• What lies behind Boris Johnson's overwhelming election victory? In this programme, Anne McElvoy talks to the key figures across the political spectrum about how the 2019 general election was fought and lost.

    To what extent was this a 'Brexit election' and how did the Conservative Party reach out to voters in places that it had not won for decades and in some cases generations? Why did the Opposition Parties agree to holding the election in the first place? What led to Labour's worst defeat since 1935 and why did Jeremy Corbyn's campaign fail to make the impact he had made in 2017? Why did the Liberal Democrats struggle to make the breakthrough that they had hoped for and what difference did the Brexit Party's decision to stand down in Conservative held seats make to the result.

    Producer: Peter Snowdon

  • It's hard to think of a more intimate, personal form of communication than the love letter. We seal them with our kisses, salt them with our tears, are present in every inky smudge. So it's a truth universally acknowledged that we usually write them ourselves.
    But not necessarily...

    Cathy FitzGerald hears what it's like to be a love-letter ghostwriter from Rebecca L. Pierce, who runs Love Letter for Hire. Whether you need a letter to make up or a letter to break up, Rebekah can help - but she'll ask you some searching questions along the way.
    Author and former ghostwriter Samara O'Shea introduces one of her clients, Steven, and together they share the story of a letter written in despair. And we hear about Vida Select, a company that offers "virtual dating assistants" who'll write flirty messages to potential matches for you on Tinder, Plenty of Fish and other online dating websites.

    Cathy decides to have a go for herself and sets up Cyrano for Hire. Her first client is Jason from Brooklyn - what will his girlfriend, Elke, make of her ghostwritten love letter?

    Presenter and Producer: Cathy FitzGerald
    Executive Producer: Steven Rajam
    Photo: David Gochfeld
    Interviewees: Rebekah L Pierce, Samara O'Shea, Steven, Chloe Rose Stuart Ulin, Scott Valdez, Jason Nunes, Elke Dehner

    A White Stiletto production for BBC Radio 4

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  • "When I was in primary school, I remember being asked to draw our house. I drew our temporary accommodation, which back then was just an ordinary house. And I think about children living in these office blocks - what would they draw?"

    When Immie was growing up, she lived in emergency and then temporary accommodation with her mum and three sisters. Temporary can be permanent for many people, but today she feels much more secure. Then one day something odd happened. She was on the bus, on the to deck, looking into the first floor of an ugly office block on the side of the busy A12 in north east London. She could see it had been converted, and there were people living up and down all seven floors. In tiny flats. Some of them were much smaller than the government's minimum space standard.

    Immie wanted to know how this was possible.

    We often hear that there is a national housing crisis, but don't always understand what that means. Immie, who is just 22, has made over 80 freedom of information requests to find out how many people are being temporarily housed in office blocks. She discovers that it is perfectly legal to do this - developers can bypass normal planning regulations thanks to Permitted Development Rights or PDR. She meets an architect and a council leader who both say it's wrong, though their reasons are not the same.
    Features interviews with architect Julia Park of Leviit Bernstein; and Joseph Ejiofor, the head of Haringey Council ... plus some dramatic location recordings too.

    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

  • Eddie was set to become another statistic, another teenager killed by rising levels of knife crime.

    But Eddie’s life was saved by the new field of trauma science. It is revolutionising the way people are treated after shootings, traffic accidents or any injury that causes catastrophic bleeding.

    The doctors that pioneered the work call it Code Red. Your chances of surviving major bleeding are now higher than ever before.

    So what changed? Quite simply trauma medicine has been turned on its head. Before 2007, doctors would have treated Eddie’s catastrophic bleeding by trying to replace the fluid leaking out of his stab wounds. Salty water, called saline, and just one component of our blood – the oxygen carrying red blood cells – would be put back into Eddie’s body - in what's called a massive transfusion.

    It seemed like a good idea. Keep the blood pressure up, keep oxygen moving round the body and keep the patient alive. But that’s not what happened - around half of people died on the operating table. The principles were wrong. They were damaging the body’s natural way of stemming blood loss – clotting.

    It was around 2003 that the ideas behind the Code Red protocol started to take shape. The poster child of the new field of trauma science was revealing the vital role of clotting. Karim Brohi, Professor of Trauma Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, discovered that major trauma could disrupt the blood’s ability to clot within minutes of the injury, and patients affected were more likely to die. What's more, saline was diluting the blood and making the bleeding worse.

    Over a decade ago, the Royal London Hospital decided to do something radical. It introduced Code Red, also known as damage control resuscitation, and shifted the focus from blood pressure to blood clotting - get blood products into patients to get on top of any abnormalities there first.

