Radio Archive

Back to the deserts

William Atkins’ The Immeasurable World: Travels in Desert Places was reviewed in The Observer last weekend by Sara Wheeler. The author has also been interviewed by Radio National in Australia — which seemed keener to draw him out on recent happenings in the Sonoran Desert, on the US-Mexico border, than on British nuclear tests in Maralinga in South Australia, which also feature in his book.

Stagg, Goodwin and the long walk

Guy Stagg’s The Crossway (Picador), about his walk from Canterbury to Jerusalem in the hope of mending himself after mental illness, is currently Book of the Week on Radio 4. The author will be in conversation with Jason Goodwin — traveller, historian and creator of the Ottoman sleuth Yashim — at the Marylebone branch of Daunt Books, in London, next Thursday (June 28). They’ll have more than a little in common: Goodwin walked from Poland’s Baltic coast to Istanbul for his portrait of Central Europe, On Foot to the Golden Horn.

Atkins swaps the damp for the dry

For his first book, The Moor, which was short-listed for the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize, William Atkins travelled along the wet backbone of England. For his latest, The Immeasurable World  (Faber), he heads into deserts — including the Sonoran, between Mexico and the United States, where the Trump administration has been following its “zero-tolerance” policy against undocumented migrants. There he spent time both with a group that is helping migrants and with a border patrol officer.

  Atkins was on Start the Week  with Andrew Marr on Radio 4 on Monday, and he will be speaking at the Wealden Literary Festival, in Biddenden, Kent, on June 30.  You can read a brief (600 words or so) extract from his new book on the website of one of my favourite London bookshops, Foyles, and a longer piece he wrote, while working on the book, on the website of Granta magazine.

Lawrence Wright talks Texas

Contributors to the Book Review podcast of The New York Times include Julian Barnes, on his latest novel, and Lawrence Wright, talking about his portrait of the Lone Star State, God Save Texas.

Woods, reservoirs and radio

Publishers had to submit entries by the end of last week for the £5,000 Wainwright Prize, which is named after the great fell walker and is for the best book of travel, nature or outdoors writing focused on the United Kingdom. I’m assuming Doubleday has entered the latest from the writer and farmer John Lewis-Stempel, The Wood, which came out earlier this month and in which he records the natural daily life and historical times of a wood in Herefordshire. Or perhaps it has entered Lewis-Stempel’s The Secret Life of the Owl, which came out last October. Or maybe it has entered both. That wouldn’t be a first. Lewis-Stempel is prolific as well as talented. Having won the Wainwright Prize in 2015 for Meadowland, he not only took it again in 2017 with Where Poppies Blow (a study of the relationship between soldiers and nature in the First World War) but also had a second book on the short list: The Running Hare. The Wood is currently Book of the Week on Radio 4.

  Also starting on Radio 4 tonight, in the Book at Bedtime slot, is Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13.

Back to North Korea

Only 5,000 people a year visit “the hermit kingdom” of North Korea. Among them has been the radio producer Sarah Jane Hall, who first went in 2004, when, she says, it was hard to imagine the political temperature could get any higher. Since then, of course, the leaders of the United States and North Korea have been threatening each other with nuclear weapons. In Archive on 4: Travels in North Korea, which was broadcast on Saturday evening and is now available on the BBC iPlayer, Hall asks: “Is it easier to go to war with a country we don’t understand?” She mingles her own experience of North Korea with those of recent visitors to the country, including tour leaders and their customers, a diplomat, a film-maker and the broadcaster Andy Kershaw. What did they see and do, and what did they learn?

Shipwrecks, fossils and smugglers

For an episode of Open Country on Radio 4, the folk singer Eliza Carthy explores her home town of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, famed for fossils, shipwrecks and smugglers. The smugglers used a series of tunnels and interconnected cottages, she is told, and hid their contraband in their clothing, “the ladies in their long Victorian dresses… and some would look pregnant but they weren’t.” To which Carthy responds: “She was about to give birth to a nice 12-year-old single malt.”

‘Intrepid Women’ on the World Service

Intrepid Women, a series from 1980 in which Paddy Feeny interviewed the writers Freya Stark and Dervla Murphy, the sailor Clare Francis and the Arctic traveller Marie Herbert, has been added to the BBC’s website as part of the World Service’s archive project.

Music made in Belfast

I’m looking forward to the second series of Notes from a Musical Island, in which Laura Barton explores the influence of place and geography on musicians and their music. It starts today, at 11.30 on Radio 4, with a programme from Belfast entitled “Blackbirds and Drums”. If it’s anything like the first series, I’ll be listening to it more than once.

A hearty walk with Horatio Clare

If I’m not out walking myself, I’ll be listening to Sound Walk on Radio 3 from 2pm today. If I am, I’ll catch up later. Over four hours, Horatio Clare (whose books include the Stanford Dolman Prize winner Down to the Sea in Ships) will be making what the BBC calls “an immersive, slow-radio experience of a 10-mile walk along Offa’s Dyke”. Along the way, there’ll be Welsh music, the ambient sounds of the landscape, and contributions from the poet Christopher Meredith, the artist Susan Milne, the folk singer Sam Lee and the novelist Tom Bullough.