Some moving stories involving pianos, their owners, and their transporters. There’s nothing more likely to refresh a piano-owner’s feelings towards a piano, than having to move it up or downstairs – or from one continent to another.
Siobhan is faced with shifting an old family upright into a new first floor flat. Alison is overseeing the removal of a Steinway B from the home of her late employer, a famous orchestral conductor. We follow their progress as pianos are lugged sweatily upstairs or craned out of windows, suspended temporarily 30ft above the street. And we hear about a difficult experience moving a piano. Lesley lost more than her dignity in an ill-fated piano moving exercise.
And there’s Penny, organiser of the Two Moors classical music festival, who watched as a nine foot Bösendorfer grand – twenty six grand, to be precise – fell off the back of a lorry and thirteen feet into a Devon ditch.
So, forget the chimps, Laurel and Hardy and Bernard Cribbins. Piano movement is a serious business
A Taste of Funny... with Denis Norden
Denis Norden curates three hours of personally-chosen comedy listening, with Nick Baker.
After poring through his own collection of comedy albums and wading through nine decades of accumulated radio memories, he’s come up with A Taste of Funny, in which he catalogues the assorted flavours of listening that have shaped his personal tastes.
If you’re one of those people stuck with the image of a lanky Denis Norden fronting a TV out-takes show, clip board in hand, think again. Wait a minute, hold the lanky bit. Because he has a story about that. According to Mel Brooks, writers cannot be tall. Directors are tall, writers are short. So when Mel (short) met Denis (tall) he was surprised to hear he was a writer. “Does that mean you know?” Brooks asked.
Denis knows. As a listener, writer, performer, producer, consultant even. He and his long term partner Frank Muir were the first ever official British comedy consultants and advisors, with an office in BBC TV Centre and everything. Together they invented comedy’s first truly dysfunctional comedy family, the Glums. And Denis has performed in panel shows, written in Hollywood, and been involved with radio’s first ever improvised show, performed by Peter Ustinov and Peter Jones, long before impro’s 80’s heyday. He has been there, done that and could certainly come up with an excellent slogan for the T shirt, if asked.
"Three hours of wirleess magic" Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph
BBC Radio Young Writers: 25 Years On
It was a call to arms for young writers, aged between 15 and 30, to send in their scripts to BBC Radio Drama and write for radio for the first time. By way of celebration of its 25th anniversary, drama producer Jeremy Mortimer has put together a season of ten specially chosen plays from festivals over the years, for BBC Radio 4 Extra.
He also went back to talk to some of the writers involved: Benjamin Zephaniah (Hurricane Dub), Hattie Naylor (The Box), Abigail Docherty (Listen to my Inside Mind), Roy Williams (Homeboys), Craig Warner (Great Men of Music) and Andrew Wallace (Burn Your Phone). He spoke to directors, Claire Grove and Jeremy Howe (now Drama Commissioning Editor) and the former Controller of Radio 4, Michael Green.
As part of the season, BBC Radio 4 Extra is also rebroadcasting the comedy show that launched the first festival, in 1988: The Word Made Fresh. It was compered by Alan Cumming and Forbes Masson, and features an early radio appearance by Steve Coogan.
The National Theatre at 50
National Theatre Official biographer Daniel Rosenthal conjures up stories and scenes from five decades of a unique national institution. We hear from some of the National’s biggest names including Dame Judy Dench and Sir Peter Hall and we go backstage to hear from the unsung heroes working in wardrobe, as prop designers, puppet makers, stage managers and front of house people. You'll hear:
- How an episode of Radio 3’s Private Passions inspired Alan Bennett when he was writing The History Boys.
- Why the National once sent copies of Mozart’s fruitily-written private correspondence to PM Margaret Thatcher.
- What happened when Paul McCartney was asked to write the music for an all-male production of As You Like It.
- How an actor's thumb - mistaken for another part of his anatomy - helped defend the National against a serious prosecution.
The Show to End all Wars
Simon Russell Beale on the ground breaking musical Oh What a Lovely War, now marking its 50th anniversary. With contributions from the cast and an exclusive interview with its co-creator Charles Chilton who died last year. Did the show’s originality change the way we viewed the First World War?
