Episodes

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0105Tim Key20190312

This week’s episode takes a delightfully surreal turn, with the award-winning writer and comedian Tim Key.

Tim won the 2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award with a show that combined poetry, stand-up and film, and drew praise for the beauty peeping through the silliness.

His last show, Megadate, saw Tim weaving a comic tale around a night out at a popular tourist attraction, while reading short poems from pornographic playing cards.

As well as appearing on stage and screen - most recently as Sidekick Simon, on Mid Morning Matters, alongside Alan Partridge - Tim has been a radio regular since 2006. He has starred in sketch shows, dramas and documentaries which have explored first lines in literature and Russian writers.

We’ll delve into the archives to enjoy highlights, including Tim's Late Night Poetry Programme. Since it first aired in 2012, and over four series, Tim has taken listeners on adventures from the studio, to the Shard, St Albans and space. All while sharing poems, quips, and the regular torment of Lord, a long-suffering musician played by Tom Basden.

Surreal and poetic adventures with the comedian and writer Tim Key.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0106Fi Glover20190319

Fi Glover helps illustrate that life is sometimes stranger than fiction or, at the very least, just as compelling,

Fi has presented The Listening Project since it launched, in partnership with The British Library, back in 2012. Since then, a team of BBC producers based all around the UK, have been capturing the nation in conversation.

Over 1,600 conversations have been recorded, with tales of love, divorce, parenthood, grief, strange twists of fate, happy happenstance, and more.

We revisit some standout moments from the series, including an unforgettable poem about Auschwitz, a marriage proposal, and a question about birds on electrical wires.

This episode also features insights from producer Louise Pepper, who’s got a great nose for a story; and Listening Project alumna Janet Hoggarth, whose post-divorce experience of communal living led to a book deal.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Fi Glover helps illustrate that life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0107The Moth20190326

This week’s show looks at live storytelling, with Catherine Burns and Meg Bowles of The Moth.

The Moth Radio Hour is a weekly series which launched in 2009. It features true stories told live on stage without scripts, notes, props, or accompaniment.

Some of the storytellers that step up to the mic are writers by trade. But many aren’t and Catherine and Meg are practised in the art of helping bring these voices and stories to a wider audience.

The pair share insights into the art of telling a good story well, with some highlights from The Moth archives.

We also head backstage, at the Moth’s latest event in London, to meet some of the storytellers brave enough to take to the stage and deliver a tale on the topic of Occasional Magic.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The art of live storytelling with The Moth's Catherine Burns and Meg Bowles.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0108Jessica Hynes20190402

Jessica Hynes joins us to talk writing, deadlines and her big screen directorial debut.

The BAFTA Award winning actor is known for her comic roles in The Royle Family and W1A, as well as films like Shaun Of The Dead, Son Of Rambow and Paddington 2.

She is also a writer, who co-wrote Spaced with Simon Pegg; and is adding director to her CV with The Fight.

Jessica talks about the box fit class which inspired her tale of triumph, over everyday adversity.

We also revisit a drama that Jessica wrote for Spike Milligan’s birth centenary, and which she performed onstage in Hull, as part of the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival.

Titled Deadline, Jessica’s story colourfully conjures the stress of an unfinished and overdue script, something she has experienced first-hand.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0109Jack Rooke20190409

The comedian, writer and mental health campaigner shares an insight into his very personal brand of storytelling.

Jack’s first stand-up show, Good Grief, reflects on the unexpected death of his father, when he was just a teenager. Co-written with his Nan, the show met with critical acclaim at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival, and was recorded for Radio 4 a few years later.

We listen to Jack’s poignant and funny debut, and talk to him about his subsequent work, which includes an exploration of male mental health, and a quest to track down Mathangi Arulpragasam – AKA the British artist M.I.A. - who inspired Jack to turn adversity into hope.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Comedian Jack Rooke shares an insight into his very personal brand of storytelling.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0110Daniel Lawrence Taylor20190416

One of BAFTA’S Breakthrough Brits of 2018, the writer, actor and comedian Daniel Lawrence Taylor, joins us to talk creativity and time travel.

