The Meaning Of Beaches

Episodes

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01Dover Beach20180709
01Dover Beach20180709

Portraits of five iconic British beaches starting with WW2 and Brexit symbol, Dover beach.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Essay One : Dover Beach
A new series of essays by the very popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised three series of essays The Meaning of Trees and two series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches all of which are unique and quintessentially British in very different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these five beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery which has captured so much attention for her previous five series' of essays.

Dover beach symbolises Brexit, war, resistance, fortitude, commerce, smuggling, desperation and racism. A beach steeped in British history and meaning, yet Calais is visible across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, attracting centuries of channel swimmers, with ferries and cargo ships bustling in and out by the white cliffs. Dover beach is shingle with the medieval Dover Castle overlooking it. It's now a popular spot with tourists with a promenade, deckchairs and kiosks but it's not your average tourist who comes to Dover beach. It receives a much higher percentage of Brexit voters, Churchill devotees and fossil-hunters than an average British beach. Its former incarnations as hotbeds of smuggling, of goods, contraband and people have echoes of the modern realities facing this beach which is at the forefront of the UK's future. It is the inspiration for one of the UK's favourite poems, "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, a really pertinent poem for Britain today.
Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Portraits of five iconic British beaches starting with WW2 and Brexit symbol, Dover beach.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Essay One : Dover Beach
A new series of essays by the very popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised three series of essays The Meaning of Trees and two series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches all of which are unique and quintessentially British in very different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these five beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery which has captured so much attention for her previous five series' of essays.

Dover beach symbolises Brexit, war, resistance, fortitude, commerce, smuggling, desperation and racism. A beach steeped in British history and meaning, yet Calais is visible across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, attracting centuries of channel swimmers, with ferries and cargo ships bustling in and out by the white cliffs. Dover beach is shingle with the medieval Dover Castle overlooking it. It's now a popular spot with tourists with a promenade, deckchairs and kiosks but it's not your average tourist who comes to Dover beach. It receives a much higher percentage of Brexit voters, Churchill devotees and fossil-hunters than an average British beach. Its former incarnations as hotbeds of smuggling, of goods, contraband and people have echoes of the modern realities facing this beach which is at the forefront of the UK's future. It is the inspiration for one of the UK's favourite poems, "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, a really pertinent poem for Britain today.
Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

02The Giant's Causeway20180710

Portraits of iconic British beaches. The Giant's Causeway is the ultimate beach-as-symbol.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by the popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature, Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised five series of essays The Meaning of Trees and The Meaning of Flowers. Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches, all unique and quintessentially British in different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery that captured so much attention for her previous essay series.

The Giant's Causeway is the ultimate beach-as-symbol with its 40,000 basalt hexagonal columns spawning myriad myths and legends across the millennia, still fascinating mathematicians, geologists, writers, artists, witches and tourists many of whom visit Northern Ireland primarily to come to this beach. The iconic rocks are a result of volcanic eruption 50 million years ago, with some of the weathered formations described as resembling a giant's boot, chimney stacks and a camel's hump. Some of this County Antrim beach is owned by the National Trust, but not all of it. Some is owned by the Crown Estate and some by private landowners. Parts of the beach are now restricted and have opening and closing times, with the gift shop supporting a craft industry in Northern Ireland as it has a rule that 80% of crafts sold must be made in Northern Ireland. Large numbers of visitors is perhaps unsurprising since the Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage site. The size of the columns was dictated by how fast the lava from the volcano cooled, the faster the cooling, the smaller the columns hence the diameter of the hexagons varies cross the beach.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

03Scarborough Beach20180711
03Scarborough Beach20180711

Portraits of iconic British beaches. Scarborough beach is a true entrepreneur and survivor

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by the very popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised three series of essays The Meaning of Trees and two series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches all of which are unique and quintessentially British in very different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these five beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery which has captured so much attention for her previous five series' of essays.

Scarborough beach in North Yorkshire with its crumbling cliffs and booming, then declining and now re-invented tourism, symbolises so much about modern and Victorian Britain, and the British coastal town tradition that is so unique. Reinventing itself with medicinal and artistic pasts now resurgent, the collapsing of cliff top buildings into the sea is a thing of the recent past. Scarborough is quintessentially English and yet distinctly Yorkshire. South Bay and North Bay of Scarborough beach have different feels; South Bay has attractions and entertainment, with the harbour and pleasure boats heading out to sea, whereas North Bay is quieter with brightly coloured beach chalets for rent and nature more in evidence in the wild and in its sea life centre. The south bay is where the Scarborough spa is built, originally founded in the 18th century for the medicinal waters and now finding very different ways to harness the healing powers of the sea and beach. Entrepreneurial Scarborough beach leads where other British beaches wish they could follow.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Portraits of iconic British beaches. Scarborough beach is a true entrepreneur and survivor

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by the very popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised three series of essays The Meaning of Trees and two series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches all of which are unique and quintessentially British in very different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these five beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery which has captured so much attention for her previous five series' of essays.

