Episodes

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Danny 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.

Katherine 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.

Lemn 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.

Michael 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.

05Tim 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.

06Fi 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.

07The 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.

08Jessica 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.

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

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

09Jack 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.

10Daniel 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.

11Simon 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.

12Elif 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.