Can Italy reverse its falling birth rate? 

Anne McElvoy is on the road again, exploring the state of modern Europe. Following her Radio 4 programme, The Reinvention of Germany in April, the Politico journalist has travelled to Padua, in northern Italy, where reactions to the rise of the right-wing populist Giorgia Meloni appear to vary. Is the 46-year-old PM a breath of

Joni Mitchell, in her own words

There’s always been something at once girlish and steely about Joni Mitchell, the stellar Canadian whom Rolling Stone called ‘one of the greatest songwriters ever’. As Radio 4’s Verbatim programme in honour of her 80th birthday reminds us, a stubborn hopefulness has carried her through turbulent times. Perhaps growing up in Saskatchewan, where winter temperatures

A Radio 3 doc that contains some of the best insults I’ve ever heard

A recent Sunday Feature on Radio 3 contained some of the best insults I have ever heard. Contributors to the programme on the early music revolution were discussing the backlash they experienced in the 1970s while reviving period-style instruments and techniques. Soprano Dame Emma Kirkby remembered one critic complaining that listening to her performance was

What happened to the supermodels of the 1990s?

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ has become a popular question in interviews in recent years. It’s meant to generate something profound but, musing privately, I always find it a puzzler. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much of my twenties talking nonsense in pubs, but on the

The rise of vampirism in Silicon Valley

The Immortals, which begins on Radio 4 this week, is not for the faint-hearted. While it professes to be about the human quest for longevity and the elusive ‘cure’ for getting older, it focuses largely upon the transferral of blood plasma from healthy young people to reluctantly ageing people, or, as anyone with good sense

The stuff of nightmares: Retrievals podcast reviewed

It is the stuff of nightmares, or a queasily dystopian film plot. A woman is undergoing a surgical procedure in a top-rated US clinic. The aim is ‘egg retrieval’, a process which collects eggs from the ovaries for use in IVF. It involves nerves and hope, long needles and pain – except the patient has

Prayer for the Day is the best thing to wake up to

As the owner of a radio alarm clock, I could theoretically start listening to the Today programme before I’m even awake, but I rarely do. I tell myself it’s too much for first thing; that it’s bound to put me in a bad mood with some interview or other; that Today can wait until tomorrow

How productive is it to listen to productivity gurus?

I was making my way slowly through one of my dismally prosaic little to-do lists – ‘pay the water bill’ ‘wash hair’, etc. – when the voice of the journalist Helen Lewis came on Radio 4 talking about productivity. It’s the Holy Grail of modern life, apparently, and we are now constantly looking for ‘charismatic

Crossing Continents is the best of the BBC

Ask a member of Generation Z where in the world they would most like to live, and chances are they will say South Korea. K-pop and kimchi have made it indisputably fashionable, and if the Instagram account of one of my Korean friends is anything to go by, life there is really quite idyllic, provided

In praise of From Our Own Correspondent 

Most of us are familiar with the notion of writer’s block, that paralysis of invention induced by the appalling sight of a blank page. Composer’s block is less widely discussed, although musicians seem equally afflicted by creative drought. Perhaps the best known case is that of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, the subject of Radio

Do we need the BBC World Service?

In 1957 the BBC removed the head of the Russian Service. Anatol Goldberg was by all accounts a remarkable broadcaster, tasked with coordinating, producing and narrating the BBC’s radio output to the USSR at one of the most volatile periods of the Cold War. Internal reports praised his navigation of the ‘complications’ of Russian programming.

A short introduction to the philosophy of Moomin

One of the lesser-known schools of modern philosophy is the Philosophy of Moomin. Like Cynicism or Epicureanism, it is difficult to pin down precisely, but subscribers speak of the importance of the individual, of liberalism and acceptance, and of the life-affirming joy of feeling. In the words of Moominpappa: ‘Just think, never to be glad