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Just before I went on holiday I worked on a very interesting programme called Human Kind all about an incredible guy called George Price Matthew Taylor tells the story of the last eight years in the life of George Price - a scientist who studied the evolution of altruism and who suffered for his faith. With contributions from Price's biographer Oren Harman, writer Marek Kohn, Professor Steve Jones and Price's family and friends, Matthew follows a journey that began with a sensational breakthrough in evolutionary biology and ended in poverty and suicide. Audio Editor: Mike Thornton Producer: Peter Everett.Read More
The Robeson Files was a very interesting programme to work on that goes out today on BBC Radio 2... "A first rate nuisance in the world peace campaign... slightly anti-British, he is a crank on the colour question." Words from security files about the American singer and civil rights campaigner, Paul Robeson, as they feared the effect his popularity may have on the European colonies. Dotun Adebayo looks at back at the extraordinary talents of one of the greatest American recording stars of the early 20th century, Paul Robeson, at how both the FBI and MI5 colluded to try and crush both his career and social justice activism, and examines his extraordinary relationship with the miners of South Wales.Read More
Gillian Reynolds Has written a lovely little review in The Daily Telegraph We’re half way through Tony Pitts’s blackly comic series, about a strange seaside place where odd people live. At three in the morning someone is screaming. It’s the kind of thing that happens in Shedtown down by the bay, where dogs arrive as parcels in the post. It’s a bit like Under Milk Wood with touches of Father Ted. And it’s curiously addictive, the vivid, dreamlike script given life by a marvellous cast, including Suranne Jones, Ronni Ancona and Johnny Vegas as Colin (a thoughtful melancholic). Tonight: a puppet show about 9/11. Wow, "a bit like Under Milk Wood" praise indeed. This episode certainly had some sound design challenges, not least creating the unwrapping of a dog sent through the post in a parcel!! And the night screams were fun to record on the beach, we certainly got some very strange looks from passers by. All great fun.
Last night Radio 4 broadcast the 2nd episode of Shedtown, a 4 part comedy starring Johnny Vegas. "Foundations" written by Kevin Eldon in which, Colin (Johnny Vegas) is all at sea as the foundations of Jimmy's dream take shape on the beach. Wes and Father Michael witness the profits of some not-so-spiritual meat.Read More
Miranda Sawyer in The Observer at the weekend has reviewed Shedtown. She wrote... Shedtown, a new programme from Johnny Vegas's production company, was far from ranty: a strange drama/comedy/soundscape, narrated by Maxine Peake, it took advantage of its 11pm slot to offer something much more dreamy and hilarious than the usual wait-for-the-laughter Radio 4 fare. It's about the final works trip for the staff of a failed museum. They go to the seaside. The jokes came in under the radar: "What can I get you?" asked the barmaid. "Peace of mind," said Barry. "I want a pint, me," said Dave. The barmaid talked them through the new menu, which included chicken catch-a-Tory. I am proud that she used 'soundscape' in her description of Shedtown as I worked hard to provide an aural wash of sound to support the narrative. More about the next episode soon....
I have to go back to early September where for nearly a week the cast and crew lived and worked in Robin Hood Bay recording Shedtown on location before the weather broke too much. Ha ha, the British weather kept us on our toes and made umpteen schedules out of date almost before they had come out of the printer. The view out to sea showing some of the bad weather coming in! The frst episode is called "Something is Gonna Change.... Who hasn't thought about running away from it all at some time or other? Throwing caution to the wind, wrenching oneself out of a long established orbit to head for the deep space of the unknown? Barry (Tony Pitts) and Jimmy (Kevin Eldon) haven't. Until now. Friends since school days in a small town, they find themselves slipping inexorably and almost unconsciously into middle age.Read More
At last night’s Sony Radio Academy Awards, Mannmade Production’s drama serial “Divided We Fall” which was edited by Mike Thornton, and made for Preston FM won the Bronze Sony in the “Best Community Programming” category. It was the brainchild of Sohail Nawaz and his Northwest Muslim Community organisation, Shanbash. Sohail is always looking for new ways to convey the message that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving and law abiding citizens and he hit on the idea of a radio soap to illustrate the paths to extremism.Read More
Just to let you know that if enjoyed or missed Merry Christmas Morris Minor then it is Radio 4's Podcast of the week so you have 7 days to download it to enjoy both the programme and my Jingle Bells creation for ever. In addition The Guardian have selected it as one of their Radio Highlights for Christmas Eve.... If the festive spirit is still proving elusive, tune into Merry Christmas Morris Minor! (Radio 4, 11am), one of the sweetest radio offerings over the holiday. The Guardian's Martin Wainwright celebrates the car's 50th birthday in this affectionate tribute, which includes a rendition of Jingle Bells played on a chorus of Morris Minor Horns. That moment really is enough to melt even Scrooge's heart.
