The writer and illustrator Judith Kerr has created some of our best-loved books for children since publishing her first, and perhaps most famous book, 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea', which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.
Judith's life has always inspired her writing, from fleeing Nazi Germany as a child, a story she told in 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit', to the peculiar family cats whose adventures she chronicled in the Mog series. Now 94 years old, Judith is still hard at work, still writing and drawing in the study overlooking the common where she has written all her books and in this programme Judith invites us into her study as she works on her latest classic.
Producer & Presenter: Jessica Treen.
Echo in a Bottle
The echo has always been a source of fascination for composer and sound designer Sarah Angliss. She reveals how writers, poets and musicians have tried to capture and bottle the thrill of the echo down the ages.
Sarah travels to Maidenhead to encounter a remarkable natural echo under a bridge built by Brunel in the 1830s.
Dr Rowan Boyson explains how Wordsworth used verse to convey a vivid impression of echoes, decades before the recording age, and Dr Miranda Stanyon discusses the uncanny properties of the echo, a feeling Sophie Heawood was aware of when she experienced an eerie telephonic echo across the Atlantic. They discuss the fashion for provoking mountain echoes on the Grand Tour. This leads Sarah to a grisly 19th century tale about a traveller who attempted to buy an echo in Italy. She contrasts this with the story of Charlie Watkins who invented the Copicat as an affordable copy of a tape echo effect he heard in Italy in the 1950s.
Natural echoes have often been mimicked in music, creating a sense of otherworldiness, and the echo effect has always been central to the world of dub reggae, as demonstrated by Aniruddha Das and Dub Morphology who push the echo to the edge of chaos.
Sarah meets echo chasers Tom Tierney, a New York sound recordist, and Dr Chris Warren, aka The Echo Thief. Dr Chris uses a technique that bottles the echoey-ness of urban spaces.
Perhaps though, the realism of these captured echoes isn't as important as the thrill of the echo itself.
Readers: Suzanne Rayner and Katie Kontoulis
With thanks to the NAMM Archive for the Charlie Watkins interview (2008).
Presented by Sarah Angliss
Produced by Peregrine Andrews
A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 4.
The Sisters of the Sacred Salamander
A convent of Mexican nuns is helping to save the one of the world's most endangered and most remarkable amphibians: the axolotl, a truly bizarre creature of serious scientific interest worldwide and an animal of deep-rooted cultural significance in Mexico.
The Sisters of Immaculate Health rarely venture out of their monastery in the central Mexican town of Patzcuaro. Yet they have become the most adept and successful breeders of their local species of this aquatic salamander. Scientists marvel at their axolotl-breeding talents and are now working with them to save the animal from extinction. BBC News science correspondent Victoria Gill is allowed into the convent to discover at least some of the nun's secrets and explores why axolotls are a group of salamanders so important to protect from evolutionary oblivion.
Axolotls are able to regrow lost limbs and other body parts. As a result, the aquatic salamanders are of great interest to researchers worldwide who study them in the hope of imitating the trick: to grow tissues and organs for medicine. The nuns also began to breed and rear their axolotls for medical reasons. They use the salamander as the key ingredient in an ancient Mexican remedy for coughs and other respiratory illnesses. The Sisters of Immaculate Health sell the medicinal syrup to the public. As well as being the basis for a popular folk remedy all over Mexico, the axolotl is also the manifestation of one of the ancient Aztecs' most important gods.
The big problem is that all species of axolotl are critically endangered. The nun's species is known locally as the achoque. It only lives in nearby Lake Patzcuaro and it has been pushed to the edge of extinction because of pollution and introduced fish species. This is why the sisters began to breed the animals in the convent about 30 years ago. They were advised to do this by a friar who was also a trained biologist because the supply of achoques from Lake Patzcuaro's fishermen diminished. In the 1980s, 20 tonnes of axolotls were fished from the lake every year. Today they are very few left in the wild.