BBC Radio 4 July 8th 4pm
Hersch on Herschel
Musician and comedian Rainer Hersch on the life of near namesake William Herschel - a German-born British composer and astronomer who discovered Uranus, and infrared radiation. Herschel also composed 24 symphonies. In Rainer Hersch’s spare time his is a keen amateur astronomer with, like Herschel, a telescope in his back garden. Hersch has a German background and is a serious and highly trained musician who has turned to Astronomy in his spare time. The timing of this documentary will mark the end of the life of the Herschel Space Observatory (the largest telescope ever launched into space), which has been observing the Universe in the infrared part of the spectrum. An entertaining reflection on astronomy and music.
BBC Radio 4 Extra June 1st 2013 9am, 7pm
Those Radio Times: 1953
Nick Baker introduces a three hour selection of programmes from BBC Radio’s coronation year. It was the year the nation bought into the television miracle, if only to “look-in” to see the new queen being crowned.. Our image of radio of the time is that it was a bit grey and dowdy – an unadventurous medium that would soon be eclipsed by TV pictures. Nick sets out to show this is wrong – with a feisty interview with Evelyn Waugh, a revealing Have a Go from Ramsbottom, with Wilfred Pickles and some risqué material from Twenty Questions (“Do they wobble while they do it?”). TV didn’t have big names to call its own yet, and these entertaining three hours celebrate the radio stars of 53: Pickles, Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, a young multi-voiced Johnny Morris and the famously grumpy Gilbert Harding among them.
Pictured:Multi-voiced Johnny Morris
BBC Radio 4 Monday April 1st 2013 4pm
What is it about Judy Blume?
In the Seventies and Eighties young girls’ shelves were filled with books by American authors like Paul Zindel, Betsy Byars, M.E. Kerr, Paula Danziger and specifically, Judy Blume. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Deanie, Blubber, Tiger Eyes and the infamous Forever sold in their millions. Writer and Judy Blume fan, Sarah Cuddon goes in search of the British readers who embraced American teen, and pre-teen, fiction. Girls, in particular, were no longer Little Women and the coming of age novel was experiencing a kind of coming of age itself. Why did we devour these titles voraciously? What was it about Judy Blume? And how did reading about the emotional trials and tribulations of a bunch of slightly mixed up American kids help get us through our teenage years?
BBC Radio 3 In Tune 11th -15th March 2013 5.30pm
Comic Relief and BBC Radio 3 have borrowed Testbed' s Nick Baker to write a series of five comedies portraying the side of Baroque music you don't usually hear about. Includes Death By Chocolate (Henry Purcell), The Full Monteverdi and Handel with Care. Stars Simon Russell Beale. Directed by Dirk Maggs
BBC Radio 4 8pm 29th December 2012
Stephen Fry salutes much-loved actress Margaret Rutherford. The comic roles she played were as nothing to the incredible true crime stories that shaped her life and career.
Margaret Rutherford: She was a benign battleaxe, chin wagging like a windsock, famous as Miss Marple, Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit and for her roles in Passport to Pimlico, The Importance of Being Earnest and an Oscar-winning performance in The VIPs. Stephen Fry looks back at the life and work of one of our finest comedy actors and one of Britain’s best-loved box office stars.
The comic and dramatic roles Margaret played were as nothing to the astonishing true crime stories that shaped her life and career. She was a regular visitor to a young offenders’ institution, had a family secret that she never revealed and murder was to play a part in Margaret’s life, beyond the role of Miss Marple.
Producer Tamsin Hughes
"Riveting" The Observer
BBC Radio 4 4pm 17th December 2012
Actress Rachael Stirling reveals the Stage Door’s secrets, its unwritten rules and routines, and we get a glimpse of what happens in the moments before and after crossing the threshold, past and present. Staking out the stage door, we hear from ‘stage dooring’ fans and autograph hunters as well as actors, cast members and crew. In the middle is the stage door keeper, determining who goes in and what stays out, organising its transitory residents and protecting the performers when the show comes in.
Producer Tamsin Hughes
Duration Duration Duration
BBC Radio 4 4pm 1 October 2012
Pop songs are three minutes, TV programmes thirty (or multiples thereof) commercials 30 seconds and movies, on average 95. Independent newspaper columnist Grace Dent looks at how duration shapes culture. It's not just how much audio fits on a 45rpm record, or how much film fits on a reel. We have to take into account attention span, ambient temperature and how quickly the average seated bum goes numb. So what happens to duration when we can download and listen/watch at our leisure?
