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.


  • Dancers at Dawn

    Dancers at Dawn

    07/05/2021 Duração: 29min

    On the 1st May 1987 Martin Green’s dad takes him Morris dancing before dawn on Wandlebury Hill outside Cambridgeshire. Many years later, at sunrise on his twenty-third birthday, he walks home from a rave over this same hill. This uncanny coincidence has got him thinking. To most people, Morris dancing and [raving] rave culture seem so far apart. We like to think we know what sorts of people do what. So, what do these two groups have in common that drives them out into the fields to dance at dawn? As an accordionist, producer and storyteller, Martin’s own work lives somewhere between traditional music, electronic music and theatre. In 2020 he made a piece of audio theatre that linked the ancient traditions of English dancing to the birth of rave in the 1980s, which led him to draw on events from his own life, of dawn Morris dancing and sunrise raves. This documentary explores those themes. Why do we dance at dawn? Is there an innate desire to do so? Recollecting his experiences with his father and rave frie

  • After a Death

    After a Death

    04/05/2021 Duração: 38min

    News of people being killed in knife attacks recurs with tragic regularity, but the reports rarely touch on the impact on the victim’s family and friends. In this programme Sarah O'Connell sets out to understand these ripple effects — some perhaps expected, others likely not — as she explores the case of Russell “Barty” Brown, who was stabbed to death in Bethnal Green, east London, in September 2016. As she speaks to Barty's friends and family, to the medic who treated him and a witness to this terrible incident, Sarah hears about the gap he has left in all their lives, and what kind of a man he was in life. Producer: Giles Edwards Executive Producer: Martin Rosenbaum Sound Engineer: Hal Haines.

  • James Baldwin’s Last Amen

    James Baldwin’s Last Amen

    30/04/2021 Duração: 29min

    The work of the American writer James Baldwin gained a new audience in the months following the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Europe and the USA. His observations on race, power and black identity, featured in clips from 1960s chat shows, were widely shared on social media. A spirited performance in a 1965 Cambridge Union debate titled The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro is now considered a landmark moment. But in the late 1980s, Baldwin's light was fading, and he was living a quiet life in the south of France when theatre producer and director Anton Phillips of Carib Theatre decided to revive his 1954 play The Amen Corner at London's Tricycle Theatre. It transferred to London's Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue - becoming the first all black production to transfer from Fringe to the West End. At Phillips' invitation, Baldwin made the trip to London to meet the cast in final rehearsals and see the production open. During the visit he stayed with one of the cast, Clarke Peter

  • The Northern Bank Job: Episode One

    The Northern Bank Job: Episode One

    27/04/2021 Duração: 15min

    It was the biggest bank robbery in British and Irish history. Days before Christmas 2004, gangs of armed men take over the homes of two Northern Bank officials in Belfast and County Down. With family members held hostage, the officials are instructed to remove cash from the vaults of Northern Bank headquarters in Belfast city-centre and load it into the back of a van - not once, but twice - before the van disappears into the night, along with more than £26.5 million in new and used notes. With the finger of blame pointed at the IRA, the raid makes headlines around the world and sends shock-waves through an already faltering Northern Ireland peace process. Through dramatized court testimonies, new interviews and archive, Glenn Patterson takes us into the unfolding story of a meticulously planned heist and its chaotic aftermath. Military precision giving way to soap powder boxes stuffed with cash. The bickering of politicians against the silence of the man said to be the robbery’s mastermind. There are even ru

  • Able to Parent

    Able to Parent

    23/04/2021 Duração: 37min

    Emily Yates and her partner Christopher ' CJ' Johnston have been together four years. CJ really wants a baby but Emily - a wheelchair-user with Cerebral Palsy - has fears and barriers that she feels she needs to overcome. Will she be able to carry a baby? What extra strain will her disability put on her and CJ's relationship as parents? What impact will her disability have on their child as he or she grows up? To help quell these concerns and make a final decision, the couple look around them for advice and inspiration. They meet Kelly, a powerchair-user and mum to two boys, who offers practical advice on handling trickier situations. Megan was raised by a paraplegic mother and gives a child's perspective, while the artist Alison Lapper - arguably Britain's highest-profile disabled parent - shares her story, including the astonishing level of vitriol she received during her pregnancy. In 2019, Alison's son Parys tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. How will this experience colour Alison's advice

  • A Pyrotechnic History of Humanity: Fire

    A Pyrotechnic History of Humanity: Fire

    20/04/2021 Duração: 29min

    This is the first in a four-part series looking at the energy revolutions that drove human history. In this programme Justin Rowlatt goes right back to the origin of our species two million years ago to explore how the mastery of fire by early humans transformed our metabolism, helping us to evolve our uniquely energy-hungry brains. The physical evidence for early use of fire is frustratingly thin on the ground, according to archaeologist Carolina Mallol. But primatologist Jill Pruetz says she has learned a lot from observing chimpanzees interact with wildfires on the African savanna. Research collaborators Rachel Carmody and Richard Wrangham theorise that our ancestors' unique ability to cook their food transformed the way our bodies access the energy it contains - something Justin seeks to test out by going on a raw food diet. The bounty of metabolic energy it delivered may have enabled us to become the formidably intelligent species we are today, according to neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, trans

  • Iran’s Secret Art Collection

    Iran’s Secret Art Collection

    16/04/2021 Duração: 29min

    In the decade leading up to the Iranian revolution of 1979, the Shah's wife, Farah Pahlavi spent much of her time encouraging the building of museums and institutions intended to celebrate the art and craft of the country. But alongside buildings housing priceless carpets and glassware, she was also keen to use the country's oil wealth to bring examples of modern western art to the capital, Tehran. The result was the collection of works by Jackson Pollock, Henry Moore, Picasso, Bacon, Chagall and Renoir. It remains one of the most valuable collections outside Europe and the US. She even commissioned a portrait by Andy Warhol. The ambition was to house these very expensive works alongside the modern art of Iran in the newly designed and proudly modernist Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. But in 1979, Her Royal Highness had to flee Iran with her husband and the Islamic revolution had little time or appetite for Western art. Through a mix of bravery on the part of local curators, and good luck, the collection s

  • Where is Jack Ma?