Daniel saw himself playing dramatic roles but after winning laughs in comic plays and sketch shows at university, he formed the double act Ginger and Black, with Eri Jackson.

He writes and stars in the television comedy series Timewasters, which first transported a struggling jazz quartet back to 1920s London, via a South London lift. Series two brings the band mates into the 1950s, with the newly settled Windrush generation, and the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll.

Race is an important issue in Daniel’s work. When Timewasters was commissioned, he commented that you didn’t see that many black people in period dramas, or in time machines, so he decided to write about both - with award-winning results!

We also revisit a drama which Daniel wrote for Radio 4, and made its debut earlier this year. Titled Black Boy Fly, and set in London, the thoughtful and comic drama looks at community and gentrification.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The writer, actor, comedian and BAFTA Breakthrough Brit talks creativity and time travel.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0111Simon Garfield20190423

Simon Garfield joins us for a look at letters and a love story that unfolded during the Second World War.

On September 5th 1943, Chris Barker, a Signalman stationed in Libya decided to write to a former work colleague, Bessie Moore, back in London. The unexpected warmth of Bessie's reply changed their lives forever.

Chris and Bessie's love letters first appeared in Simon Garfield's book To The Letter. They have since been shared with audiences as part of Letters Live and published in their own book, My Dear Bessie.

This episode includes the 2015 Radio 4 dramatisation of these letters, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey. Plus further insights into the lives of Chris and Bessie.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Simon Garfield joins us for a look at letters and a Second World War love story.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0112 LASTElif Shafak20190430

Elif Shafak has published seventeen books – fiction and non-fiction – and taught at academic institutions around the word.

Born in France, Elif has lived in Turkey, Jordan, and the United States, and currently divides her time between Istanbul and London. A passionate proponent of internationalism and cosmopolitanism, Elif has said that if she had to choose one homeland, then it would be storyland, where characters are complex and readers can learn from walking in other people's shoes.

In this episode of Telling Tales, Elif talks about her love for Istanbul, and shares the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Turkey’s cultural capital in the 2013 documentary, Reimagining The City.

With writing very politicised in Turkey, Elif also remembers the surreal experience of being put on trial for words uttered by fictional characters in her 2006 novel, The Bastard Of Istanbul.

We also hear about the cemetery which inspired Elif’s new novel, and the six stories shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize, which help promote empathy and understanding – a mission that is very close to Elif’s heart.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Elif Shafak talks about the power of storytelling to promote empathy and understanding.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0201Lemn Sissay20190611

Lemn Sissay is a writer and broadcaster who self-published his first book of poetry, when he was just 18 years old.

As a child of the state, he was named Norman after one of the many social workers he encountered whilst growing up, and Greenwood after the Lancashire family who initially fostered him.

When Norman Greenwood left foster care, there were five different children’s homes. Then, at the age of 17, he was given two bits of paper which changed his life. One was a letter from his Ethiopian birth mother, Yemarshet Sissay, the other was a birth certificate which revealed that his true name was Lemn.

Since then, Lemn has been exploring his own history, sharing his tales, in poetry, documentaries and on stage.

This episode of Telling Tales features the 2009 Radio 4 documentary Child Of The State, in which Lemn tracks down people and stories from his time in care, as well as an extract from the one man play Something Dark.

Lemn also talks about his BAFTA-nominated television documentary Superkids; and an upcoming “memoir with a message” titled My Name Is Why.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The writer, poet and documentary maker talks about personal storytelling.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0202Danny Robins20190618

This week’s episode takes a trip to the unpronounceable village of Yxsjö with the writer, comedian and self-confessed Swedophile Danny Robins.

From comedy revue beginnings, performing alongside Marcus Brigstocke and Dan Tetsell at Bristol University, Danny has gone on to write numerous sketches, as well as scripts for sitcom, stage and documentaries.

