Radio Archive

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.

‘Sightlines’ on Radio 4 Extra

Book of the Week on Radio 4 Extra at the moment is Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines, which was joint winner in 2013 of the Dolman (now the Stanford Dolman) Travel Book Award. You can still read an extract on Deskbound Traveller.

On the Irish border with Garrett Carr

Book of the Week on Radio 4 from 9.45am today is Garrett Carr’s The Rule of the Land, which I have mentioned a few times on Deskbound Traveller.

Poetry: ‘A lotta hard-workin’ people tryin’ to make an honest dime’

What is Poetry? “It’s just a lotta hard-workin’ people tryin’ to make an honest dime.” So I discovered yesterday, when I searched for “poetry” and “journeys” on the Soundcloud site.

Having enjoyed the latest edition of Poetry Please on Radio 4, on the theme of “Dusk ’til Dawn” (perfect listening for a post-run bath), I searched for “Poetry Please journeys”, and discovered that Roger McGough did hit the road, in March 2015, in the company of Tennyson, Arnold and Cavafy, among others. Unfortunately, that episode is not available on the BBC iPlayer. (Note to BBC: please add it asap.)

So I tried the same search on Soundcloud, couldn’t find the journeys episode, but did turn up Poetry, Texas, in which a Danish poet, Pejk Malinovski, went all the way to the Lone Star State because he’d seen a picture online; a picture of a water tower with the word “Poetry” on it: Poetry, Texas. His programme is gently revealing of rural life, and the voices are wonderful. It was made by the innovative team at Falling Tree Productions and went out on Radio 4 in May 2013 —  but again isn’t available on iPlayer. I’ve put the Soundcloud link in below.

A revealing question: ‘Where are you going?’

In her “Pick of the Week” column on radio for The Daily Telegraph at the weekend, Charlotte Runcie recommended The Documentary: Where Are You Going? (tomorrow on the World Service at 7.30pm), for which Catherine Carr travels to the Mexican city of Tijuana, just south of where Donald Trump is promising to build a wall. Runcie says it “reveals compelling stories of transition, identity and politics by, simply, stopping people and asking them where they are going.”

The programme, recorded in November following Trump’s election victory, turns out to be part of a series — all available on the BBC iPlayer — in which Carr has asked the same question of people in Amsterdam, Kolkata (Calcutta), New York and “The Jungle” refugee camp in Calais.

Winton on the water

I mentioned a while ago Island Home, Tim Winton’s love song to the Australian wilderness, which came out in Britain last year. There’s another chance on Radio 4 Extra to hear an adaptation of an earlier memoir, Land’s Edge (2012), in which Winton reflects on how childhood days at the coast have shaped him as a writer. The reading is by Stephen Dillane.

Winton writes:

In my memory of childhood there’s always the smell of bubbling tar, of Pink Zinc, the briny smell of the sea. It’s always summer and I’m on Scarborough beach, blinded by light and with my shirt off and my back a map of dried salt and peeling sunburn. There are waves crackin’ on the sandbar and the rip flags are up…
Out there is west, true west. The sea is where the sun goes at the end of the day; where it lives while you sleep. I have a fix on things when I know where west is.