Category Archives: Sounds

A Tale of Two Theatres


Seven years of neighbourly patronage of  The Arcola Theatre recently led to my first Radio 4 documentary commission. A Tale of Two Theatres was broadcast on 3rd April and will be aired again on the BBC World Service on 13th May. Here’s a taste of how artistic director Mehmet Ergen’s work in Hackney is only half the story, as he lifts the curtain on the politics of performance in Turkey, in the wake of Taksim Square.


The Kindness of Strangers

Image by Bernadette Russell/ The White Rabbit

Image by Bernadette Russell/ The White Rabbit

Last summer, I eavesdropped on some exceedingly good deeds being done by a creative and kindly Londoner, one Bernadette Russell. I won a commission for the PRX Global Story Project run by the American Public Radio Exchange, so turned the audio into a documentary featurette. It’s since been bought by the NPR stations KUT in Austin, Texas and KHSU in Arcata, California and just in time for Valentine’s, it led to Bernadette being invited onto BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live as a guest- alongside the Milkman of Human Kindness himself, Mr. Billy Bragg. Please read on for the full spiel, or better still take a listen to the 6 minute, 15 second sound story here.

Image by Bernadette Russell/ The White Rabbit

Image by Bernadette Russell/ The White Rabbit

During the leap year of 2012, Bernadette Russell embarked on a mission to complete 366 Days of Kindness. Her efforts were prompted by the riots that spread through her adopted home town of London and across English towns and cities, between 6th and 10th August 2011.

Bernadette has left sweets in phone boxes, books on trains, £5 notes on buses. She has given away balloons, cakes, flowers and lottery tickets, written letters to a soldier returned from Afghanistan and offered her socks to the homeless. She practiced ‘targeted’ rather than ‘random’ acts of kindness but she says she ‘expected nothing in return.’

Bernadette is now turning her 366 philanthropic experiences into a stage play, in collaboration with Jacksons Lane Theatre in London and with support from Birmingham Rep and Forkbeard Fantasy.

Let Me Into The Music

In May, my debut documentary went out on Radio 1 and lives on via the Radio 1 profile on Soundcloud. It’s a 60 minute spoken word documentary on disabled access to live music, featuring The Mystery Jets, Ghostpoet and Emily Eavis. Presenter Nihal investigates live music access and finds it’s much more than ramps and wristbands. He goes backstage and in the mosh pit with gig-goers and artists across the disability spectrum, to find out what equal access means- and why it should matter to everyone.

The WI Gets Hip

If you’ve 7 minutes to spare, have a listen to my City MA Radio Project, featuring none other than the world-renowned feminist and academic, Professor Germaine Greer.

NB. Best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg, as these were the circumstances in which it was conceived!

The Dalston Darlings Tea Tent at Field Day in Victoria Park, London 2011

96 years of ‘jam and Jerusalem’ is a hard act to follow for the Women’s Institute. But armed with cupcakes, hot pants and pedicures, it seems the WI is finally getting hip. Kirsty McQuire reports… 

It wouldn’t be the WI without a Victoria Sponge

Trust in Books

Booktrust, the independent charity that gives free books to under-11s, is to have its funding slashed by half. The scheme narrowly escaped the cost-cutting axe in December, when a public outcry by household name authors including Phillip Pullman and Michael Rosen forced the Government to make a swift U-turn. For our World Book Day- themed radio show at City,  I spoke to a Homerton mother and Stoke Newington- based teacher about the impact on the culture of reading for children.

Squatter’s Rights

For 12 months between the credit-crunching spring of 2008 and 2009, twenty-something journalist and Cambridge grad Katharine Hibbert decided to chuck it all in. She’d been made redundant and the rent on her flat had increased into the bargain, but never the less, she seized the opportunity to fundamentally re-imagine her life. Primarily through squatting, she sought to shake off the shackles of 9 to 5, wage-slave living for the weekend and paying into the ruinous London  rental market. No job, no flat= no boss, no landlord; but could it be possible to be truly free in in the modern metropolis?

Katharine found that it was, bar a few quid for an emergency KitKat here, and a bus fare there.  Here, she tells me the tale in an interview first recorded for Resonance FM on 10th March 2010.

A Life in Sound

Francesca Panetta is the brains and ears behind the hugely successful Hackney Podcast. I spoke to her about her day job as Head of Audio Features at The Guardian, as well as her multiple sonic sidelines.