Radio Archive

Travelling on the airwaves

The Irish novelist Colm Tóibín has had an enduring relationship with Barcelona. He first went there at the age of 20 in September 1975 — shortly before the death of Franco —  and stayed on for three years to teach English, returning 10 years later to write his love letter to the city, Homage to Barcelona. He has just been back again for a programme in the Radio 4 series Reimagining the City, broadcast this morning.

I thought I knew a bit about Barcelona (though it’s 15 years since I last spent much time there), but some of what he said was new to me, including his revelation that the revival of the old part owes much to an influx over the past 20 years of Pakistanis. The new arrivals, he says, have been welcomed by the Catalans, with whom they share a belief in hard work and intense family business.

The first part of Laura Barton’s 24 Hours of Sunset (see below) went out on Radio 4 on Thursday and can now be heard on iPlayer. The second part, which takes her from Sunset Strip out to the coast, will be aired next Thursday.

Earlier in the week on Radio 4, Start the Week, under the chairmanship of Amol Rajan, editor-at-large of The Independent, touched on both the physical landscape of the British Isles and the mental and moral one. The contributors were Nicholas Crane, whose new book is The Making of the British Landscape: From the Ice Age to the Present;  Madeleine Bunting, author of Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey; the historian David Olusoga, presenter of the new BBC2 series Black and British: A Forgotten History; and Imtiaz Dharker, who was part of a “Shore to Shore” tour from Falmouth to St Andrews by four female poets earlier this year.

Gone for a Burton

There’s long been a kinship between poets and pints, says Jean Sprackland. It’s particularly strong in her case: she grew up in Burton-on-Trent, a town synonymous with brewing, and had a summer job in the maltings. In Gone for a Burton, on Radio 4 earlier this week, she led a lyrical tour of the trade and the town. In the process, she learnt a new explanation of the phrase she’s borrowed for her programme’s title…

Accent on the journey

A tweet yesterday from the writer Melissa Harrison pointed me to a Radio 4 programme I missed when it was first aired last month. It’s A Journey Through English, a celebration of the diversity of dialects and accents you hear as you take the longest continuous train journey in Britain: more than 600 miles from Aberdeen to Penzance. I particularly liked the contribution from a Scot who said that she had spoken English since she was a child, when “you had one tongue for the hoose, another tongue for the street, and another tongue for the school or the kirk”. It was a programme that, in more ways than one, made Britain seem a bigger place. The guard, having reeled off the 43 stations the train would call at in between, sounded as though he needed a lie-down before the journey had properly begun.

On the river with Radio 4

Busy clearing my desk for a trip to the Canadian Arctic, I forgot to mention in advance Radio 4’s series of 15-minute talks this week on the theme of “The River”. Then I heard a contribution at lunchtime from the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie on being transported back to the Bronze Age on the Tay. The beauty of modern-day radio, of course, is that you can catch up online when it’s convenient using the BBC iPlayer. Four talks are already on the BBC site and the fifth, in which the wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson follows the North Tyne to the sea, will be broadcast tomorrow.

Again on rivers, there’s a lovely piece by Melisssa Harrison on Shreen Water, in Dorset, on the excellent Caught by the River website. There, too, I’m reminded of the Shorelines Literature Festival, coming up next month in the Port of Tilbury. Contributors will include Rachel Lichtenstein, whose Estuary: Out from London to the Sea is due out next month from Hamish Hamilton; Deborah Levy; Patrick Wright; and those two cargo-ship crew members Horatio Clare and Rose George.

Kathleeen Jamie, incidentally, was joint winner in 2013 of the Dolman Travel Book Award for Sightlines, an extract from which you can still read on Deskbound Traveller.