    Making that happen took a huge culture shift. This is not a normal research environment. There’s no time to ponder, patients are hovering between life and death; and every second counts. But now the innovation has been accepted across the NHS, and recent research reveals a massive drop in the death rate of patients with catastrophic bleeding.

    Producer: Beth Eastwood

  • Journalist Gavin Haynes heads into the eye of two seemingly unlikely moral storms. He discovers bitter rows over diversity and racism within the world of Young Adult literature and Instagram knitting.

    You might think online knitting and teen fiction would be innocuous cosy communities formed around a shared love of craft and a good yarn. However, as Gavin reveals, both scenes have recently become embroiled in what he terms The Purity Spiral. These vicious cycles of accusation and judgement see communities engaging in moral feeding frenzies. As a result, individuals are targetted and savaged by mobs who deem them problematic.

    Gavin meets Nathan Taylor, an Instagram knitting star who unwittingly triggered a race row after attempting to reach out to people of colour using the hashtag Diversknitty. Nathan watched in horror as a wave of accusations of white supremacy and Nazism flowed into his inbox. This brush with the toxicity of a Purity Spiral was so severe that Nathan was hospitalised by his husband following a suicide threat.

    In Young Adult literature, Gavin discovers a scene similarly beset by ideological battles. We hear from the founder of the hashtag Own Voices which has come to symbolise books featuring minority characters written by authors from a similar racial or cultural background. We enter the world of the 'sensitivity reader' and meet author Laura Moriarty who almost had a well-reviewed book cancelled after hordes of people labelled it a 'white saviour narrative' despite the fact they'd never read it as it had yet to be published.

    Writer and Presenter: Gavin Haynes
    Producers: Gavin Haynes and Eve Streeter
    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

  • In the hands of artists, smog, landfill and sewage become beautiful, witty and challenging statements.

    As the scale of pollution intensifies, Emma meets the artists who are finding original and compelling ways to make us understand and feel the crisis of filth.

    Zack Denfeld and Cat Kramer harvest air pollution in cities around the world, whipping up egg whites on street corners. They bake them into meringues and hand them out to the public who can’t help but react to eating the city’s pollutants.

    Mexican collective Tres guide Emma through their studio, piled high with collected rubbish: they’ve filled a gallery with 300,000 stinking cigarette butts, taken over the streets to preserve fossilized chewing gum and crawled for months on Australian beaches filtering through marine plastic.

    Nut Brother has courted controversy with his performance of dragging 10,000 bottles of polluted water from Shaanxi to Beijing while John Sabraw wades through Ohio’s filthy streams, capturing iron oxide from unsealed mines and turning sludge into glorious paints.

    Emma delves through rails of Kasia Molga’s costumes which glow red in response to carbon, she listens to an orchestra of Lucy Sabin’s breath and takes us down under the River Thames to meet her collaborator Lee Berwick: they're working on an installation about underwater sound pollution, experimenting with sounds in the Greenwich foot tunnel for an installation opening in March.

    These provocative and entertaining artists discuss the relationship between art and activism, taking us beyond the facts and figures to face head on and experience the contamination we are inflicting on the planet.

    Producer: Sarah Bowen

  • In the heart of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, members of the Resistance worked tirelessly and at great risk to themselves to help those whose lives were threatened. Amongst them was Elisabeth Charlotte Gloeden – known as Liselotte or “Lilo” – who, along with her husband Erich, hid Jews in their home in Berlin, before arranging safe passage for them out of Germany.

    Both Lilo and Erich had Jewish fathers. Hers was a prominent skin specialist and he was hounded from his job by the Nazis. Lilo’s Jewish heritage led to her being driven from the legal profession at the outbreak of war in 1939.

    The couple’s efforts went undetected until 1944 when they took in General Fritz Lindemann, who was being hunted by the Gestapo for being part of the plot to assassinate Hitler. They stood trial in November 1944 before one of Germany’s most feared judges, Roland Freisler.

    This programme tells the remarkable story of the couple and of others who hid and were hidden in Nazi Berlin.

    Presenter: Fergal Keane
    Producer; Alice Doyard
    Editor: Andrew Smith

  • "Pregnant? Don't want to be? Call Jane at 643-3844"

    Between 1969 and 1973, in the years before the US supreme court opened up access to abortion across the country, a group of women in Chicago built an underground service.

