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Sovereign – BBC Radio 4 15 Minute Drama

Henry VIII and his Great Progress passed by Radio 4 in October 2015.

Colin MacDonald’s adaptation of C.J.Sansom’s Sovereign is bloody, gripping and full of intrigue. It’s a safe place from which to experience the terror of life in Henry VIII’s court where friends are hard to distinguish from enemies and careless talk can cost you your tongue and maybe your head too.

Instead of Henry as the central character, overshadowing all around him, this story follows lawyer detective Matthew Shardlake as he takes a dangerous conspirator from York back to London for questioning.

Tudor Social

Drama director Kirsteen Cameron put me in contact with Colin so we could produce an article which could be shared across social platforms and encourage catch up listening.

The result was 11 Things you didn’t know about King Henry VIII’s Progress 

I created shareable assets for Twitter and Facebook which linked back to the article.

Tudors tend to do very well on Radio 4’s social accounts. Matthew Shardlake and his experiences of the paranoid Progress were no exception.

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Sleep by Max Richter, BBC Radio 3

Last night, my dreams had a haunting, beautiful soundtrack.

Max Richter’s SLEEP: at 8 hours long, it is the longest ever continuous broadcast by the BBC.

From midnight until 8am, I was huddled under the duvet as haunting strings and deep bass (so deep I felt rather than heard it) scored my subconscious thoughts.

As I drifted between sleep and wakefulness, it felt like a real shared experience. I thought of everybody else  listening in the same way and of the musicians creating the nocturnal magic. Then I was asleep – but I could still hear the music throughout.

I woke at 8am to the sunshine streaming through the window, feeling very emotional. Last night had been a real journey for me – I felt like I had lived many lives in 8 hours.

SLEEP  is the centrepiece of the BBC’s Why Music weekend and is a wonderfully  reflective counterpoint to a frantic world.

Max Richter says, “I think of SLEEP as an experiment into how music and the mind can interact in this other state of consciousness, one we all spend decades of our lives completely immersed in, but which is so far rather poorly understood. I consulted with the neuroscientist David Eagleman on how music can relate to the sleep state and have incorporated our conversations in the compositional process of the work.”

Read the full article: Max Richter explains what drove him to compose SLEEP.

Oriseum Museum: Papa-Michalis Georgoulakis

We entered from a white hot street burning under the searing Cretan sun to a tranquil, shaded garden, filled with trees and old gardening equipment.

Wind chimes gently clattered among the leaves.

Papa G garden

The Museum is located in the ancient hilltop village of Asomatos, Crete. Papa Mikalis Georgoulakis was born there in 1921 and spent his whole life there. He saw that the everyday things that people discard, that were once common place soon disappear forever. The priest made it his life’s work to methodically collect and sort all kinds of objects – from lampshades to old typewriters  -preserving the todays that otherwise would have slipped  unnoticed forever into the past.

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The Museum is  peaceful and very evocative;  a collection of past lives and memories. Everything is carefully sorted and arranged – from matchboxes to old keys.

The guide book is full of entries of people moved by their visit. Going round the museum, I got the sense he must have been quite a character. One of the visitors wrote this about him:

Papa G

A photo of Papa Georgoulakis in his museum:

Papa G photo

The collections include German posters from the invasion of Crete. Signs posted by the invading German Army telling the Cretans not to resist and their beautiful land will last for thousands more years, warning them not to trade with the enemy, that anybody resisting  will  be shot on sight

There are not only glimpses of a past Crete, but also of a past family. There is a moving collection of all Papa Georgoulakis’s daughter’s shoes from age 2 to 18. Each pair tells their own story: scuffed toes, the imprints of a time when their owner wore them to laugh and cry and walk around the house where the museum is now. There is also a room containing the loom where his mother and sister would sit, their tapasteries hung all around.

It’s a sobering reminder that families are always growing and changing – the only direction of life is forward, there is no pause button.

Papa Georgoulakis died in 2008. The museum is now looked after by his son and it’s still the family home.

The Museum is wonderfully quirky and very special – an oasis of calm in a fast-moving, ever changing world.

Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles – BBC Radio 4

“All those years dreaming of first contact. Now we knew we weren’t alone. We almost wished we were…”  Captain Wilder, Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s haunting Martian Chronicles is one of my favourite books. A series of beautifully written, linked short stories describing the doomed attempts to colonise Mars, The Martian Chronicles were adapted for BBC Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions series last year. If you missed it first time around, you can listen to it for the next 30 days.