Biologists from the nearby Michoacan University discovered that the nuns are expert breeders of the species and have started to collaborate with them in a conservation programme to make the Lake Patzcuaro an axolotl-friendly habitat once more and (if necessary) to introduce convent-bred animals to restore the lake's tiny population. The project is being supported and funded by the UK's Chester Zoo. The zoo's curator of amphibians Dr Gerardo Garcia visits the convent with Victoria, and demonstrates some of the technical help being offered to the nuns. For example, he micro-chips and takes DNA samples from the nun's breeding salamanders so the sisters can refine their breeding success even further.
Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
The Walk: For Richer, For Poorer
How do the rich and the poor live together, side-by-side every day?
Journalist Cole Moreton walks across the London Borough of Kensington in a revealing series of real-life encounters that build and tell a story like a drama. From a food hall to a food bank, he goes into the homes, shelters and multi-million pound apartments of the men and women who are surviving - or thriving - as inequality grows.
Life expectancy drops dramatically, wages are slashed and property prices fall through the floor in just a few miles, but the encounters with rich and poor along the way are unexpected, moving, heart-breaking and at times inspirational. This surprising, spell-binding programme asks the question so many are asking - how can we live like this?
This documentary was recorded using binaural microphones placed inside the sound recordist's ears. Binaural recording accurately recreates the sound of being in the location itself, with sounds appearing to move in three dimensions around the listener. To experience The Walk in this aural "3D", please listen in headphones.
Presenter: Cole Moreton
Producer: Jonathan Mayo
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.
Pursuit of Beauty: Slow Art
So - how slow are we talking about, when it comes to art?
French anarchist vegetarian artists Elizabeth Saint-Jalmes & Cyril Leclerc rescue snails bound for the cooking pot, and display them as a sound and light installation - Slow Pixel - before setting them free.
To watch illuminated snails crawl across a concert hall for 6 hours is one way of bringing your heart beat right down!
Twenty-two ash trees, shaped and sculpted as they grow quietly for 40 years, in a secret location; an extinct volcano filled with subterranean light passages; music to play for a 1000 years; a mile of writing, and a 5 hour composition for a string quartet called 'Slow', played as slowly and quietly as possible...
As the 21st century continues at break-neck speed Lindsey Chapman brings you a moment of calm, as she meets some extraordinary musicians and artists, to find out the motivation behind creating slow art.
Lindsey - a performer herself, as well as presenter for BBC TV's 'Springwatch' - explores what added value the length of time of creation gives to an artistic idea. Does it make time shrink? Or does it distract us from our awareness of our own finite existence?
The biggest art project in progress in the world today is the Roden Crater. You may not have heard of it yet, but Leonardo DiCaprio has been booked to open it, although no one yet knows when that will be. It's the work of artist James Turrell who dreamed, in the 1960's, of sculpting an extinct volcano as a celestial viewing post. and he's spent 40 years working on it so far - Tim Marlow, artistic director of the Royal Academy, has been watching its progress.
Also in progress for 40 years, the Ash Dome - created by world acclaimed wood sculptor David Nash. he gives Lindsey is given the coordinates to find the secret circle, and she comes across it on a bluebell strewn forest floor at dawn, a magical moment of pure beauty - but one which leads her to consider where she might be in 40, or 400 years from now.
Slow art has that effect - seeing into the future, and sometime fearfully into infinity.
Jem Finer, musician and ex-Pogue bassist, has created a piece of music called 'Longplayer', which has already been playing for 18 years and which has another 982 to go - and of course he knows he won't be there to hear it end.
Tanya Shadrick knelt beside an open air swimming pool, day after day, month after month, writing a diary, line by line, a mile long. What inspired her to create "Wild Patience?" and what did she learn?
Composer Morton Feldman is well known for his long slow quiet pieces of music - but what is it like to actually hold and play the violin on stage for five hours? Darragh Morgan recounts the intensity, and how he never gets bored, and in fact falls in love with the beauty of the music - lie being wrapped in a beautiful shawl of sound.
Slow art in under half an hour - sit back and relish the moment.
Producer: Sara Jane Hall.
BBC 4's Seriously... Podcast presents a rich selection of documentaries aimed at relentlessly curious minds. Presented by Ashley John-Baptiste, this twice weekly podcast replaces the Radio 4 Documentary of the Week.
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