    The University of Chicago student Heather Booth had been asked for help in 1965, when a friend's sister with an unwanted pregnancy was distraught and nearly suicidal. Her friend wanted to know if there was anywhere to turn in a state where abortion was illegal and where there was little guarantee for a woman's health or safety if she did manage to secure one.

    In response, Booth found a connection to the civil rights leader and surgeon TRM. Howard, who performed the procedure. Word spread quickly that she was someone who could help women access safe abortions.

    Operating under the pseudonym Jane, Heather Booth began to receive calls from other women. As the years went on and the number of calls increased, she looked for others to help carry on her work - and Jane: The Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation began in earnest.

    At first, the women sought out doctors for the procedure but, eventually, they found someone who trained them to carry out the abortions themselves. It's estimated that the women performed over 11,000 abortions during this time.

    In this documentary, we hear archive from the time, exploring the climate in the years running up to Roe v Wade, alongside an interview with a detective tasked with investigating Jane (originally recorded for the Radio Diaries podcast The Story of Jane), voices from the city and new interviews with Jane members.

    Presented by Laura Barton
    Produced by Eleanor McDowall
    A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4

  • The KLF aka The Jams aka The Timelords aka The K Foundation aka K2 Plant Hire aka The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu... it's complicated.

    Whatever name or weird mythology they happened to be operating under at the time, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty managed to top the UK pop charts in the early nineties with songs about love and ice-cream vans - often with plastic horns strapped to their heads. Then they turned their backs on the music industry, deleted their entire back catalogue and cremated £1 million of their own earnings on a remote Scottish island. Scroll forward 23 years and Drummond and Cauty re-emerge to announce they're building a pyramid in Liverpool out of bricks containing the cremated remains of just under 35,000 people.

    As more bricks are added to The People's Pyramid at the 2019 Toxteth Day of the Dead, Conor Garrett tries to work out what's going on...

    Produced and presented by Conor Garrett.

  • Photographer Garry Fabian-Miller has spent much of the last 30 years either in his dark room, or out walking on Dartmoor. That is about to end. Fabian-Miller began his career in the 1960’s but quickly tired of the typical black and white verite’ style that was then so much in vogue. Rejecting both the city streets, black and white film, and eventually the camera itself - his camera-less photography gives his work an utterly unique and other worldly quality - light pulses from deep yellow circles; the flicker of a naked flame peers through a slashed curtain of deep blue. His inspiration the moors he walks twice daily, passing through his eyes, his imagination and onto the photosensitive paper. The result is a body of work which plays with light and dark, exposure and developing – producing an acclaimed body of work recognised by both buyers and museums as like no other - collectors range from Sir Elton John to the V & A. But the onslaught of digital has signalled to him that things are changing – both the resources, and the techniques he has developed over time, are threatened, and with the near disappearance of dark rooms, he feels it time to make his last print and close his dark room for ever. His photographs are unconventional, dazzling, and use techniques honed over decades. He abandoned using cameras long ago, opting instead to use techniques based on early 19th century prints - long exposures, tone, and images funneled into shapes made by the sun. Always dazzlingly coloured, he uses a developing substance which is no longer in production. Occasionally he gets a phone call from a dealer in London…. “Garry, I’ve just been offered 11 litres of CibaChrome, you want it? We join him as he uses up the very last of the chemistry which enable him to use the techniques he has spent a lifetime perfecting, before his dark room is closed forever. Reflecting a change out of his studio and in the world - in 2007 there were 204 professional dark rooms in London, by 2010 there were 8. We hear his story of printing - a physical, technical skill, as well as a dangerous and smelly one. We envisage the end of the analogue era of photography, and celebrate the alchemical eclipse. Curator of photography from the V&A Martin Barnes salutes his work, and how it harks back to the very start of photography, just as this chapter is coming to an end. From the spooky mists of Hound Tor to making pictures in the dark, Fabian-Miller takes us one step closer to the end of an era. Producer: Sara Jane Hall

  • For most of her life, Janice Wilson suffered from strange and terrifying attacks at night. She would wake up, suddenly, feeling as though she was being choked or strangled. The next day, there would be blood on her pillow. Sometimes she’d have up to 50 of these attacks a night. It left her terrified and exhausted. For years, doctors put it down to psychological problems due to a trauma in her past. Then she met a doctor who found the astonishing, true cause. In “The Diagnosis”, Janice and the doctor who diagnosed her come together in a studio, to tell this remarkable story.

    The programme is presented and produced by Helena Merriman, who was inspired to tell other people’s stories of diagnosis after receiving her own surprise diagnosis a few years ago.

