Archive on 4

Refreshingly unfettered: LRB Podcast’s Close Readings on Patricia Highsmith

I’d forgotten what a rich and deep and characterful voice John le Carré had. Listening to author and lawyer Philippe Sands’s Archive on 4 programme on him last week, I was struck by how much more engaging it was than almost every other male voice on the radio these days. Le Carré’s weren’t simply the measured tones of a mid–century public schoolboy. There was a real spirit in his voice, something melodic, which, in a world of Nick Grimshaws and Greg Jameses, stopped me in my tracks. Le Carré’s voice was undoubtedly part of the armoury that enabled him to win people over, even ‘to manipulate crowds’. This, his youngest

Speech impediment | 19 April 2018

It was a provocative decision by the producers of Archive on 4, 50 Years On: Rivers of Blood (Nathan Gower and David Prest) to base their programme around a full exposition of Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 speech on immigration, all 3,183 words of it, spoken by an actor (Ian McDiarmid) as if he were giving the speech in front of an audience. Why give further publicity to a speech that gave such offence at the time, and so dangerously expressed such inflammatory opinions? But the explosive reaction to the Radio 4 programme on social media, even before it went out on air, explains and justifies their decision. The speech, given

Interest-free credit

When did you last experience a boring Sunday afternoon? If you’re over 16, probably not since you were last 16 and stuck at home, raindrops sliding down the window pane, nothing on TV until five o’clock, nowhere to go because everywhere is shut. But boredom, says Phill Jupitus, has become an endangered emotion. Now that we have smartphones, at a gentle swipe, the touch of a button, we have access to any amount of diversion, 24 hours a day. We need never find ourselves with nothing to do, nothing to read that takes our fancy, no one to talk to. He’s not happy about this. In Being Bored: The Importance

Cooking the books | 15 September 2016

Cooking really shouldn’t make good radio. On television, it’s already frustrating that you can’t taste what you’re seeing, but on radio you can’t even see it. ‘I’m just cracking an egg,’ they tell you. ‘And now I’ll crack another egg.’ The sounds — violent thuds, hissing gas, moist chewing — are more ominous than appetising and the commentary (‘I’m just mixing those eggs together now’) can’t help but be comically sedate (‘OK — they’re mixed’). So it’s a miracle that The Food Programme (Radio 4), after three decades of this sort of experiment, is as good as it often is, and Cooking for Poldark, this week’s ingenious episode, was really

Madeleine moments

I’d just heard (on catch-up) Jenny Abramsky (a former director of BBC radio) telling Gillian Reynolds (the esteemed radio critic of the Telegraph) why radio is so special to her: ‘It takes place in my head. It paints pictures in my mind. It talks to me as an individual. It surprises me. It stretches me.’ Then I popped down to the kitchen to make some soup for lunch, reached for the radio button and was hooked instantly as Jeremy Vine talked to a man who had lost his wife in a road accident when their child was just two. (Vine’s Radio 2 lunchtime programme on Monday was focusing on child

Battle fatigue

Can anyone explain this sudden enthusiasm for Agincourt, that unexpected victory over the French, now being celebrated, or rather commemorated, on radio, on digital, online? It was so weird to switch on Radio 4 on Sunday morning (which just happened to be St Crispin’s Day, the day on which the battle was fought) to discover that even Sunday Worship was being devoted to commemorating one of the bloodiest battles in that most bloodthirsty period. The service, old-fashioned Matins, came from the Chapel Royal at St James’s, and apparently the priests, choristers and vestrymen from that chapel were singing on the battlefield alongside Henry V in October 1415, when the English

When did you last hear a news report you could trust completely? 

‘It put a lot upon us,’ said Christopher Jefferies’s aunt. ‘The ripples went on and did not stop for a long time.’ She was talking about the after-effects of the media witchhunt that skewered her nephew after his arrest in connection with the death of the Bristol landscape architect Joanna Yeates in December 2011. Jefferies was depicted as being almost certainly guilty because of his long, hippie-like hair, his bachelordom, his love of poetry and ‘culture’, his brusque refusal to speak to the press. Yet his only link with the crime was that he owned the flat in Clifton where Yeates lived. Saturday night’s Archive on 4 (Radio 4) reminded

Radio review: Damascus Diary: destruction of a city

We’ve heard it all before — the misery that war wreaks on everyday lives — but Lina Sinjab’s audio diary of her experiences in Syria took us right into the heart of what it feels like to be hounded out of your home, your memories, your sense of who you are and where you belong. Sinjab grew up in Damascus, her whole life has been lived there, but now she has left, forced out by the uprising. In Damascus Diary, produced by Nina Robinson (Radio 4, Monday), she recalled how at first the demonstrators in support of the government and against the rebels chanted ‘Long live Assad’, and ‘Assad for