One early live show, The Museum Of Everything, became a Sony-nominated series for Radio 4. And he’s since become a radio regular, writing for Dead Ringers, Hudson & Pepperdine, Armando Iannucci, and co-creating Rudy’s Rare Records with Lenny Henry; while his television work includes Young Dracula and The Basil Brush Show.

Danny’s most recent radio sitcom takes creative inspiration from his own experiences as a Brit indoctrinated by his Swedish wife. It is recorded on location; with Adam Riches starring alongside a cast of Swedish comic actors, and a fifth series has been commissioned for Radio 4.

In The Cold Swedish Winter, Danny mines a rich comic seam of cultural differences, exploring language, tradition and national characteristics, without resorting to cliché. The featured episode, New Swedes, also explores the country’s attitude towards immigration, a subject he explored further in the 2017 radio drama The Most Wanted Man In Sweden.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

We head to Yxsj\u00f6 with the writer, comedian and self-confessed Swedophile Danny Robins.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0203Michael Goldfarb20190625

Michael Goldfarb is a broadcast journalist and author, whose search for stories has taken him to more than 20 countries.

His favourite medium is the radio essay and we learn more about Michael’s upbringing in New York, via two standout episodes of Trip Sheets, recorded for BBC Radio 3.

In these essays, Michael documents a city in flux. We see New York through the eyes of a child of victory, walking the streets safely in the 1950s; and later those of a cab driver, passing burning buildings, as crime in the city escalated. He also recalls the powerful allure of Broadway, to an aspiring actor not yet ready to be the author of his own scripts.

We hear Michael hosting a live NPR talk show in Boston, as the north tower fell on 11th September 2001. And he reflects on this extraordinary experience, as well as the very real danger to reporters, and the civilians who engage with them, in conflict zones.

Now based in London, with his field reporting days largely behind him, Michael presents a podcast which reflects on the history he’s reported, written and lived.

Titled FRDH - The First Rough Draft Of History – recent topics include Brexit, Iran War Fever, the Democrat dilemma, and a declining life expectancy in North America.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Thoughts on factual storytelling from the broadcast journalist, essayist and historian.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0204Katherine Jakeways20190702

Katherine Jakeways is an actor and writer, whose brilliant character comedy in North By Northamptonshire led to a Radio Times declaration that she was “the new Victoria Wood.”

Her popular Radio 4 series, which began life as an Edinburgh show with Katherine playing all the parts, was first heard in 2010. The all-star cast includes Penelope Wilton, Felicity Montagu, Mackenzie Crook, Kevin Eldon and Sheila Hancock as the narrator.

It is a masterclass in how to mine the rich comic scene of middle England, set in the fictional town of Waddenbrooke, where everybody knows each other’s business and the supermarket manager uses the public address system to overshare.

Katherine’s other sitcoms include All Those Women, Guilt Trip, and she co-writes Ability with Lee Ridley, AKA Lost Voice Guy. Her radio plays include a slow-burn romantic drama, which began with 2016’s Where This Service Will Terminate and concluded with Where This Service Will Separate earlier this year.

This episode of Telling Tales features the first instalment and the couple’s “meet-cute” is a disagreement over a train seat reservation, as Suzie and David get to know each other, on the journey from London to Penzance. The drama stars Justin Edwards and Rosie Cavaliero.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Capturing Middle England in a sitcom and a romantic drama that begins on a train.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0205Salena Godden20190709

Salena Godden is an author and poet, whose latest publication declared that Pessimism Is For Lightweights.

Livewire, a collection of studio recordings spanning nearly 25 years, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2016.

Salena is also a regular on radio and, in 2018, Radio 4’s Mrs Death Misses Death captured the creation of a new experimental work, in which death is personified as a woman.

We hear this documentary, an earlier gender swapping poetic creation titled A Valentine At Waterloo, and Salena talks about protest and hope.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The author and poet talks about gender-swapping creativity, protest and hope.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0206John Finnemore20190716

John Finnemore always wanted to write for radio and, since that first commission, his output has been prolific.

