Jarvis Cocker Photo: Getty

Children’s radio was once at the core of the BBC - now it’s all but disappeared


It was a bit of a surprise to hear Jarvis Cocker, the embodiment of cool and former frontman of Pulp, confessing to a love of Singing Together, a BBC programme straight out of the 1940s, with its clipped pronunciation and… Read more


Why you have to listen to this year's Reith Lectures


Each year the Reith Lectures come round as Radio 4’s annual assertion of intellectual authority, fulfilling the BBC’s original aspiration to inform and educate (although not always to also entertain). Each year, though, it’s hard not to feel a certain… Read more

Sister Aimee Semple McPherson Photo: Getty

Was this Christian pioneer of radio evangelism a fraud?


She was the sequinned star of the airwaves back in the 1920s, the first preacher to realise the potential of the wireless, long before Billy Graham and co. But who now has heard of Aimee Semple McPherson, the radio evangelist?… Read more

"Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer Photo: Getty

Why radio is a surprisingly good medium for talking about art


You might think it a fool’s errand to attempt programmes about art on the wireless. How can you talk about pictures or sculptures or any other visual form without being able to see them? But features on artists and their… Read more

Indian troops during the  First World War Photo: Getty

The voices of Indian PoWs captured in the first world war


At six o’clock on 31 May 1916, an Indian soldier who had been captured on the Western Front alongside British troops and held in a German PoW camp stepped up to the microphone and began to speak. Not in Hindi… Read more

The gate of Buchenwald concentration camp on which it is written "Jedem das seine" (To each his just deserts) Photo: Getty

Many more Germans were displaced in 1945 than Indians during partition


What Radio 3 needs is a musical version of Neil MacGregor. The director of the British Museum and now a stalwart of Radio 4 is an intellectual powerhouse but his talks on radio are so clear, so crisp, so deceptively… Read more

Alana Valentine praises the BBC's World Service Photo: Getty

Kate Chisholm on what makes the BBC World Service so special


‘Don’t take it for granted,’ she warned. ‘It’s one of the few places where you can hear diverse voices, different points of view; where you can understand that the world is infinitely complex.’ Alana Valentine, an Australian writer, was talking… Read more

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai

What it's like being a scarily talented teenager


It was when she said how she loved ‘watching the computer do exactly what you wanted it to do’ that I realised how exceptional she must be. To be so young, just 19, and so at home with technology that… Read more

The man in charge: Alan Davey

Can Radio 3 escape the digital squeeze?


The new controller of Radio 3 has at last been appointed. Alan Davey (not to be confused with the former bassist from Hawkwind) comes to the BBC from the Arts Council and a career in the Civil Service. This will… Read more

Mary Beard vs Jeremy Paxman Photo: Getty

Mary Beard vs Jeremy Paxman


‘Did you find it a good read?’ asked Harrriett Gilbert. An incredibly long drawn-out sigh from Mr Paxman. ‘I think it’s really unsatisfactory,’ he at last replied. ‘But Jeremy,’ retorted Professor Beard, ‘I don’t think you’ve read it carefully enough.’… Read more


The sofa that became a work of art


Last week on Front Row (Radio 4) the singer Joyce DiDonato recalled the advice she gave the new graduates of the Juilliard School, just about to embark on their professional careers in music. It’s a hard life. They’re asked to… Read more

Andy Warhol, Time Capsule 262 Photo: courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Warhol’s ‘time capsules’ contain everything from toenails to previously unseen paintings worth millions


‘I don’t know what I think,’ says Lenny Henry, echoing what many of us who were listening were probably also puzzling over. ‘Part of me thinks it’s art by the sheer fact that an artist has decided that something like… Read more


Radio 4 deserts the British bird. Shame on them!


A strange coincidence on Saturday night to come back from the cinema, having seen a film about a woman fighting to save her job while suffering from depression and thoughts of putting an end to it all, only to switch… Read more


Who needs drugs when you have Radio 3?