Scarborough beach in North Yorkshire with its crumbling cliffs and booming, then declining and now re-invented tourism, symbolises so much about modern and Victorian Britain, and the British coastal town tradition that is so unique. Reinventing itself with medicinal and artistic pasts now resurgent, the collapsing of cliff top buildings into the sea is a thing of the recent past. Scarborough is quintessentially English and yet distinctly Yorkshire. South Bay and North Bay of Scarborough beach have different feels; South Bay has attractions and entertainment, with the harbour and pleasure boats heading out to sea, whereas North Bay is quieter with brightly coloured beach chalets for rent and nature more in evidence in the wild and in its sea life centre. The south bay is where the Scarborough spa is built, originally founded in the 18th century for the medicinal waters and now finding very different ways to harness the healing powers of the sea and beach. Entrepreneurial Scarborough beach leads where other British beaches wish they could follow.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

04Barra Beach20180712
04Barra Beach20180712

Portraits of iconic British beaches. Barra beach in the Hebrides is a unique beach airport

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature, Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised five series of essays The Meaning of Trees and The Meaning of Flowers. Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of 5 iconic British beaches all unique and quintessentially British in different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery celebrated in her previous essays.

Barra's 'Great Beach' (An Tràigh Mhòr) symbolises survival and ingenuity the only beach airport in the world with scheduled flights and tides and wind dictating whether aircraft can land. Barra's Great Beach has twice saved islanders from disaster and ruin. In times of famine, the cockles found in great quantity on the beach formed an essential part of the islanders' diet when crops failed, not a rare occurrence on Barra. Cockles collected by the cart-load were shared across the island. The beach has also saved the island economically. Carrageen, a fine seaweed and a ubiquitous glossy thickening agent in so many modern foods, can be gathered in significant quantities here. The sand is calcium rich, made of crushed shells making it a very different dazzling white beach, compared to the usual British brown silica sand beaches. Compton Mackenzie, author of Whisky Galore, the world famous novel of whisky smuggling, lived over-looking Barra beach. Barra Airport beach is bordered by machair which is a Gaelic word meaning fertile low lying grassy plain. This is the name given to one of the rarest habitats in Europe which only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Portraits of iconic British beaches. Barra beach in the Hebrides is a unique beach airport

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature, Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised five series of essays The Meaning of Trees and The Meaning of Flowers. Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of 5 iconic British beaches all unique and quintessentially British in different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery celebrated in her previous essays.

Barra's 'Great Beach' (An Tràigh Mhòr) symbolises survival and ingenuity the only beach airport in the world with scheduled flights and tides and wind dictating whether aircraft can land. Barra's Great Beach has twice saved islanders from disaster and ruin. In times of famine, the cockles found in great quantity on the beach formed an essential part of the islanders' diet when crops failed, not a rare occurrence on Barra. Cockles collected by the cart-load were shared across the island. The beach has also saved the island economically. Carrageen, a fine seaweed and a ubiquitous glossy thickening agent in so many modern foods, can be gathered in significant quantities here. The sand is calcium rich, made of crushed shells making it a very different dazzling white beach, compared to the usual British brown silica sand beaches. Compton Mackenzie, author of Whisky Galore, the world famous novel of whisky smuggling, lived over-looking Barra beach. Barra Airport beach is bordered by machair which is a Gaelic word meaning fertile low lying grassy plain. This is the name given to one of the rarest habitats in Europe which only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

05Crosby Beach20180713

Portraits of iconic British beaches. Crosby beach, by Liverpool, hosts 100 Gormley statues

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

A new series of essays by the popular Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford, following her much praised three series of essays The Meaning of Trees and two series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five iconic British beaches all of which are unique and quintessentially British in very different ways. Fiona deconstructs what we thought we knew of these five beaches, with the multiple surprises and eloquent wordsmithery which has captured so much attention for her previous series' of essays.

Crosby Beach marks the end of the Mersey, and the edge of Liverpool. This unstable, dangerous, partly toxic mud beach is now home to Antony Gormley statues, 100 naked bronze figures facing out to sea scattered across the beach, bearing witness to the depth of history and the unpredictable future of this ever-changing beach. It was once the site of vital and modern imports and exports by tall sailing ships, both legal and illegal slavery, goods and hopes. Many shipwrecks have occurred at Crosby beach and Britain's last slave ship sailed out of Liverpool harbour past Crosby beach in 1807. The beach is part soft sand, part mud with a risk of fast tides meaning bathing is banned and the beach has many tide warnings. Attempts to stabilise the beach have been made since the mid 19th century - including attempts to build a sea wall, a scheme to plant old Christmas trees and the use of bombed buildings from the Blitz in WW2 making some parts of the beach potentially hazardous due to asbestos from remnants of those buildings sometimes being found. Crosby was also the site of the SDP's most famous by-election victory for Shirley Williams. Crosby beach has an ancient and very modern history.