For a couple of days I had some great fun making a lovely documentary "Merry Christmas Morris Minor" for Radio 4 all about the Morris Minor car. Martin Wainwright sets off through the snow to give seasonal best wishes to the owners of Britain's favourite mass produced car - and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the special edition Morris Minor Million - the rarest minor of all. Highlight of the programme is a special rendition of 'Jingle Bells' from a Morris Minor 'choir.' Martin has a soft spot for the little car - often described as a large jelly mould with a speedometer sitting like a clock on the dashboard, and orange fingers for indicators. For it's time though, according to Stirling Moss, it was a nippy little car. Martin meets a mechanic who 'soups' the car up, owners like Dave Brown from 'The Mighty Boosh' and the drivers who 'danced ' their Morris Minors at the end of the Manchester Commonwealth Games . Finally, using the horn, various clunks and clicks from the car door and boot, and a squeak from the chassis, he conducts a unique version of ' Jingle Bells' by the Morris Minor 'choir.' Sound Design and production: Mike Thornton Producers: Janet Graves and Geoff Bird A Pennine production for BBC Radio 4. I had the challenge to create the 'Morris Minor choir' using only the sounds from a Morris Minor. The horn of course was very useful, being a 'tuned' sound and so I loaded it into Structure, a sampler plug-in in Pro Tools. Other sounds I stuffed into Structure were the lovely squeaking of the car's suspension, various door, boot and bonnet open and close sounds to form part of the percussion section as well as a multiple of different sounds extracted from a hub cap ending up as various cymbal sounds, using Serato's Pitch 'n Time plug-in to stretch out the sound into a variety of cymbal crashes. We were able to get a tuned note from it so the hub cap also formed part of the harmony and melody of this unique rendition of Jingle Bells. You will be able to hear this and the documentary on Christmas Eve at 11am on BBC Radio 4 and afterwards on the iPlayer.
This Sunday Radio 4 will be transmitting an interesting documentary I edited and mixed with Carmel Lonergan on how young black men are turning towards Islam as they find it gives them structure and discipline. More than two thirds of Muslims in Britain are of South Asian ancestry, leading many to believe that Islam is the preserve of these communities. Yet in the last 2 decades, Islam has arguably become the fastest growing religion among Black people in Britain and at a time when the UK appears more disunited over faith, ethnicity and identity than ever before. In this programme the writer and presenter, Dotun Adebayo, explores this phenomenon and asks why is Islam providing such an attractive religious alternative to Christianity for Black Britons seeking spiritual answers? What do they get from Islam that they can't get from their original faith? Is this just a rebellion against the family and society? He will talk to young black people about the reasons for their conversion and to Bishop Joe Aldred from the Black Churches who explains where he thinks the Black Majority Churches are going wrong and why he thinks they need to smarten up and get their message across to young people so they are comfortable with church. Conversion to Islam also has a darker side in the shape of terrorism. As Dotun Adebayo says "Ever since the penny dropped that the Richard Reid, the shoebomber was The Richard Reid I had lived with when he was a teenager in south London, I have been haunted with the question of whether I could have done anything to dissuade my petty thieving 'good lad at heart' flatmate from going down the route of militant Islam. Twenty years later I have to ask is being "young muslim and black" still a "lovely, precious dream". It was a very enlightening programme to be involved in. Finding instrumental music we could use that reflected black and Muslim youth culture was a challenge! If you miss it on 19th December then do go to the iPlayer and have a listen.