I’m willing to bet it’s only on the BBC’s Radio 3 that you’ll find yourself listening to a programme quite like Words and Music (Sunday evenings). You might want to disagree. Surely, it’s just a few bits of music stuck… Read more

A technician mends the broken glass of a landing light at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, during the Berlin Airlift, 1949 Photo: Getty

Ambridge recovers its sense of humour — finally


‘Isn’t that charming!’ Carol declares at the height of the great Home Farm cocktail party, after being subjected to Jennifer’s somewhat over-enthusiastic description of her wine storage unit. Just three words but such a lot of meaning. Carol Tregorran’s resurrection… Read more

6 Music's success can be attributed to seasons from Bob Dylan, visitations from Jarvis Cocker, Alex James and more recently Iggy Pop

Why is Radio 3 still leaderless?


It’s happened almost by stealth but the number of listeners to 6 Music has now overtaken Radio 3, creeping up to 1.89 million per week (just .05 million more than the classical-music station). Actually the margin between them is probably… Read more


Two lessons in listening


Our hearing is the first of our senses to develop while we are in the womb. It’s the first connection we make to the life around us, and to other people. In a new series of The Listeners on Radio… Read more


Glasgow and the Commonwealth go back a long way; Radio 4 explores a murky past


What’s been missing from the schedules during the Commonwealth Games has been a straightforward reminder about who makes up the roster of nations and why. When, for instance, did it suddenly become OK to talk about the Commonwealth without that… Read more

Roger Wright Photo: Getty

Does Radio 3 need a new controller?


Where next for Radio 3? Last Friday was the First Night of this year’s Proms season but it was the last night at the Proms for Roger Wright, who for 15 years has masterminded the station and for seven of… Read more

The Bay City Rollers (Photo: Getty)

The two men who walked barefoot to the capitals of the four nuclear powers on a peace pilgrimage


You might (if you’re over a certain age) still think it pretty amazing that TV not only allows you to watch Mario Götze put in that amazing goal, live, as it happened, in Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio Maracanã, but also… Read more


The next new presenter of Woman's Hour should be a man


It seems incredible now but when the BBC’s youth station, Radio 1, was launched in 1967 there were no female presenters. That’s right. Not a single woman’s voice to leaven the mix of Fluff, Blackburn and co. One-half of the… Read more

Bob and Roberta (Patrick Brill) at the RA Photo: Benedict Johnson

Why I'm switching to Danish radio


Out there in the great ether there’s a whole new world of radio beyond the stations of the BBC and the FM dial. This week I found myself listening to a programme in Danish. I know. It sounds mad. But… Read more

Soil arrives for Flanders Fields Memorial Photo: Laura Lean/PA

The gardener-soldiers of the First World War


First, a confession. Even an ardent radio addict can enjoy a fortnight away from the airwaves, disconnected, switched off, unlistening. On return even the programmes that are usually ignored because they’ve become so familiar catch your attention. I grew up… Read more


What's happened to children's radio?


Much praise has been lavished on Radio 2’s 500 Words short-story competition, the winners to be announced on Friday’s Chris Evans show, live from the Hay Festival. Quite right, too. It’s a brilliant way to encourage children aged 13 and… Read more

British writers John Lehmann and Leonard Woolf Photo: Getty

When Virginia Woolf's husband ruled Sri Lanka's jungles


Tucked away in the schedules, just before midday, just after midweek (on Thursday), just four lines in the Radio Times, was one of those radio gems. Nothing remarkable on the surface, but every so often sparkling with insight, or a… Read more


The best blues singer you’ve never heard of


A rustle of paper as the sleeve is removed. A clunk and click as the needle arm is swung across. The needle hits the vinyl, bringing it to life. At first there’s a lot of crackling in the ether. Then… Read more


Nothing beats Book at Bedtime


There I was trapped in the bathroom at 10.55 p.m., unable to leave for fear of missing anything. The time it would have taken me to get to the bedroom, touch the screen of the digital radio, encouraging it to… Read more


The Archers hit a new low by letting Tom dump Kirsty at the altar


Did you hear those bloodcurdling screams from Kirsty? Those long-drawn-out wails that echoed horrifically through the ancient walls of St Stephen’s Church last Thursday — in a strange, unwelcome echo of Nigel’s unfortunate descent from the roof of Lower Loxley… Read more