I helped Senior Producer Liz Jaynes with bespoke assets for syndication across social media platforms. I produced this Martian Chronicles promo that was published ahead of the original broadcast and uploaded clips and other content including Stuart Maconie’s Dystopian Playlist – a wonderfully dark and fitting musical accompaniment to the dramas.

Another Ray Bradbury classic, The Illustrated Man is also available. This compellingly scary tale stars Iain Glen as the restless Illustrated Man and is a warning for all those seeking to know their future…

BBC Introducing: Vizii

The BBC’s Make it Digital Campaign is inspiring a new generation of coders, programmers and digital producers.

The season launched on 8th September 2015 with bespoke content from TV, Radio and Online.

One of the new digital platforms is mixital. Aimed at teenagers, mixital provides the tools and the users the imagination.  EastEnders, Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing are just some of the big BBC brands waiting to see what people will create.

BBC Introducing and Vizii

Vizii is the music strand of mixital where users produce their own music videos.

I helped Jon Howard, Executive Producer of the team behind mixital and Manish Pradhan, Senior Content Producer, Radio Multiplatform  with the final touches.

BBC Introducing specially selected the tracks they thought would work the best and I managed the relationships with the bands, checking they were happy to be involved and collecting their biographies, assets and logos that they wanted to be included.

BBC Introducing have set down this week’s challenge: ‘Make some visuals that feel like a live gig’.

It’s fantastic to see so much creativity in such a short space of time and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next few months.

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How the arts can help you get into e-learning

If you’re thinking of a career in e-learning but don’t know where to begin, have a look at this Creative Choices article.

Written by e-learning and Multimedia Specialist Laura Taflinger, it features advice from a range of contributors – including me in my previous incarnation as Multiplatform Producer for the BBC Academy.

Laura and I were part of the team who set up the Creative Choices website in 2007. Laura also edited many training videos for me while I was at the BBC Academy.

Carsten Höller: Decision – Southbank Centre

Entrance A or Entrance B? 

That’s the first decision.


We make our choice and enter a metal corridor. The door behind us shuts and we are immersed in total darkness. Voices echo in the distance. Our eyes, unused to such an intense nothing, try to compensate by creating strange made up splodges that float just out of reach.  We reach out to touch the wall and feel them vibrate with strangers’ footsteps. Slowly, we feel our way around the inky maze and eventually emerge into white light. 

The Decision Corridors (above) are genuinely disconcerting and a perfect gateway into Carsten Höller’s wonderland. 

High above us is a massive mushroom mobile. We turn the dial and watch them fly over our heads. These fly agaric, red and white  mushrooms are naturally occurring hallucinogens that feature in many works of literature (including one of my childhood favourites, Alice in Wonderland). 

Pharmaceutical time passes with Pill Clock (below). Every three seconds, another red and white pill falls from the ceiling to add to the ever increasing mountain on the floor.


The Forests is a very unsettling experience. It’s a fully immersive dual screen video experienced by a virtual reality headset and headphones. I watch people coming away afterwards: some are shaking their heads as if trying to re-connect with the room.  When I put the headset on, I realise why.  I am in a snow covered forest. A little way in, my eyesight is split in two as I navigate around a tree – my left eye veering off one way, my right eye in the opposite direction. Höller says this experiment in seeing double is an attempt to ‘disrupt the hierarchy of a single image’ and it certainly disrupts my internal hierarchy. I feel very disorientated and nauseous  for a good few moments after I leave the trees. 

Two lonely hospital beds (Two Roaming Beds) covered in crisp white sheets roam slowly but purposely through the lower floor of the exhibition. Are they  awake? Or are they sleepwalking? Dreams, for Höller, are a ‘short cut’ to a special kind of madness that we all have access to. Where do we go when we dream? Will we be the same when we awake once more? 

Upstairs,  a corridor of television features sets of twins. Each twin faces the other, exchanging a series of sung or spoken sentences. It’s a strange, intense experience walking down the middle of their relentless gazes, trying to make sense of snippets of conversation.  Höller records a new set of twins in every city this exhibit is seen in – there are now 7 Twins endlessly talking and teasing. 

A giant white Dice is an internal playground for children. They clamber through the black dots. It’s clearly an exciting experience for some and a slightly unsettling one for others who emerge  looking for their parents – before going straight back in again. 