    Editor: Emma Rippon

  • Life is getting better. Child mortality rates have tumbled worldwide, more girls are in education, malaria is in decline and hunger is a thing of the past for most of us. So why don't we believe it? Why are so many of us convinced that we're heading for hell in a handcart?

    It's a question that really bothers the editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson. Is it the fault of journalists like him, peddling conflict and disaster rather than tales of human progress? Or are we all born with a negativity bias? Do we seek out stories of death and danger just as our ancestors listened out for sabre-toothed tigers padding ever closer to our cave?

    In search of answers Fraser meets some of the best-selling thinkers on human happiness- Harvard psychology professor, Steven Pinker, author of Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig and co-author of Factfulness, Anna Rosling Ronnlund.

    Armed with the combined intellectual heft of these purveyors of positivity Fraser returns to his Whitehall office to persuade his cynical staff that the world is crying out for a new Spectator with a positive spin.

    Producer: Alasdair Cross

  • Why do we hold our opponents in contempt? Former politician Douglas Alexander believes that disagreement is good, it's how the best arguments get refined. But, today, public discourse has become so ill-tempered, snide and lacking in respect that we are no longer engaged in a battle of ideas but a slanging match. He talks to people with personal tales about how we might all raise our game and disagree better, among them a relationship counsellor, an ex-soldier, a peace broker and a foster mother. Their tips? Civility is not enough. And knowledge is essential, as well as radical honesty, fierce intimacy and openness. So, dial down the rhetoric, rein in the insults - they will persuade no-one that your opinion is worth listening to - and pay attention.

    Producer: Rosamund Jones

    Researchers: Kirsteen Knight and Gabriela Jones

  • Sally Marlow talks to some of the men and women who have self-harmed, and the experts who treat them, to find out what is driving so many people to self-harm.

    Clinical guidelines define self-harm as any act of self-poisoning or self-injury carried out by a person irrespective of their motivation. However, research reveals a worrying association between self-harm and the risk of suicide.

    While rates of self-harm are particularly high among teenage girls, the true picture is far more nuanced. Rates have gone up in all age groups and both genders and, more recently, in groups such as middle-aged men.

    So what is driving so many people to hurt themselves, and what can be done to help them? The media is quick to point the finger at social media, but Sally discovers that the reasons behind this question are as varied and complex as the people who do it.

    Producer: Beth Eastwood

  • In the first of the three-part series "Playing Well" Chris Hawkins has an intimate conversation with the band mates of Scott Hutchison, who took his own life in May 2018.

    In conversation with Scott's brother Grant, drummer in Frightened Rabbit, and guitarist Andy Monaghan, Chris discovers more about the anxious child who reframed his family nickname as a band name - and how he channeled a rare lyrical talent, determination and energy into the creation of one of Scotland's most important and influential rock bands.

    Charting the rise of the band and Scott's intense, occasionally hilarious approach to live performance, Grant frankly addresses the pressures his brother faced - and the structural pressures faced by anyone in the music industry. Charting the exhausting aftermath of suicide, Grant talks about defining Scott as a songwriter, in the hope that the existence of works which appear to presage his death don't create a misleading impression of Scott's life.

    It's a moving portrait of a fascinating artist, and an attempt to reclaim Scott's musical legacy from the inaccurate assumption that the combination of musical celebrity and mental illness can only end in tragedy.

    Details of organisations offering information and support with mental health are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 08000 155 998.

    Presented by Chris Hawkins
    Produced by Kevin Core

  • As a teenager, the writer Varaidzo lost interest in school. She investigates the so-called "educational dip" and talks to teenagers about ways they think the school curriculum might be made more appealing and useful to them in later life. She also meets Lord Baker, the minister responsible for setting up the national curriculum more than thirty years ago; and she talks to futurists and those researching the future of work, to find out what they think the students of today should be learning.

    Producer: Ellie Richold

  • Between the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and the policy's hastily enforced end on 29 December 1989, East German citizens claimed an estimated four billion Deutschmarks in so-called ‘Begrüßungsgeld’ or ‘welcome money’ from the West German authorities.

    Tens of thousands stood in line at banks and town halls up and down West Germany, waiting to collect their state-sanctioned gift of 100DM (around €80 today). For most East Germans, shortages of basic goods were a fact of daily life and luxuries were all but non-existent, this modest windfall represented the first true spending money that they had ever possessed, and in spending it they would have their first encounters with modern-day capitalism and consumerism.
    In this programme, journalist and teutonophile Malcolm Jack heads to Berlin to find out what East Germans bought with their Begrüßungsgeld and, 30 years on, what became of those purchases.

