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Frank Ormsby's Parkinson's20171126

Marie-Louise Muir traces poet Frank Ormsby's creative response to illness.

When the poet Frank Ormsby was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, his response was unexpected. He embarked on a newly fertile creative period, documenting his experiences and finding a voice in his poetry that he was beginning to lose in his daily communications.

His first act was to search Google - for jokes. "Which would you rather have, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Obviously Parkinson's! I'd rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it."

As he discusses with Marie-Louise Muir, the illness has changed him. It's mellowed him. After a career as a school teacher, his daily life is now quieter and more solitary. There's a poetry, almost, in his pauses and silences.

Frank belongs to the generation of Northern Irish writers that has followed in the footsteps of Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley, His medication, he believes, has aided his creativity. But it has also induced hallucinations. He finds himself sitting on his own in his study but surrounded by people, by the ghosts of his mother-in-law and unidentified visitors. And he's also haunted by a fear that the earth will open up and swallow him.

But if you ask how he's doing, he writes,
"I'll tell you the one
about 'parking zones disease'.
I'll assure you that the pills seem to be working".

Photo credit: Malachi O'Doherty

With readings by Frank himself and Ciaran McMenamin from The Darkness of Snow.

Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Listening Without Ears20171212

How do people with hearing loss engage with music? Eloise Garland tackles assumptions.

How do people with hearing loss engage with music? Performer Eloise Garland challenges assumptions.

Eloise began to lose her own hearing fifteen years ago. Now aged 23, she's a professional singer, violinist and teacher - and reveals her very personal engagement with sound.

She considers different ways of teaching and appreciating music - some of which might surprise people who aren't deaf - and shares her deep emotional connection to an art form and cultural activity that is so strongly associated with hearing.

Eloise also meets Tarek Atoui, a composer and sound artist who brings together deaf and hearing people to make music with special instruments designed to expand the experience of sound beyond the aural. If music cannot be heard, what are the other ways of listening?

Producer: Steve Urquhart
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4

(Image credit: Caroline Lessire).

When Words Fail, Music Speaks20171205

Pupils with disabilities and complex educational needs work with professional composers.

Producer Peter Curran and Blanche Girouard, who teaches in a mainstream school, capture an extraordinary musical collaboration between school pupils with complex educational needs and professional musicians, as they create and perform an original show together.

William Carslake and Patrick Stockbridge have successful careers composing and playing with orchestras and choirs. Another side of their life is bringing musical composition, stage performance and having a good time exploring instruments to young people who have special educational needs around the UK. The work they create together then becomes part of performance festivals and events alongside mainstream schools.

In this programme, they develop a musical about food, the senses, and being lost in the jungle. It's a noisy, funny and inspirational process. They have just 48 hours to write the show from scratch, before a performance in front of the whole school. We hear the thoughts and reactions of pupils and composers as they put their shoulders to the task.

The programme also offers a powerful illustration of the skills and effort by dedicated teachers and carers at the school in Telford, as they shape classes and creative experiences around the changing, often complex needs of each young person in their care.

A Foghorn Company production for BBC Radio 4.

When Words Fail, Music Speaks20180211
01Songwriting With Soldiers20171112

Pairing American military veterans suffering from PTSD with songwriters.

Trevor Dann reports from the USA on an innovative scheme which helps military veterans suffering with post traumatic stress by pairing them with songwriters.

Former soldiers discuss the therapeutic effects of creating songs about their experiences. The founder of the programme, singer-songwriter Darden Smith, explains how the idea came from his song, Angel Flight, about the pilots who bring home the bodies of deceased servicemen and women. And we hear country artist Maia Sharp working on a song with John who lost the use of his arm in a combat incident which is still classified.

A Trevor Dann Company production for BBC Radio 4.