Showing posts with label BBC Radio 4. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC Radio 4. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Natalie Haynes and Alexandra Shulman appear on With Great Pleasure

With Great Pleasure is one of the best programmes on BBC Radio 4.

If you haven’t discovered it, do give it a try. The series asks well-known names to pick prose and poetry they love - so it’s a fantastic way to discover new writers and hear old favourites.

This week I got the chance to attend a recording of two forthcoming programmes at the BBC’s Broadcasting House. The shows featured two ultra-inspiring women – the first, comedian and writer Natalie Haynes and the second, Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman.

The programmes will both be broadcast in February so I don’t want to give too much of the game away but Natalie Haynes’s selection included two rare and exquisite readings by one of our most distinguished writers. Like the rest of the audience, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when he walked on to the stage.

Then it was time for the second recording. I was fascinated to hear Alexandra Shulman’s choices – not only because she is a brilliant editor but because she is exactly the same generation as me. And sure enough, listening to her choices (beautifully read by Tracy Wiles and Stella Gonet) sent a shiver down my spine. Her favourites included Noel Streatfeild’s classic White Boots, Dorothy Parker’s The Telephone Call, Rosamund Lehman’s Invitation to the Waltz and even Mediterranean Cookery by Elizabeth David. Shulman recalled how the book took her straight back to her North London childhood, in the days when her mother (the distinguished journalist Drusilla Beyfus) would rush in from work and start cooking supper from scratch in their tiny kitchen.

As the child of two journalists, Shulman said that when she was growing up journalism seemed like very hard work for little remuneration. But she loved reading journalists’ writing and the journalist she most admired was Joan Didion, whose Play It As It Lays was another of her (universally excellent) choices.

Shulman, dressed in a stylish bottle green velvet dress, was surprisingly modest and self-effacing as she talked about the titles she’d selected. Being asked to do the programme was, she said, “an incredible treat and privilege.” Actually, being part of the audience was a treat and privilege too.

PS. Alexandra Shulman’s debut novel about three friends who graduate in the 1980s is out in paperback this week. Can We Still Be Friends (Fig Tree, £5.99)

Monday, 5 November 2012

The BBC's Nick Robinson - and the perils of working from home

BBC political editor Nick Robinson is a brilliant reporter. He always looks cool, calm and unflustered – even when he’s got scary deadlines to meet and major political stories to cover. He’s also got that rare journalistic knack of making the most complicated issues clear and intelligible. He’s particularly good on Radio Four’s Today programme, where he often pops up to detangle the political complexities of the day.

Yesterday Robinson was featured on The Sunday Times Magazine’s long-running A Life in the Day page. It was fascinating stuff (he said most politicians are “decent people doing an honourable job,” declared he'll never do Strictly Come Dancing and revealed that when he’s working he lives on crisps and chocolate). There was also one recollection that will strike a chord with all parents who work from home.

Although Robinson is based at London’s Millbank, he explained that he sometimes does interviews from his basement office at home.

“Once, when the kids were small and my wife was away, I had an important radio interview to do – about the Northern Ireland peace process – and I told the kids they needed to be quiet,” he said.

“But the minute the interview began they started shouting that a door handle had fallen off and they were locked in a room.”

So what did he do?

“Like any man faced with a choice between family and career, I ploughed on with the interview…”  

And I’m sure the listeners had no idea about the drama going on around him. What a pro.   

Friday, 1 June 2012

Caitlin Moran and Jennifer Saunders - two of the funniest women in the country

A queue stretching right down the Euston Road, a packed theatre and two of the funniest women in the country in conversation on the stage.

Those were the ingredients for the latest recording of Chain Reaction, the BBC Radio 4 series where a well-known figure interviews someone they admire. They in turn choose someone else to interview – and so the baton gets passed down the line.

This week it was the turn of Times megastar columnist Caitlin Moran, who’d chosen to interview comedienne and Absolutely Fabulous creator Jennifer Saunders. Or as Moran put it, “I asked Jennifer Saunders out on a blind date on the radio and she said ‘yes.’”

The programme was recorded at London's Shaw Theatre and won’t be broadcast till August. But as the pair’s sparkling 75-minute conversation will be cut to 30 minutes, I thought I’d report some of my favourite bits. In fact wannabe journalists could learn a lot from the brilliant Moran in action as an interviewer. Far from sticking to safe, boring questions, the conversation ranged from whether Saunders considered herself a feminist (yes) to the last time she got drunk to the last time she called 999.

Actually, if any of her one-liners were anything to go by, Moran could probably earn a bob or two as a comedienne herself. When Saunders told her she’d spent the afternoon with her daughters and “we all had hair and nails,” Moran insouciantly inquired: “Why, didn’t you have any before?”

Along the way, Saunders revealed that she was a “forces kid” who moved house every two years. On arriving at a new school, “I’d have to learn to assimilate and not be noticed and be everyone’s friend.”  She and Dawn French started their comedy act for themselves and used to howl with laughter in the flat they shared.

Saunders, who’s married to comic Adrian Edmondson, is always surprised when people know who she is. When Moran asked “out of ten how famous are you?” Saunders thought she was about a seven. “I reckon you are more than a seven, love,” quipped Moran quick as a flash.

Oh, and just a few other things we learned along the way:
  1. Saunders loves the film Bridesmaids – “they’re such strong comedy performers.”
  2. No one ever calls her Jenny – she’s either Jen, Fer or Jennifer.
  3. She thought she’d go on Twitter “for five minutes, for research,” – “and then I got hooked.”
  4. She decided to write Viva Forever, the Spice Girls musical, because her three daughters loved the girl band when they were growing up. It opens in December and as she told Moran, “I really am quite pleased with it.”
  5. She’s a self-confessed procrastinator.

 PS. This was the Hogwarts-type view of St Pancras from the queue outside the Shaw Theatre… 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...