media both before and since her untimely death on 31st August 1997. As the anniversary of that tragic event approaches, is there anything truly new for us to learn about her remarkable, turbulent, and short life - and how the way we reacted to it changed our society? Drawing from hundreds of hours of footage, Archive on 4 presents a unique, unmediated portrait of the Princess - starting with the sombre events of her funeral and taking the listener on a journey backwards through her life and times: from the remarkable public outpouring of grief that followed her passing; the almost unbearable press intrusion into her private world in her last months; her new life as a single woman; her divorce, her married life and the public jubilation surrounding the Royal Wedding of 1981; right back to the announcement of the 19 year-old Diana's engagement to Prince Charles. Unpresented and unmediated, the programme offers a unique audio montage of the events of, and reaction to, one of the most extraordinary lives of the 20th century. Featuring contributions from the archives from Piers Morgan, Andrew Neill, Jennie Bond, Richard Kay - as well as several of Diana's closest friends, and members of the British public. Produced by Steven Rajam and James Roberts for BBC Radio 4 Contributors: Andrew Neill Arthur Edwards Barbara Daly Bea Campbell David Emanuel David Starkey Denis Lawson Eammon McCabe Earl Spencer Elizabeth Emanuel Glenn Harvey James Naughtie James Reynolds James Whitaker Jennie Bond Jeremy Paxman John Humphrys Ken Lennox Martin Bashir Michael Shea Patrick Jephson Penny Juror Piers Morgan Rosie Boycott Tim Graham Tom Cruise Tony McGrath Archive: All Things Considered, BBC Radio Wales Archive on 4 - A History of the Stiff Upper Lip, BBC Radio 4 A Royal Recovery, BBC Radio 4 BBC News Special - Diana: 10 Years On, BBC News 24 Capturing the Royals: The Story of Royal Photography, BBC2 Decisive Moments: A Rough Road, BBC2 Diana: The People's Princess, BBC1 Great Britons: Diana, BBC2 Heart of the Matter, BBC1 Fifty Years with the Firm: Prog 5: Doom & Gloom, BBC Radio 4 Mediumwave, BBC Radio 4 Memories of Diana, BBC1 Modern Times: The Shrine, BBC4 Newsnight, BBC1 Panorama, BBC1 Proms, BBC1 The Princess's People: A View from the Crowd, BBC2 The Reunion: The Wedding of Charles & Diana, BBC Radio 4 The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed: Remembering Diana, BBC Radio 4 Top of the Pops, BBC1 Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4.

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  • The Edge of Life

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    Suicide is the number one killer of men under-50 in England and Wales. A 'zero suicide' approach to prevention first devised in Detroit is now changing attitudes to care in the UK. Merseyside is leading the way. Radio 4 gains exclusive access to a healthcare authority being transformed from the inside-out in a bid to treat suicide as a preventable condition and to bring lives lost down to 0% by 2020.

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  • Grayson Perry: En Garde

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    Grayson Perry goes backwards in the archive in search of the moment the avant-garde died.It's a century since Marcel Duchamp submitted his artwork called Fountain to an exhibition staged by the Society of Independent Artists in New York. Fountain was a urinal -- not a painting of a urinal or a sculpture, just a urinal, bought from a Manhattan hardware store and signed R.Mutt. The Society of Independent Artists rejected Duchamp's provocation and the original object was lost.Nowadays Duchamp's urinal is canonised as the fountainhead of conceptual art and the high water (closet) mark of the avant garde. Replicas of the Fountain grace museums around the world - emblems of the avant-garde spirit of experimentation and confrontation. Somewhere in the intervening years though, something changed - contemporary art lost its ability to shock and critique. We're still hopelessly drawn to the idea of art that's 'cutting edge', 'ground-breaking', 'revolutionary'. But is that possible at this point -- haven't we seen it all before?Maybe the death knell was sounded when the Saatchi Gallery opened on the South Bank? Or with the advent of protest and radical chic in the 1960s? Maybe it was when the CIA funded the abstract expressionists? Or when the post-war art market began to reign supreme? Or when the Museum of Modern Art opened its doors in 1927?Or maybe it was all a matter of style the very moment Duchamp's Fountain was conceived?Featuring Brian Eno, Kenneth Goldsmith, Nnenna Okore, Cornelia Parker, and Sarah Thornton.Producer: Martin Williams.