Preparing a Piano
BBC Radio 3 22nd September 12.15
As a tribute in the centenary year of John Cage and in perhaps the first DIY programme ever to be broadcast on Radio 3, the inimitable pianist and comedian Rainer Hersch learns how to prepare a piano, with help from B & Q and the Royal College of Music His teacher is the master of the art Richard Bunger Evans who first met Cage in 1967 and was entrusted with the editing of Cage’s early manuscripts. Cage coined the term ‘prepared piano’ and was undoubtedly the composer who made the technique famous.
Mr Jupitus in the age of Steampunk
BBC Radio 4 3rd September 4pm
Phill Jupitus descends into the clanking world of Steampunk - a growing subculture devoted to an anachronistic world in which Victorian and Edwardian arts and sciences get a modern twist. An adherent might be seen in a tweed cape, industrial work boots, flaunting the rakish air of Lionel Jeffries. Perhaps carrying a digital pocketwatch, a mahogany laptop or a brass iPhone on a chain. They're also likely to have a deep knowledge of HG Wells, and a fascination with early valve technology. Would you know a steampunk if you saw him or her?
Fry’s English Delight Series 5
BBC Radio 4, starts August 16th 9am
David Hockney joins Stephen Fry to talk about the language of colour in the new series of the ever popular Fry’s English Delight. For more on the series as it unfolds and bonus audio from all the programmes click here.
Whatever Happened to the Chemistry Set?
BBC Radio 4 1st August 9pm
Dr Kat Arney lays out the history of the chemistry set and assesses its impact on a generation of scientists, charting reasons for its decline in the final decades of the 20th Century. In its heyday, the chemistry set fuelled the imagination of young amateur scientists, some of whom became Nobel prize winners. It was a powerful if smelly recruiting tool for all that chemistry had to offer. With academics claiming that a lack of hands-on experience leaves students ill-prepared for practical work in industry and higher education, she asks how the Chemistry Set might make a comeback.
The Man Who Saves Life Stories
Friday 8th June 2012 11am BBC Radio 4
Dr Irving Finkel collects ordinary people’s lives, in diary form, hundreds of them. But Irving – by day Assistant Keeper of the Department of Asiatic Antiquities, British Museum, has a problem. How to make his lives accessible to a wider audience.
Song by Song London
BBC World Service 23rd June 2012
Robert Elms is searching for the musical soul of London, celebrated in over a century of song. He finds it in the characters of street sellers, wartime entertainers, and the songs that were played in East End music halls. He maps the music shaped by Mayfair ballrooms, Soho basements and afterhour’s clubs in Ladbroke Grove. What do Robert’s personal musical highlights reveal about the history and geography of the capital? Featuring songs by The Clash, David Bowie, Lord Kitchener, Gert and Daisy, Lily Allen, The Kinks and more...
Audio specially created for Gransnet, the surprisingly youthful and extremely useful website for grandparents. Starting with broadcaster Fi Glover regretting her own Granlessness, and Which Money Editor James Daley talking about finance for generous grand parents and author Penelope Lively on her new book.
BBC Radio 4 Extra
For June Bank Holiday, six hours of Horrible Histories, Directed by Dirk Maggs for Testbed and written by Terry Deary and Nick Baker with a full comedy cast. Originally (and still) available as CD and download. Groovy Greeks, Rotten Romans, Measly Middle Ages, Terrible Tudors, Vile Victorians, Woeful Second World War.
Balalaika Born Again
17th April 1130 am
Recorded in Dubrovnik and Moscow, this music documentary follows the fingertips of Russia’s most unusual virtuoso – Alexey Arkhipovsky. He has reinvented the balalaika with a sensitivity that ignores labels like classical, world music and jazz. Have a listen to some of his music:
Stephen Fry Does the Knowledge
Saturday 19th November 2011 BBC Radio 4 also on CD and download. The quest, aboard a diesel powered metaphor, to identify what knowledge is and how we define, store, value, share and understand it.
Stephen does the knowledge on Saturday 19th November in Archive on 4: Not literally, despite his known connections with the black cab. This archive programme charts the history of knowledge, how technology changes our relationship with it and how we know what we know. Cab drivers, quiz contestants, philosophers, memory champions and members of the Brains Trust on knowledge, general and specific. If Ty Phoo put the tea in Britain, should we take the piss out of epistemology?