On Thursday BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting Cheque Book and Pen, a fictional drama on how Les Dawson might have got to host Blankety Blank. Working with Woolyback Productions I recorded on location, edited, tracked and mixed this production which will be the afternoon play on 16th Dec 2010 at 2:15pm. Johnny Vegas pays tribute to the legendary Les Dawson in a comic flight of fancy. Les has a way with words but is northern, rather crumpled, a little shambolic and an unknown quantity, and delightfully unpredictable when he is faced with representing a national institution. Nicholas Parsons is Farson, a resplendent foil for Dawson. Farson embraces and embodies the hammiest forces of the 'traditional BBC'. A nemesis to Les and all he stands for and aims to subvert. This homage is a pure joyous farce, taking full artistic license in imagining how the BBC might have engaged the iconic Les to become a game show great in its eighties flagship, Blankety Blank. Cast: Les ..... Johnny Vegas Farson ..... Nicholas Parsons Helen ..... Shobna Gulati Dave Parkins ..... Mick Miller BBC Executive ..... Mark Chatterton Number Two ...... Paul Foot Doris (Barmaid) ..... Catherine Kinsella Other parts ..... Peter Slater (and cast). Written by Andrew Lynch and Johnny Vegas. Sound Design: Mike Thornton Directed by Jim Poyser Producer: Sally Harrison A Woolyback Production for BBC Radio 4. I have had great fun working on this production with challenges like a scene in a Manchester club where Les is on stage doing his act whilst the BBC executives were in the audience commenting on his performance. Another scene, that took a few goes to get right, was a montage of agents all ringing the BBC offering their clients for the new presenter of Blankety Blank. Also look out for Shobna Gulati playing a lovely cameo part as the queen phoning the BBC exec to complain. We were unable to get the original Blankety Blank theme clean but we did get Les's first show from the BBC archive and I was able to weave that into this production. If you don't get to listen to Cheque Book and Pen on Thursday then do go to iPlayer and listen to it from there.
I have been busy on a number of dramas and documentaries most of which I cannot talk about yet but will be on air around and just after Christmas so will share more when they go public. However one that I am just finishing is a 2 part documentary on Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxer, and now politician. An exclusive interview produced by Lyndon Saunders at All Out Productions which I have been involved in editing and mixing will be going out on the World Service on Nov 26th and Dec 3rd as the Friday Documentary. Fighting for the people Making the leap from top level sport to politics is not unique: Pakistan’s Imran Kahn did it; Britain’s Sebastian Coe’s done it… but Filipino, Manny Pacquiao, takes things to a new level. As an active boxer – and the world’s first fighter to win eight world titles in no less than eight different weight divisions – earlier this year he was also elected to Congress in the Philippines earlier this year. Now, Mike Costello, the BBC’s Boxing Correspondent travels to the Philippines to spend time with this sporting legend as he trains for his forthcoming fight with Antonio Margarito. Mike discovers who Pacquiao is as the boxer, the newly appointed politician and man of the Filipino people. Speaking with people that know, love and work with Pacquiao, his story of poverty to one of the world’s most high earning sportsmen is compelling. Mike Costello will visit the streets in General Santos where Pacquiao grew up to see for himself where he came from. TX times... East Africa Friday 07:00, 14:00, 21:00 West Africa Friday 09:00. 14:00, 21:00 America Friday 14:00, 19:00 East Asia Friday 03:00, 08:00, 13:00 South Asia Friday 04:00, 09:00, 15:00 Europe & Middle East Friday 10:00, 15:00, 20:00 Australia Thursday 23:00, Friday 04:00, 11:00, 16:00 UK Friday 09:00, 12:00, 15:00
The BBC has now published the details of the last of the series of 4 on The Kennel Club, which I finished editing and mixing last Thursday. As promised in my previous post on this series here are the details... It has a fine dining room and a celebrated collection of canine art. It has a charitable trust and organises the greatest dog show on earth. That doesn't stop Quentin Letts asking, "What's the point of the Kennel club?" The kennel club was founded in 1873 by twelve Victorian gentlemen who liked dogs and dinners in equal measure, and wanted to bring some discipline into the world of dog breeding and showing. It's struggling to do that today. Some breeders and showers are in open revolt against Kennel Club health regulations. Others from the welfare lobby say the Kennel club hasn't been doing enough to tackle the suffering caused to dogs by generations of inbreeding. Quentin enjoys the sunshine, spectacle and order of a dog show in Worcestershire, goes for a walk with a breathless dog suffering a range of genetic disorders, and enters the hallowed halls of the Kennel club Clarges street as he considers whether this British institution still has the teeth needed to improve the lot of dogs in this country. There are some strange 'goings on' in the doggie world and it appears OK to show dogs with major health issues but not OK to breed from them. But how do you get the next generation of dogs to show if you don't breed from them? Tune in or use the iPlayer to hear for yourself. This brings to a close the third series of What's The Point Of. Rosie Dawson, the producer and I have worked on all 3 series and it never ceases to amaze me how my clients, like Rosie for WTPO and Dawn Bryan for The Choice keep coming up with new ideas to better the previous series, much respect and thanks.