    In Berlin, Malcolm meets Jens ‘Tasso’ Muller from Saxony, who, on his first trip west, travelled with friends to Kreuzberg in Berlin. It was the first time he had ever seen graffiti tags, on every corner in every place. Having never seen graffiti tags before, he worked out it must be done with a marker so that was the first thing he bought. As it cost an exorbitant 11DM, he just bought one, but it would be the first of many. Today Jens is better known by the alias 'Tasso' and his tag is recognised all over the world - as a professional graffiti artist he has visited 31 different countries and counting; all thanks to one black ink Edding marker, igniting a passion for street art he didn't even know existed.

    Amongst other East Germans and East Berliners, Malcolm meets fashion designer and former international model Grit Seymour. Grit’s welcome money was spent on fresh exotic fruit and a copy of Italian Vogue which was previously inaccessible to her in the GDR. Malcolm also visits a former Stasi prison with tour guide and former inmate Peter Kreup, whose welcome money provided a sense of power and freedom that he had previously been denied after spending 10 months incarcerated by the regime. Performance artist and lecturer Else Gabriel shares her unorthodox approach to the welcome money, and the bounty it brought her which she still keeps in her studio. Nicole Hartmann was just 11 years old when the wall fell, and remembers the feeling of solidarity that she felt when her East German village banded together to look after the people in the streams of cars, all travelling to Berlin to collect their Begrüßungsgeld. We also hear from Professor of German History at University College, London about the reasons for the introduction of the welcome money itself, and its impact on the process of reunification.

  • Young men are facing a crisis of masculinity. To deal with it, they have options - the manosphere, a mainly online world where the challenges facing 21st century men are exclusively the fault of women, or the anti-manosphere.

    Philip Tanzer is a Men Rights Activist (or MRA) and manosphere convert who lives in Scotland. He’s already a keyboard warrior, fighting the ‘feminist establishment’ from the highlands of Scotland and giving motivational talks to the young men who come to his salon and art gallery. He allows producers to follow him as he attends the International Conference on Men’s Issues in Chicago where many of the main leaders and thinkers that together form the nebulous community congregate, including a British MP, far-right YouTubers and a surprising number of women. Along the way, he gives a unique insight into the individual stories behind the growing group of men in the UK and US who find their tribe in the online forums dedicated to reversing the feminist agenda.

    He also meets and debates with men and women who believe the manosphere is a dangerous and misogynist place and looks at alternative ways to address the growing levels of mental ill health and suicide in young men – could drumming around a campfire be a better way for men to connect?

    Produced by Lucy Proctor and Alvaro Alvarez

  • “At the end of the day, with DNA, we have difficulty in the forensic arena of separating identical twins, we can do it with a hand no problem at all.” - Professor Dame Sue Black

    In 2006 the Metropolitan Police came to Professor Sue Black with an image. An infrared snapshot of a man’s arm, taken from a computer camera in the middle of the night. They wanted to know if she, as one of the world’s most respected forensic anatomists, could find any details that could match the limb in the picture, to a potential child abuse suspect.

    That case sparked the development of a new kind of forensic science - Hand Identification. A science that in the past 13 years has aided in securing convictions in some of the most high profile child abuse cases in the UK.

    In this programme we explore how Sue and her teams in Dundee and Lancaster University have developed the science of Hand Identification, how it can be used in conjunction with digital forensic techniques to identify offenders, and how by creating a library of hands, Artificial Intelligence can be developed to quickly and accurately assess hands and link child abuse cases around the globe - protecting not just children, but the investigators who put their own mental health at risk as they work to protect the most vulnerable.

    Produced by Elizabeth Ann Duffy
    Illustration by Seonaid MacKay

  • Steph McGovern returns to her home town of Middlesbrough to ask why we aren’t better equipped to deal with the practical maths that we need to work out phone contracts, energy tariffs and any number of other challenges thrown at us in everyday life. She argues that too much emphasis is put on abstract maths in the school curriculum, and visits a Teesside primary school that is bucking the trend by emphasising practical maths to see what difference it is making. Steph meets university maths lecturer Sven Ake Wegner and hears about his struggles with cucumbers and tax returns, as well as the crucial relationship between theoretical and applied maths. Finally Steph attends the finals of a young enterprise competition to talk with teams of schoolchildren learning about profit, loss and percentages through running their own businesses. Along the way Steph sets a series of puzzles to test the listener’s own ability to make the numbers add up.

    Producer: Geoff Bird

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