Mirrors are placed around the walls. We watch ourselves and watch others watching us.  I realise I look subtly different and then realise why. I am not looking at my mirror image but rather seeing myself as others see me. 

Seeing the world upside down while I remain standing upright is a novel experience. Some people manage to walk around quite happily on the roof of the Southbank Centre with the Upside Down Goggles  but I am  not one of those. My hand remains close to a wall for balance as I experience my strange new world. 


The final decision is which slide to take to exit the exhibition – a glorious fast fall through space. 

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This is art that produces a physical reaction. It is not a passive experience – we become part of the artwork as we move around and interact with the exhibits. Höller says museums offer a ’space and time where you try things you can’t try otherwise.’  As I watch people’s reactions as they fly above Waterloo in one of the Flying Machines or emerge exhilarated at the bottom of the Isomeric Slides,  I think that is exactly right. 

Symphinity: a new way to meet classical composers

I don’t know that much about classical music.

Symphinity is a gorgeous way to learn. Its various playlists take me on many musical journeys; introducing me to various composers and the worlds in which they lived.

The carefully curated playlists by  Chris Barstow consist of recently recorded music for Radio 3 – including selections from this year’s Proms.

I have been helping spread the word about Symphinity: Radio 3 Breakfast presenter Martin Handley talked about it, BBC Arts have featured it on their homepage  and various social media channels have shared the URL along with with specially created bespoke assets.

Symphinity will run for another month on BBC Taster and feedback so far has been very positive.

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A day with Jeremy Vine

Thought provoking and energetic – Jeremy Vine attracts over 7 million listeners each week with his programme’s unique blend of fast paced news and music.

I love listening to the programme and jumped at the chance to spend a day with the team to discover how it’s all put together.

The day begins at 730am with the team scouring suitable stories.

At 8am there is a production meeting where approximately twenty stories get whittled down to the four that will make it to air in just a few hours time.

The team often have a couple of stories already set up ‘but these are subject to change if something else comes in,’ says Tim Collins, who is editing the programme the day I’m there.

By 915 am, the once quiet office is buzzing with people typing and talking to possible guests.

The producers write thorough briefing notes and a cue for Jeremy.

Tim keeps an eye over all the stories as they develop over the course of the morning. He writes the headlines and fills out the running order, looking at the scripts as they develop.

At 11am, it’s time to brief Jeremy Vine on today’s stories.

At approximately 1120am, Jeremy goes on air to say what’s coming up and calls quickly begin coming in afterwards.

At midday, Jeremy Vine is broadcasting to the nation. The big news stories today are the same as those the day before – the migrants in Calais and Cecil the lion. This provides the chance to explore different angles: how is life in Kent being affected by what’s going on over the channel and is the best way to save animals from extinction to hunt them?

A feature on the proposed closure of Penn School in Buckinghamshire has two very powerful callers – mothers who describe the bullying their children faced in mainstream education and their fears on what will happen if the school closes.

At 2pm it’s all over for another day and it’s time to hit the phones again to find out what’s going to be in the show tomorrow…

Related Content 

Tim Johns produces, reports and sometimes edits The Jeremy Vine Show and appears in my Social Media and the Law podcast.

WOMAD and BBC Radio: Sunshine through the rain

It was a wet and rainy Sunday drive home to London the day after a lovely, sunny christening in Sussex.

We turned on 6 Music just in time to hear Cerys Matthews crossing over to Radio 3 for the simulcast from WOMAD. Suddenly the grey skies, traffic and rain  didn’t seem so bad after all.

The rain was lashing down in Wiltshire too but Cerys, Mary Ann Kennedy and Lopa Kothari were brilliant hosts, bouncing off each other and the audience and clearly loving all of the acts they were introducing.

From the Tibetan yodeling of Nawang Lodup to the majestic Dona Oneche sitting on her throne – this was 90 minutes of joyful, global music.


This isn’t the first time Radio 3 and 6 Music have joined forces. In August 2013, 6 Music’s Mary Ann Hobbs and Radio 3’s Martin Handley did a record exchange simulcast ahead of Prom 40: The 6 Music Prom.

It’s a brilliant way of  encouraging crossover listening – while maintaining each station’s unique identity.

As we turned into our road, the simulcast came to an end…or had it…?

‘We’re back live this evening at 945pm,’ said Lopa ‘and we might kidnap Cerys…’