He created the popular sitcom Cabin Pressure, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Roger Allam, and the long-running Souvenir Programme sketch series, which is now in its eight series.

Along the way, he’s picked up multiple awards, seen a cast member become a Hollywood star, and taken control of the Radio 4 airwaves, as the Lord Of Misrule for Twelfth Night 2017.

John has added comedy two-handers to his CV, with two series of Double Acts, taken Souvenir Programme out on the road (retitled John Finnemore’s Flying Visit), and even finds time to create the occasional cryptic crossword.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The prolific, award-winning sketch and sitcom writer John Finnemore.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

John Finnemore always wanted to write for radio and, since that first commission, his output has been prolific.

He created the popular sitcom Cabin Pressure, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Roger Allam, and the long-running Souvenir Programme sketch series, which is now in its eight series.

John has added comedy two-handers to his CV, with two series of Double Acts, taken Souvenir Programme out on the road (retitled John Finnemore’s Flying Visit), and even finds time to create the occasional cryptic crossword.

The prolific, award-winning sketch and sitcom writer John Finnemore.

0207Phoebe Judge20190723

Phoebe Judge is the host and creator of two independently-produced shows, Criminal and This Is Love, which are part of the Radiotopia podcast network. Her favourite thing in the world is to ask questions.

Phoebe got her start in radio in 2007, covering a Nantucket murder trial whilst still an intern. Since then, she’s reported from all over the world, and produced and hosted shows on National Public Radio.

When Phoebe decided to make Criminal, with Lauren Spohrer, the podcasting landscape was very different - Serial hadn’t yet launched never mind become a cultural phenomenon. They began making Criminal in their free time, finding real characters – scammers, scoundrels and crime fighters – and asking why they do what they do.

In 2018 Phoebe celebrated the 100th episode of Criminal, with the tale of Martin McNally, whose decision to hijack a plane led to an extraordinary series of events. She also launched a second podcast, This Is Love, on Valentine’s Day.

The podcast shares tales of love, in all its varieties, and the third season led Phoebe to Italy, where she spent ten days capturing cats, priceless violins, and communities who share a passion. We play the first episode, Ugly Club, in which Phoebe heads to the small town of Piobbico, where everyone is a member of the Club dei Brutti.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Stories of crime and love with the ever-curious Phoebe Judge.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0208Kit De Waal20190730

After a career in criminal and family law, Kit de Waal started writing in her mid-40s and she was 51 when she finally went to university, completing an MA in Creative Writing.

My Name Is Leon, her debut novel, draws on Kit’s mixed race, working class background, as well as the insights she gained into adoption and the care system. After a six-way auction between publishers, Kit signed a lucrative book deal, and My Name Is Leon became an international bestseller in 2016.

Kit has just published her third novel, Becoming Dinah, her first foray into YA fiction and the debut for a new publishing imprint focused on female voices. It is a coming-of-age tale, and a re-imagining of the American classic Moby Dick, in which a female character comes to the fore.

Whilst her own story is of one of extraordinary success, Kit began to speak up about the lack of opportunity for working class writers and the need for a change in the stories appearing on bookshelves.

Kit also acted upon what she saw, setting up a creative writing scholarship for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and compiling an anthology of working-class writers, titled Common People.

This episode features a short story from 2014, titled The Beautiful Thing, as well as a 2017 documentary for Radio 4, which asks Where Are All The Working Class Writers?

Made for Radio 4 Extra.

The working-class voice and better representation in stories with Kit de Waal.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0209Josie Long20190806

We look at fact and fiction, and the blurring of both genres, with the comedian, writer and actor Josie Long.

Josie’s stand-up career began when she was still at school and she picked up her first award (the BBC New Comedy Award) whilst still a teenager.

After a brief hiatus, studying English at Oxford University, Josie’s prolific output has included eight Edinburgh shows (three of which were nominated for Best Comedy), appearances on television and radio, several podcasts, two film shorts and a full-length feature titled Super November.

