Kate Chisholm

The savage power of 18th-century caricature

Thanks to the work of the caricaturists of the late 18th century, the mistresses of the future George IV – Mrs Fitzherbert, Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson and Lady Jersey among them – are better known to us than his eventual wife, Caroline of Brunswick. The Prince of Wales’s decadent, spendthrift lifestyle (we see him emerging in

Why we must defend Radio 3 from threatened cuts

Who doesn’t love Eurovision? All that razzmatazz. The ghastly frocks and gloopy pop songs, the false bonhomie and bare-faced bias when the voting comes around. It’s an irresistible annual event, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and provide the pretence that we are all one happy European family. But all that showbiz comes

Aftermath: when will the country truly recover from the virus?

31 min listen

The vaccine might be just around the corner, but can the country truly recover? (01:00) How can the Labour party win back the working class? (11:15) And finally, should we celebrate the new statue of Mary Wollstonecraft? (23:10) With The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth, chair of the Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt, firefighter and

Maggi Hambling’s Wollstonecraft statue is hideous but fitting

Frankly, it is rather hideous — but also quite wonderful, shimmering against the weak blue of a late November sky. The new statue ‘for’ Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), the radical writer, journalist, teacher and novelist, had drawn quite a crowd to Newington Green in north London when I went to see it. They were gathered round

The comfort of building your own coffin

H.G. Wells got it right in his comic novel The History of Mr Polly, where the wake is so much more fun than the wedding breakfast. How often have you come home from a wedding feeling slightly nauseous from an overdose of cheap champagne and fake bonhomie? Yet a funeral can be heartwarming and inspiring;

The Edition podcast: has the great Brexit divide mended?

31 min listen

First, as the news agenda is dominated by things like Huawei, HS2, and public spending, could politics be – whisper it – returning to normal? In his cover piece this week, Rod Liddle writes how, for the most part, the election result has put a lid on the civil war between Remainers and Brexiteers. One

How podcasts have transformed radio

As if on cue, Lemn Sissay’s new series for Radio 4 tackles all those questions we would rather ignore in this season of good cheer and overindulgence. He starts out with a programme about homelessness, reminding us that the Christmas story begins with a young unmarried couple, ostracised because she’s pregnant and her current partner

The pleasures and perils of talking about art on the radio

‘I like not knowing why I like it,’ declared Fiona Shaw, the actress, about Georgia O’Keeffe’s extraordinary blast of colour, ‘Lake George, Coat and Red’. O’Keeffe was inspired by the lake in upstate New York but there’s no discernible lake on the canvas and no coat, although there is plenty of red. When Shaw is

The Polish electronic music revolution of the 1950s

It was created in November 1957, a year before the BBC’s fabled Radiophonic Workshop, and was far more influential in shaping the development of electronic music, yet the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES) is now virtually unknown even in Poland. Radio 3’s feature on Sunday night, Poles Apart (produced by Andrew Carter), made the case

From Brexit to Beethoven: John Humphrys returns to radio

Some listeners will have had quite a shock first thing on Monday. Turning on at six to Classic FM they would have heard a familiar voice but not quite the one they expected. In yet another surprising turn of events, John Humphrys, the fox terrier of news broadcasting, has just completed a stint on Classic

Without Joe Grundy The Archers feels lost

There was something really creepy about listening to the ten-minute countryside podcast released last weekend by Radio 4 supposedly transporting us to Marneys Field in Ambridge. Two worlds colliding. The fake countryside of Borsetshire was transfigured — no longer pretending to exist but existing, as if to make us all pretend we believe in it

What’s the point of the Today programme?

What else is there to write about in the week that John Humphrys, that titan of the BBC airwaves, retires from his duties on the Today programme? Love or hate his terrier-like style of interviewing — baiting and occasionally biting his victims metaphorically on air — there’s no denying his stature as a news broadcaster

General de Gaulle’s advice to the young Queen Elizabeth

There were so many ear-catching moments in Peter Hennessy’s series for Radio 4, Winds of Change, adapted from his new book by Libby Spurrier and produced by Simon Elmes. Harold Wilson answering a journalist’s question after a sleepless night while awaiting the results of the 1964 election, quizzical, cheeky and so quick off the mark.

The joys of Radio 4’s Word of Mouth

I first heard Lemn Sissay talking about his childhood experiences on Radio 4 in 2009. At that time he was still fighting Wigan social services for sight of the official dossier on his years as a child in care, fostered at first and then dumped back in the system and institutionalised in care homes and

The joys of scavenging the Thames

‘It’s very hard for you to really live in the day,’ says Ruth, ‘because you don’t know by evening you may have a letter from an agency saying you’ve got to go tomorrow.’ She arrived in the UK in 1937, aged 15, sent here by her Jewish family to escape the Nazis. Now 98, she

Two sides to every story

Maybe the equality inspectors at the corporation didn’t get the chance to vet Richard Littlejohn’s series for Radio 2, The Years that Changed Britain Forever, before it was broadcast on Sunday. Maybe the first programme (produced by Jodie Keane) was an accurate reflection of the year it focused on, 1972. But the most striking thing

Voices of import

By the age of eight Vaira Vike-Freiberga had learnt that life was both ‘very strange and very unfair’. Her baby sister had died from pneumonia the previous year because of the harsh conditions of life in a refugee camp in Germany (this was late 1944 and her family had fled their native Latvia for fear