Home after years in exile during the liberation struggle, South Africa’s future President Jacob Zuma is quickly engulfed in corruption scandals. But when one of his wives is accused of trying to poison his tea, Zuma suspects that a foreign government may be plotting to kill him. 'Poison' is the story of one man's toxic obsession and the battle for South Africa's future. Presenter: Andrew Harding Producer: Vauldi Carelse Sound mix: James Beard Series editor: Bridget Harney
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29:04Will Self tells the story of his black bin bag... from his back door... to its final destination. It's the story of a modern-day dump - an extraordinary, alien, nauseating world - where, instead of being buried, the rubbish will go up in smoke. Voices of waste workers intermingle with the rubbish in a go-round of garbage, scored by Jon Nicholls. There are the bin men who believe 'you just gotta get in the groove' as they walk ten miles a day, to 'pick up a bit of crap, sling it in the back of the lorry and take it down the dump'. There's the weighbridge clerk at the sorting facility taking pride in separating the 'sheepy recycling from the goatish garbage' to load it onto enormous steel containers. Boatmen on the Thames steer these huge barges, bright orange in colour, past the great landmarks of London in 'a cockney pas-de-deux danced with detritus'. Downriver, the bag arrives at its destination - a giant industrial incinerator where ten thousand tonnes of waste are going up in flames, at temperatures of 850 degrees. 'Some people are mesmerized by it', we hear. Will's black bag meets its 'fiery and apocalyptic end'. It's a raw, unnerving look at our relationship with our waste. Sound designer: Jon Nicholls Producer: Adele Armstrong
Shaking up the Shanty
29:43The musical duo The Rheingans Sisters compose a contemporary sea shanty for an unusual cargo boat that has ditched diesel in favour of sails. Take a look around your home, and it’s likely that 90% of what you’ll see has spent some time on a cargo boat. The shipping industry is massive, and so is its impact on the environment and the climate. But onboard De Gallant, things are different. This boat transports fair trade cargo around the world on wind power alone. In some ways, this boat is old fashioned – its glossy wooden hull and seven sails are reminiscent of a pirate ship – but on the other hand, the boat offers a progressive, climate-conscious alternative to commercial shipping. De Gallant borrows technology from the past to sail toward a more sustainable future and so it seems fitting that the musical duo The Rheingans Sisters should write a song that borrows from traditional shanties to create a contemporary song that sings of the boat’s progressive journey. They set off to understand the shanty genre by speaking to Gerry Smyth, a shanty expert based at Liverpool John Moores University, but then decide to break all the rules! As the boat makes its way from the Caribbean and then around Europe, Rowan and Anna Rheingans must find creative ways to collaborate and exchange ideas with the boat and each other, using what they have to navigate obstacles thrown up by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. In true shanty tradition, the sisters create musical bricolage that borrows lines of dialogue from De Gallant’s crew, and melodies, rhythms, instruments and lyrics from a whole range of sources. Produced by Claire Crofton Additional recording by Louise Cognard A Boom Shakalaka production for BBC Radio 4
Could I Regenerate My Farm To Save The Planet?
29:14Regenerative Farming is gaining traction around the world as a means of increasing biodiversity, improving soil quality, sequestering carbon, restoring watersheds and enhancing the ecosystems of farms. The shepherd James Rebanks, author of English Pastoral, is on a quest to find out if it is possible to adopt these methods on his farm in the Lake District. He meets leading proponents of these methods in the UK, US and Europe and discovers how mimicking natural herd movements, stopping ploughing and adding costly chemicals could make his farm economically sustainable. This is becoming an urgent question as not only is the global population projected to rise to nearly 10 billion by 2050 but according to the UN's Food and Agriculture organisation within 60 years we may literally no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves. Meanwhile our reliance on meat products is being blamed for increasing CO2 and climate change. But can James,and indeed other farmers, make the switch to these techniques when industrial farming has been the paradigm for so long? When so many people believe turning vegan and shifting to plant-based ecological farming is the way forward, should he continue breeding sheep and cows? And as companies like Nestle, Walmart, Unilever, McCain and Pepsi all pledge to invest in regenerative farming to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, do the claims about carbon sequestration stand up? How can he use his farm to save the planet?