All three films are set in Glasgow - an indie theme park of a city beloved by Josie - with returning characters. And the two shorts were adapted into the series Romance & Adventure, for Radio 4, back in 2016.

Josie talks about her Glaswegian series and drawing on real-life experiences for fiction. We hear the first episode, which first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2016.

We also look at Short Cuts, an award-winning Radio 4 programme and podcast made by Falling Tree productions, which experiments beautifully with genre and sound. The featured story, by the poet Ross Sutherland, cuts up a recording of journalist John Humphrys with brilliantly creative results.

Made for Radio 4 Extra.

Fact, fiction, and the blurring of both genres, with the comedian and writer Josie Long.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0210Sofie Hagen20190813

This week’s guest is a Danish comedian, podcaster and fat activist, who has just published her very first book.

Sofie Hagen’s literary career began early, with hilariously naive fan fiction dedicated to the Irish band Westlife. After sharing some of these tales with audiences in her 2015 Edinburgh Fringe show, Sofie took home the prize for Best Newcomer.

But these stories also helped Sofie deal with depression. A fact she has shared in her stand-up shows and her other work, including the 2019 book Happy Fat.

We hear an extract from Sofie’s book, which is part memoir and part social commentary, with advice and cultural history dotted in between. Of particular interest to Sofie is how fat women are represented fictionally, in books and on screen.

Plus, we delve further into the history of food, and its long-established cultural connection to morality, in her Radio 4 documentary, The Unexpected History Of Clean Eating.

The comedian, writer, podcaster and activist talks about better representation in fiction.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

0211Peter Curran20190820

This week’s guest is a writer, broadcaster, failed drummer and former carpenter, who loves to make radio shows.

Peter’s first break in broadcasting was at GLR in the early 90s, answering the phones and making tea for Tommy Vance. He taught himself to edit on reel-to-reel tape, before landing his own daily show, and then leaving the BBC to make documentaries and audiobooks.

Since those early days, Peter calculates that he’s interviewed 10,000 people - across local, national and international radio. Latterly some of these interviews have been conducted in the unconventional setting of a bunk bed, thanks to his critically-acclaimed show with Patrick Marber.

The format and furniture lends itself brilliantly to the kind of storytelling that emerges late at night, when you can relax and allow your mind to wander. We listen to an episode from the second series, which covers Voltaire, Spike Milligan, Antony Burgess and more.

Peter remembers encounters with the famous, as well as the fictionally famous “rockumentary” stars Spinal Tap. He also reflects upon the more personal storytelling in Some Kind Of Man, and Collecting The Troubles, which looks at the creative response to conflict in his hometown of Belfast.

Made for Radio 4 Extra.

Freewheeling conversation, interviews and storytelling, from a bunk bed to Belfast.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.

The format and furniture lends itself brilliantly to the kind of storytelling that emerges late at night, when you can relax and allow your mind to wander. We listen to an episode from the second series, which covers Voltaire, Spike Milligan, Antony Burgess and more. It is produced by Peter's own company Foghorn Productions.

Peter remembers encounters with the famous, including the last interview with Sir Kingsley Amis. He also reflects upon the more personal storytelling in Some Kind Of Man, and Collecting The Troubles At The Ulster Museum, which looks at the creative response to conflict in his hometown of Belfast.

0212Cathy Fitzgerald20190827

This week’s guest is a writer and producer who has made many award-winning features for the BBC.

Cathy FitzGerald’s storytelling is rich in sound and, over the years, she’s taken listeners on a magic carpet ride, out and about on the streets of modern day London with Charles Dickens, and invited us to look in the mirror and up at the sky.

There will be some highlights from Cathy’s career, plus we’ll hear about Strange & Charmed, her school for people who tell stories in sound.

Made for Radio 4 Extra.

Lessons and stories in sound from the award-winning producer Cathy FitzGerald.

Radio 4 Extra celebrates the best in storytelling. Different voices and different genres.