On Friday I finished editing and mixing a continuing documentary "Divided Britain" with producer Sally Chesworth for BBC News & Current Affairs to be transmitted on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 31st August at 8pm and repeated on Sunday Sept 6th at 5pm or find it here on the iPlayer. In 2006, Radio 4 was given access to a ground breaking education scheme in East Lancashire which aimed to improve GCSE results and break down divisions in an area where white and Asian families live separate, parallel lives. Following the disturbances in Burnley in the summer of 2001, schools were identified as having a crucial role in promoting community cohesion. Lancashire County Council was given the go ahead to close 11 schools and reopen them as 8 new community colleges each with the aim of being a hub for the neighbourhood, where Asian and white families would come together and get to know each other. The last of those £25 million buildings are due to open in September. Marsden Heights Community College in Nelson moved into its new facilities after Easter. Head teacher Mike Tull is excited by the opportunities that the building brings and hopes it will help engage parents in the area. But what are the challenges he faces in breaking down cultural barriers in the former mill towns of Brierfield and Nelson? Since the scheme began his school has gone from being 60% Asian students to nearly 80% and he says many white parents choose other schools for their children because of prejudice not standards of education. Locals already describe Marsden Heights as "the Asian school". And now a charity is looking to open an Islamic girls school nearby which many say threatens to further segregate young people. Can these new "superschools" make a difference or are racial divisions becoming more entrenched? Some interesting quotes from the programme, one teacher saying "she grew up in a council house with no phone and no car". In one generation a mobile phone is now considered a necessity, not a luxury. Also the stories of bullying are horrific. This is well worth a listen.
As promised in my previous post here are the details of the 4th programme of the current series of The Choice on BBC Radio 4... On The Choice this week Michael Buerk talks to Frank Evans, a butchers boy from Salford who dreamt of becoming a bullfighter after a holiday in Spain. The decision to become a matador meant he had to fight his way into the most dangerous and controversial sports in the world. It brought him ridicule and condemnation along with injuries in the ring and death threats out of it. But it was a choice he kept making despite a fearful wife and family and eventually despite ailing health. A very interesting story about a guy determined to follow his dream.
As I blogged back on 16th July that I had finished working on this year's series of The Choice for Radio 4, where Michael Buerk (OCF) in conversation with people who have faced a life-changing choice. They are now going out so I can now tell you more about them. The first programme went out on 12th August whilst I was away so I am afraid it isn't available on iPlayer anymore Michael talked to Heather Pratten about her decisions to help her terminally ill sons in very different ways. This was an emotional programme to make and to listen to were a mother had to decide how to help her terminally ill sons die. Programe 2 went out on August 19th so you can listen to it on iPlayer for another 3 days. On The Choice this week, Micahel Buerk talks to Romy Tiongco. He spent a lifetime fighting poverty - first as a Catholic priest, then as a Christian Aid worker. Where he comes from - the Philippines - poverty is made worse by violence and corruption. He'd taken it on as a young man, before moving to this country with his wife. When he decided to return to the Philippines he did not realise it would draw him back into a dangerous and murky world and present him with the most difficult choice of his life. After his best friend was killed, the people called on him to challenge corruption by standing for political office - a choice that would put his own life on the line. A excellent story of a 'little guy' standing up to strongholds at great personal cost. Programme 3 goes out on this Thursday at 9am and again at 9:30pm On The Choice this week Michael Buerk talk to Elissa Wall who was born into the strange, narrow world of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints - an American sect that had broken away from the Mormon church. It was a group that believed in religious devotion, hard work, female subservience, the virtues and the clothes of the prairie puritans - and polygamy. Elissa was married off at 14 to a 19-year-old cousin - a relationship she hated. After several miscarriages, and a stillbirth, she faced the toughest choice of her young life - to stay with the community and the church, which was all she knew, or to leave. That would mean, not only separation from her mother and sisters, maybe for ever, but taking on the man who had ruled her life, the cult leader Warren Jeffs. This is a story of power and control as well as abuse that you wouldn't expect to hear about in western culture. Programme 4 is the final one in the current series but the BBC have not released any information about it. When they do I will post it here.