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  • Driving Bill Drummond

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    Bill Drummond is many things. As well as an artist, a writer and former pop-star - he's the owner of an old curfew tower in Northern Ireland which he runs as an artists' residency. Last year some poets from Belfast's Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry stayed there and Bill published their collected work in a little black book called The Curfew Tower is Many Things. Except for a poem the award-winning Belfast poet Stephen Sexton wrote. Apparently that one went missing. So Bill has left two pages blank in the book for Stephen to fill in with poetry as they drive through all of Ireland's 32 counties in 5 days in a white Ford Transit hire-van, giving out copies as they go. But what exactly is driving Bill Drummond? Producer Conor Garrett is there to find out. As they cross the Irish border and over each county boundary, Conor is becoming increasingly concerned he may not have a good enough story for his radio programme. It's a problem further complicated by the fact Bill won't talk about his chart-topping '90s pop band who once famously set fire to a very large pile of their own cash. Then, when a narrative arc does eventually develop, Conor can't be sure how authentic it is. And what's all this stuff about eels?Producer: Conor Garrett.

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  • A Brief History of the Truth

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    It's time to travel down the rabbit hole of truth as American satirist Joe Queenan explores a murky world of fake news, prejudice and alternative facts. "Recent politics have shown that the truth is no fun," he explains. "It's like a vegetable your mother makes you eat. Yes it may be nourishing, but it tastes terrible."With archive contributions from Donald Trump, Doris Lessing, Jeremy Corbyn, Peter Mandelson and Theresa May; plus new interviews with Mark Borkowski, Edith Hall and Julian Baggini, author of a Short History of Truth. This is Joe Queenan's follow up to previous editions on Blame, Shame, Irony and Anger.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • The Pigeon Whistles

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    The sound of music flying through the air, carried on the tails of pigeons. "I knew it was a noise maker, but it was the only thing in the museum that I had no idea what it might sound like. Because it works in a way no other instrument does. No other instrument physically moves around you in space, flying overhead, and that seemed like magic". Inspired by the Chinese pigeon whistles in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Nathaniel Robin Mann decided he wanted to revive the ancient art of pigeon whistling, a tradition possibly thuosands of years old, in which tiny flutes are attached to pigeons in flight. His experience with birds, however, was limited and he needed a bird expert. "None of the pigeon racers wanted to get involved in a music project. Then someone said, 'Well, there's this guy in Nottingham who has a loft made of an old hutch that he straps to the back of his scooter. They call him Pigeon Pete.'"Enter Pete Petravicius, Nottinghamshire ex-miner and steeplejack. A life-long passion for pigeons makes him the perfect trainer to teach the birds how to fly with their unusual musical attachments.We follow Nathan and Pigeon Pete as their friendship, and their understanding of the pigeon whistles grow. From the gloomth of the Pitt Rivers Museum, to the creation of a modern day 3D-printed whistle for Pete's pigeons. Finally, we hear a pigeon's flight described in sound across the sky, creating a haunting, undulating chord cloud, accompanied by Nathan's hypnotic voice, singing songs he has discovered about pigeon culture.Producer: Sara Jane HallAbout the presenters: Nathaniel Mann is a composer, singer and performer. As Sound & Music's Embedded Composer in Residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford Contemporary Music, he discovered the world of Pigeon Whistles, and started to explore their potential, supported by PRSF, a foundation helping new musicians make new work. His eclectic projects chart diverse worlds of sound and culture, from bronze foundries and popcorn, to donkeys and Trafalgar Square - each has found a voice through Mann's work. Pete Petravicius is unique in that he is the only man in the UK who trains his birds to return to a mobile pigeon loft. The birds can thus travel across the country, flying in formation and returning to their small motor home/coop. He's also an ex-miner and terrific raconteur who loves his Birmingham Rollers. The Pigeons are cared for in strict accordance to guidelines and regulations laid out by the DEFRA & the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). The use of Pigeon Whistles has been deemed as not causing stress or harm to the birds by independent animal welfare advisors and Pigeon Fancing experts.3D Pigeon Whistles modeled and printed by Joe Banner at Printrite, Nottinghamshire.About the music :The Pigeon BellWords/Music: Mann - after poems by Mei Yaochen (1002-1060) & Zhang Xian (990-1078) - as translated by Wang ShixiangThe PigeonWords: Trad. Music: MannAdapted from 19th Century Broadside Ballad "The Pigeon" Found in Bodleian Library's collections Shelfmark: Harding B 21(14) The Pigeon Chase After 'Uke Uke' - Fox Chase - as sung by Dee Hicks of the Cumberland PlateauWords: Mann / Music: Trad.