29:18In November 2020, former army Sergeant Deacon Cutterham sold his medal collection to a private collector for £140,000. Having served for 19 years, completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said the sale of his medal collection, including a valuable Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, would help support his family. But there's a problem. Members of Cutterham's Afghanistan unit say the act of bravery that won him his biggest prize didn't happen. Cutterham's medal was awarded in 2011 after he picked up and hurled away a Taliban grenade while on patrol in Helmand, saving the lives of eight men. His comrades say there was a grenade - but it came from Cutterham's own equipment belt. If their accusations are true, why would a soldier be so desperate for a medal? In this programme, defence correspondent Jonathan Beale explores the culture of medals within the military. He assesses their significance and questions whether they encourage violence and recklessness as soldiers fight for recognition in the field of combat. There are some who argue that gallantry medals actually endanger lives and undermine the process of peacekeeping. We'll hear from critics of the medals system who argue that it's entirely outdated, far better suited to the wars of the 20th century than the subtle counter-insurgency campaigns of today. They say medals are awarded for "kinetic activity", by which the forces mean violent exchanges. Quite simply, you don't win medals for keeping things calm. Producer: Sasha Edye-Linder Executive Producer: Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
Jan Morris: Writing a Life
57:45Horatio Clare examines how the pioneering writer Jan Morris authored her own life, from her nationality to her sexual identity, trying to get behind the myths and masks she created. Jan Morris wrote more than fifty books but also constructed her life to a degree rarely seen in one individual. She created a glittering career, invented a writing style, chose her nationality and most famously, transitioned. Horatio talks to Michael Palin, travel writer Sara Wheeler, and Jan's biographer Paul Clements, and visits Jan's home in North Wales to meet her son Twm Morys. Hearing interviews she recorded throughout her long life, he attempts to find out who Jan Morris really was. James - as she was then - Morris knew from a very young age both that he was in the wrong body and that he wanted to be a writer. Through a combination of self-confidence, determination and what Jan herself describes as her ‘insufferable ambition’, she achieved what she set out to, becoming one of the most successful journalists of her generation and then a world-famous author of books about places like Venice, Oxford, Trieste and Manhattan, which re-invented travel writing. At the same time as these professional and literary achievements, however, Jan was also undergoing a deep crisis of personal identity. In one of her books, Conundrum, she described how the conviction she’d had as a child that she was in the wrong body had never left her, but by her thirties she was in despair and had even considered killing herself. Conundrum describes how she succeeded in making the transition from man to woman in 1972. She said the sex change brought her the happiness she’d always sought. She also claimed that her decision had made little impact on the happiness of her four children, but that claim is put to the test in the programme. Michael Palin talks about the Jan Morris he met - witty, generous and inspirational, but also a challenging interviewee who used a variety of techniques to deflect difficult questions about her private life. Paul Clements suggests she 'played hide and seek with the facts'. Archive on Four considers how much she constructed and presented her whole life, with determination, guile and skill. Produced by Gareth Jones for BBC Wales
A Mother Tongue
28:56What is the etymology of your being? Axel Kacoutié offers a vivid personal essay reflecting on language, bilingualism and the curated gaps they have to navigate in order to access their culture and sense of self. “Your language is a spell, an invocation speaking you into existence, rediscovering the contours of your morality, the fabric of your race and gender and how you relate to others and the world…” Featuring the voices of the poet Raymond Antrobus and performance artist Rachel Cheung, Axel weaves together the thoughts of a number of multilingual people - including Derick Armah, Irina Niculescu, Mauricio Loseto, Olivia Melkonian, Radhika Viswanathan and Rosel Jackson Stern - into a reflection on living between languages and finding yourself in the gaps. Produced by Axel Kacoutié A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
How America Learned to Laugh Again
58:12Twenty years ago - in the mind-numbing aftermath of the terrorist attacks on America - the immediate, mind-numbing response of the media was to ban laughter. All laughter, including jokes, chuckles and guffaws. This is the story of what happened next. With contributions from Private Eye to The Onion, via David Letterman, the News Quiz and Have I Got News for You. As well as 9/11 and the death of Bin Laden, Joe Queenan explores the pandemic and the US retreat from Afghanistan. "What a year 2021 has been – from the storming of the capitol in Washington to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, this has not been a good time in the US. Probably not so great in the UK either. Throw in some riots, add in the climate crisis and the plague – none of this is worth the slightest lame joke. But is it worth a good joke?" With contributions from three US presidents, plus Ian Hislop and Adam MacQueen from Private Eye, Armando Iannuci (creator of The Death of Stalin), Susan Morrison of the New Yorker, and Robert Siegal editor of The Onion in 2001 - the first US publication to break the laughter ban with the headline, US Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We Are At War With. A copy of that magazine is now in the Library of Congress. Also includes archive from David Letterman, Linda Grant, Michael Rosen, Rich Hall on Have I Got News for You, plus the News Quiz from September 2001. Joe Queenan is an Emmy Award-winning US broadcaster. His previous contributions to Archive on Four include Brief Histories on Blame, Shame and Failure. The producer for BBC Audio in Bristol is Miles Warde.
No Ball Games
28:51Who gets to tell the story of a 100-year old housing estate? Who shapes its future? And where does art fit into this? Becontree, in Dagenham, is only a few miles from the City of London – but it’s a whole world away. One resident says "it's Britain’s biggest council estate, yet nobody's talking about it". But they do want to talk about it. So, as Becontree marks its centenary, BBC Radio 4 hands the microphones to three residents. Rodrigo is a young queer painter, rapper and musician who’s lived in Becontree since he was 11. Gill is a lifelong Becontree resident. She’s a retired school secretary and local volunteer whose garden is her “pride and joy”. Gary has “been called all sorts of things” in his life. Today he’s a philosopher who lives in one of the remaining council flats on the estate. Rodrigo, Gill and Gary are our guides, our storytellers, our holders-to-account. They’ll lead us around their homes, then around the estate – passing the ubiquitous “No Ball Games” signs – to interview friends and neighbours, local characters and decision makers. Our three residents met through a project connecting artists and communities, to mark Becontree’s big moment in 2021. What’s the purpose of such projects? What responsible role should artists perform? And when the birthday party’s over, what’s next for Becontree? Producers: Jesse Lawson & Steve Urquhart A Boom Shakalaka production for BBC Radio 4
The Hack That Changed the World: Ep 5 - The Sceptics
15:49Who was behind the 2009 hack and leak of emails that fuelled climate change sceptics? Gordon Corera tracks down some of the sceptics engaged in a long-running battle with the climate scientists over data, and he considers the legacy of the events of 2009. Producer: Sally Abrahams Editor: Richard Vadon
The Hack That Changed the World: Ep 4 - Dark Money
15:21Who was behind the 2009 hack and leak of emails that fuelled climate change sceptics? Who benefited most from the ‘Climategate’ hack? Powerful corporate interests have been fighting an acceptance of climate change for years. Could they have been behind the hack? Presenter: Gordon Corera. Producer: Sally Abrahams Editor: Richard Vadon