As I blogged back in the beginning of July that I was working on the new series of What's The Point Of..." for Radio 4, how it is going out I can tell you what the programmes in this series is all about. This is what the BBC is saying on their site... Quentin Letts returns with another series offering a witty and thought-provoking look at some of Britain's cherished insitutions. Over the next four weeks he casts a quizzical eye over Marylebone cricket club, the public library, the Kennel Club - and the RAF. Programme 1 on the RAF went out last week and so you have only a few hours to listen to it on iPlayer. All over the country, events are being held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when the bravery of the Few saved these islands from a Nazi invasion. Even if some historians have had the temerity to suggest it was actually the navy wot done it, it's an opportune moment for the RAF to remind us of their historic contribution, and why we need them in the future. Which is why exactly? Britain was the first country in the world to have an independent air force. To get rid of it is unthinkable, isn't it? Defence secretary Liam Fox has promised that the Governments strategic defence review will be ruthless and unsentimental - will he listen to the RAF's critics? They claim that a bloated higher command structure in Whitehall argues for fast jets we cant afford for a war we wont be fighting. Oh - and its uniforms are horrible and they can't march properly. Historian Max Hastings, War correspondent Sam Kiley, former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and retired Colonel Tim Collins are among those who join Quentin to ask the question, What is the point of the RAF? In the current climate of cuts and savings this is a very timely look at what the RAF actually does for us. Programme 2 is on the MCC - Marylebone Cricket Club and goes out today at 9am and tonight at 9:30pm The celebrated historian George Trevelyan once wrote that if the French nobility had only played cricket with their servants they wouldn't have had their chateaux burnt. Today, with the revolution taking place within the game itself, Quentin Letts casts a quizzical eye over Marylebone cricket club, the English institution responsible for maintaining its laws and upholding its spirit. It's not easy for MCC to shake off the weight of history. It resisted the demands of sexual equality almost into the present century, and it is still berated for its exclusiveness. The programme hears from Rachael Heyhoe-Flint who captained the first English women's team allowed onto the Lord's pitch, and to another former Captain, Mike Gatting, who berates MCC members for a display of very ungentlemanly manners to fellow cricketer, Ian Botham. The powerhouse of cricket is now in India, the governing body is in Dubai and the focus of the game is shifting from test match to twenty-twenty But this private members club, the owner of the most famous sports ground in the world , still seeks a place at the table. Quentin talks to MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw about what it's doing there - resisting the economic and global forces of modernity or leading the charge of change? Cricket fans watch out!! Programme 3 on Public Libraries goes out next Tuesday August 31st Question: Where can you go to reduce your fear of crime, have a massage, ring a church bell, get some information about council tax, and engage in some heavy petting without being told off? Quentin Letts is surprised and sometimes disheartened by the answer; a library. Of course, you can borrow a book as well, but campaigners argue that - with some authorities spending less than ten per cent of their library budgets on books -something has gone very wrong with the way the service is being managed. Public Libraries have come a long way since Manchester opened the first in the 1850s. But where is the service going? Gleaming new buildings have opened in Newcastle, Whitechapel and Brighton - but more than 80 other libraries have been closed in the last five years; an age of public spending cuts surely means more. Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, campaigner Tim Coates and Arts minister Edward Vaizey join Quentin Letts as he asks, what's the point of the public library? If you heard the debate on Today on Radio 4 today you will want to listen to this programme. The final programme in the series is scheduled to go out on Tuesday 7th September and is on The Kennel Club and I finish working on it on Thursday. Once there is some more info on it I will let you know.
Hitler's Muslim Legions is a history documentary I worked on with Jenny Chryss about use of Muslim recruits to strengthen the German army in the second world war. This is from the BBC web site. It was after Germany's invasion of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1941 that Hitler's attention was first drawn to the potential for Muslim recruits to swell his ranks. For the many thousands of captured Soviet Muslims, the opportunity to serve in the Wehrmacht offered an escape from the brutality and starvation of the prison camps. Elsewhere, a major recruitment drive amongst Bosnian Muslims led to tens of thousands signing up for the Waffen-SS. Formed into exclusive Muslim units, these men fought in some of the most brutal campaigns of the entire war. This programme investigates why Hitler and Himmler apparently cast aside their Nazi ideal of an Aryan master race, justifying the admission of Islam into their ranks. It asks what attracted these men to fight for the Third Reich, how they were treated by their German officers and how they conducted themselves in the bedlam of war. Were they hopeless soldiers who committed unspeakable atrocities; or did they fight bravely for the Fuhrer? We examine the fate of these Muslims at the end of the war. With Hitler dead and the Third Reich defeated there was nothing to protect them, and most were killed as traitors. Presented by Julian O'Halloran. Producer: Jennifer Chryss A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4. The story was a revelation to me and you will hear an eyewitness account from a German, now in his 80s, who lived and worked with Muslim soldiers when he was 19. For more on the background to the programme go to the Radio 4 blog to read a post from Samir Shah who is the Executive Producer of Hitler's Muslim Legions. The programme goes out on Monday 26th July on BBC Radio 4. If you miss it then pick it up on the iPlayer.
I have just finished editing and uploading the series of 4 "The Choice" produced by Dawn Bryan. Still can't tell you who the interviewees are yet as Radio 4 have yet to announce them but they are another excellent set of stories all very different from each other. They are due to start going out on 12th August. Michael Buerk interviews people who have made life-altering decisions and talks them through the whole process, from the original dilemma to living with the consequences.