"Hugely entertaining" Laurence Joyce, Radio Times
BBC Radio 4 Sunday 20th November 16.30
It is one hundred years since the American poet Hilda Doolittle came to live in London. She lived through explosive changes in twentieth century culture with her dramatic life often overshadowing her work. Considered for decades as Ezra Pound’s Imagiste acolyte, she held her own through psychoanalysis with Freud, travelled extensively, had numerous long term relationships with both men and women, and an intense emotional and artistic connection with DH Lawrence. Yet it was her poetry that was the core of her being. Though her early Imagist poems are her best known work, it was World War 2 that saw her at the height of her powers. Writer and broadcaster Diana Collecott is our guide to the world of Hilda Doolittle and Sara Kestelman reads a selection of her poetry.
Fry's English Delight
BBC Radio 4
Series 4, broadcast summer 2011 is available as CD and download.
More of Stephen's expeditions into the tongue we call mother. In this one, an examination of the mouth, a reflection on class, a celebration of brevity and an anatomy of persuasive language. So listen, right? A new series is scheduled for the new year.
Producers Ian Gardhouse, Sarah Cuddon, Nick Baker
BBC Radio 4 11.30 Thursday 8th September
“Paki” has always been a charged word. Yet, in Jan Needle’s book for teenagers My Mate Shofiq, it’s used freely by the characters, in its original nasty context. The result, in 1978 was a storm of protest. Needle and writers like him were reflecting a gritty world of dole offices, casual racism and uncaring schools – and they were doing it for kids’ consumption. The same kind of realism that had dawned on English fiction and movies in the 1950’s came late to children’s fiction, but when it came, it had a massive impact. The world of the midnight feast in the dorm, the idyllic holiday cottage and landscapes begging for dogwalking and picnics were replaced by bikesheds, sports halls and back ginnels. Fantasy and mystery were replaced by tensions between races, sexes and generations. In Comp Lit Nick Baker meets key authors of the era and argues that the new kind of fiction, aimed at and depicting a comprehensive slice of young life had far reaching consequences on education and the media.
Too Many Books
Radio 4 2nd November 11am
It’s something that most of us have to do, from time to time: get rid of old books. People moving house, someone whose partner has died, those simply needing more space in the kitchen find that their bookshelves just aren’t big enough. Writer and presenter Sarah Cuddon examines the difficult decisions behind the seemingly mundane choices we make when deciding which books stay and which books go. Amongst the people she talks to are Brian, who lives in Dorset. One shelf at a time, he wades through, weighing up a Delia Smith against a book about Spike Milligan. Does it stay on the shelf? Should it go in the box? Angel is contemplating a vast and varied collection of valuable volumes left after the death of her husband. Whilst Trevor in South East London peruses each title, skimming, pausing to reflect on his attachment to Boswell, Hunter S Thompson and James Lee Burke. They all stare at their shelves and start making painful decisions, based on their human relationship with individual books. How can they be saved from the pulp mill?
Producer Tamsin Hughes
The Music Group
BBC Radio 4
The music conversation programme with three records and no luxury, presented by Dr Phil Hammond. Guests in this series include comedian Stewart Lee, poet John Cooper Clarke, actress Samantha Moreton, presenter Konnie Huq and celebrity lawyer Mark Stephens.
Almanacs: The Oldest Guides to Everything
BBC Radio 4 22nd July, 11.30
Ben Schott, Britain’s foremost Almanac maker, charts the history and influence of a pocket book encyclopaedia and self-help manual that rivalled the bible as a bestseller. With optional advice on amateur surgery. With over 400,000 sold annually, 1 in 4 households owned an almanac. Combining the characteristics of calendar, self-help manual and pocket encyclopaedia, almanacs contained utilitarian information on just about everything: feast days and holidays, good and bad weather, when to sow crops, let blood, how to write an IOU, even advice on amateur surgery and do-it-yourself abortion.
“a snappily produced programme, with lots of atmospheric detail: creaking doors, jaunty music as a backdrop to the sillier quotations, and rich visual clues from casual asides… well told, and illustrated with cracking material” Elizabeth Mahoney, The Guardian
Put Your Hands Together
BBC Radio 4, 17th June
The anatomy of the ritual hand clap, with recordings made in China, Fiji, Spain and the UK. From chimps in the jungles of Borneo to delegates at the trade union congress, the hand clap has an attention-seeking variety of meanings that provide rich clues to the origins of language.