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  • And Then There Were Nun

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    What is life like for nuns and monks today? With a lack of new blood coming into the traditional monasteries and convents, Bishop Martin Shaw supports some of these aging communities in their painful final days as they are forced to leave their homes. His role as an official visitor, is also to receive the vows of any new nuns and monks joining religious orders, and to hear the concerns and complaints from each community. Sister Giovanna, Sister Clare and Brother Samuel, who are all from different religious communities, recount what life is like for them today. They also share their experiences of dedication over the years - from that first day in the chapel and hearing Gregorian Chant to outside keeping bees and pigs in the orchard, from teaching young children in inner cities to supporting the bereaved in hospitals. We get a glimpse of life in this unique and rarefied world of devotion and commitment, and hear how these communities have changed over the decades. Bishop Shaw has also witnessed these changes, but although monastic life as it has traditionally been lived is unlikely to survive, there are signs of new religious life beginning to emerge within the Church.Produced by Luke Whitlock.

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  • 999 - Which Service Do You Require?

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    999 was the first emergency telephone number in the world when it was launched on June 30th, 1937. Within the first week, more than a thousand calls were made to the service with one burglar arrested less than five minutes after a member of the public had dialled 999. Impressive stuff. But there were teething problems...In the early days, only those wealthy enough to own a telephone could hope to avail of the service. Exchange room operators complained of stress caused by the raucous buzzers which alerted them to 999 calls. Advancing technology connected with the system began to alter the relationship between public and police. Almost unbelievably in hindsight, the 999 service wasn't made fully available across the nation until 1976.Exactly 80 years after it was introduced, Ian Sansom dials up the remarkable story of our three digit emergency number. Between rare archive, real life-or-death emergencies and interviews with call handlers on the front line, Ian takes a personal look at the evolution of 999 and asks what the future holds for this pioneering British institution.Producer: Conor Garrett.

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  • Port Talbot Paradiso

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    Actor Michael Sheen explores the history of Port Talbot's Plaza Cinema. A beautiful art-deco building , first opening in 1940, the Plaza was the heart of cinema entertainment for the people of Port Talbot for decades - a place where Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins watched everyone from George Formby to Bogart and Cagney and where, growing up in Port Talbot in the 1970s and 80s, Michael Sheen had his early encounters with the film industry in which he would thrive. But as well as charting the onward march of the multiplex which lead to the Plaza's eventual demise, and talking to the last projectionist and cinema manager who fought so hard to make it viable, Michael Sheen explores the importance of places like the Plaza to towns and communities all over the UK. Is it possible to turn it around, find a new use or even see crowds return to the elegant interior, or is the Plaza now only a monument to a past life , rich in nostalgia but which can no longer provide what a modern community needs ? Michael also hears from two other Plaza goers and children of Port Talbot - Rob Brydon and the Opera Singer Rebecca Evans.Producers: Joanne Cayford and Tom AlbanPhotographs: Copyright John Crerar.

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