“Water cooler friendly” Chris Campling, The Times
Crime Scene Insects
BBC World Service Friday 11th June
Welcome to the world of a forensic entomologist.
Amoret Whitaker is a scientist called in to help on murder cases where it is difficult to determine the time of death, since rigor mortis may have long since set in. The body has started to decay yet is full of life. Insect life. These insects are Amoret’s ‘best friends’ as they give her all she needs to know. As a body decomposes, it gives off different chemical signals which attract different insects at different stages of composition.
Read more and listen here.
Back to the Hellespont
Presenter Doon MacKichan
BBC Radio 4 May 9th 4.30
This poetry programme follows in the 'swim strokes' of Byron who made the first recorded swim across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia in 1810 and sent a wave of swimming mania across nineteenth century Europe. Every year, in honour of Byron, a Hellespont race attracts world attention. Shipping stops, and some swimmers immerse themselves in their own poetry.
“Fascinating” The Observer
Internet Café Hobo
BBC World Service
A unique global project which aims to draw a map round the world, using Internet Cafes and the stories of the people who use them. The first two documentaries were broadcast on BBC World Service on 15th and 22nd December at 23.06 GMT. Countries covered so far: UK, USA, China, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Benin, France. Listen to them here. The third in the series of documentaries was broadcast on BBC World Service starting 11th March 2007 - with material from Australia and Fiji.
Pictured: Michael, proprietor of a café in a working class area of Nairobi.
Have a look at the map.
In the Beginning was the Nerd
BBC Radio 4
When Stephen Fry presented this Archive on 4 on BBC Radio 4, he started a small controversy. Was the Millennium Bug a genuine threat to our digital world ten years ago, or was it simply a case of panic stations? Read more and listen to an interview with a man who believed the latter was the case:
China’s Forgotten Admiral
Friday 5th February BBC World Service.
For BBC World Service. The story of China’s forgotten adventurer Zheng He, a 7 foot Muslim Eunuch whose fleet of explorers puts the European explorers to shame. You can listen here.
Fry’s English Delight
In the first programme, SO WRONG IT’S RIGHT, BBC Radio 4, Stephen examines how “wrong” English can become right English through usage. In the second programme, SPEAKING PROPER, he looks at the changes in what we used to call “Elocution”. The third, HALLO, is investigation into the development of the planet’s most universally understood word: Hallo.
“Everyone knows Stephen Fry is astonishingly brainy, and it's never more in evidence than here. To unravel the knotty issues, he has sought the help of professors, judges, journalists and lexicographers. Yet he outshines most of them ..all great fun.” Camilla Redmond, The Guardian. “Listen! You can hear the audience purring!” Miranda Sawyer, The Observer. “The Nation can take a few more Fry-ups”. Chis Maume, the Independent.
Hothouse Foresight Podcast
The Recession: How long, how deep, how bad? The Obama effect: Over-estimated or misunderstood? The banking crisis: Can banks restore trust? Is debt a way of life or financial death? Sustainability: Or Sustain-a-babble? How do we replace the green cult of austerity with the cult of scientific solutions? Clark Mulder Purdie's wide ranging initiative into communications futures for the Public Relations industry culminated in this podcast produced by Testbed featuring BBC Newsnight's Paul Mason and other experts at the eye of the storm.
Good Food Guide podcast
Heston Blumenthal interviewed about news that his restaurant The Fat Duck was given a perfect ten out of ten by the new guide – the first such score for four years. Blumenthal celebrates with a demo of a palate-cleansing lime flavoured tour de force using ultra-cold liquid nitrogen.
Arabella Churchill: First Lady of Glastonbury
BBC Radio 4
9th July 2008
“People like Hawkwind who looked terrifying were playing in the wagon shed and kipping on the lawn. And doing other things out in the open too, with drugs and each other's bodies. I had been quite protected until then. My eyes were wide open.” Arabella Churchill, one of the founders of the Glastonbury Festival remembering the free festival she helped organise in 1971. A regular and essential part of the Festival, Arabella, Grandaughter of Winston Churchill died last year. This tribute programme recorded at Glastonbury this year and presented by Arthur Smith tells her story.