    Where is Jack Ma?

    13/04/2021 Duração: 29min

    On the eve of what would have been the world's largest share listing, Ant Financial, estimated to float for over $300bn, it's founder Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire mysteriously disappeared. Things started to go wrong for Ma after he told a room full of banking regulators that their methods were out of date and not fit for purpose. Shortly afterwards, the Chinese government cancelled the listing and Jack went silent. The extroverted charismatic billionaire, who once flourished in the public eye, simply did not show up at key events. It's happening more and more often in China: some of the country's most famous and powerful people are disappearing after coming into conflict with the Communist Party. China's most famous actress, the Chinese head of the international police agency Interpol and even a top news presenter all disappeared. So what's happened to Jack Ma? In this program journalist Celia Hatton, who spent 15 years living and reporting in China, investigates. Celia asks if Ma is just keeping a low

  • The Day the Muzak Died

    The Day the Muzak Died

    09/04/2021 Duração: 28min

    When Major General George Owen Squier coined the term Muzak, back in the early 1930s, the idea according to elevator music enthusiast Joseph Lanza was “to have a civic use of music”. At Muzak Corporation’s height during the late 50s and 60s, this practically became a reality as their in-house orchestral arrangements emanated from the walls of hotel lobbies, businesses, airport lounges, doctors offices and across factory floors. This programme serves as part love-letter, part obituary to the music by Muzak and the particular aesthetic with which it's associated. But it also examines the ethics of such a business model - bound up with ideas of freewill, behavioural science and the use or misuse of technology. Includes contributions from author Joseph Lanza, artist Mika Taanila, music scholar Caroline Potter, science historian Alexandra Hui, composer Mark Mothersbaugh (from the band Devo), Nigel Rodgers - founder Pipedown, and former Vice President of Programming for Muzak, Rod Baum. With archive recordings

  • The Nazi Next Door

    The Nazi Next Door

    06/04/2021 Duração: 36min

    In a dusty attic in the Yorkshire hills sits the life’s work of John Kingston, a man who spent decades investigating whether his own stepfather, Stanislaw Chrzanowski, was, in fact, a Nazi war criminal. Whilst most knew ‘Mr Stan’ as a friendly pensioner, growing fruit for his neighbours and zipping around his village in the Midlands on his mobility scooter, John was convinced he was hiding a dark secret. Unable to shake the terrifying bedtime stories his stepdad told him as a child, John spent his adult life trying to expose the truth. When John died in 2018, the year after his stepfather, the files, photographs, and hours of secret recordings he made were left boxed up in his attic, until now, when they were discovered by BBC journalist Nick Southall. Nick has been investigating the extraordinary story of Stanislaw Chrzanowski for over 5 years, trying to establish if this man, who settled here to help Britain rebuild after the war, had also helped the Nazis kill tens of thousands of Jews in his homeland o

  • Making Demille

    Making Demille

    02/04/2021 Duração: 28min

    In 2016 when producer Georgia first met him, Demille was a cycle courier in his early twenties, taking his company to a tribunal over better working conditions. He was fired-up, political, and excited about a case he would go on to win. For the past five years, Georgia and Demille have been meeting and recording. Demille’s story is one of being young and trying to stay afloat in the gig economy; of resilience and hope and trying to find control over his city and life. Producer: Georgia Catt

  • Mitchell on Meetings: The Thing

    Mitchell on Meetings: The Thing

    26/03/2021 Duração: 29min

    David Mitchell investigates meetings from the ancient "thing" to zoom. Also on the agenda: executive coach Sophie Bryan teaches David to chair a meeting; fellow comedian Russell Kane explores how different personality types behave in meetings; and Dutch sociologist Wilbert van Vree sums up several millennia of meetings history. Producer: Chris Ledgard

  • The Jump: Covid-19

    The Jump: Covid-19

    12/03/2021 Duração: 29min

    Chris van Tulleken explores the human behaviours causing pandemics, paying the price for getting too close to animals by degrading their territory and allowing viruses to jump. What's clear is that Covid-19 was inevitable; that a coronavirus would jump in Asia was predicted in at least 3 papers in early 2019. It's a symptom of degraded ecosystems leading to intimate contact with animals we don't normally encounter. When examining the origins of Covid-19, perhaps the most amazing aspect is the number of different possibilities. Bats as medicine, bats as food, bat transmission to other intermediate animals - mink farmed for fur or raccoon dogs hunted as game. We don't know if it jumped in a home or a wet market or in a cave. Chris talks to NERVTAG virologist Prof Wendy Barclay who explains why she thinks it's not the case that it escaped from a lab. Plus ecologist and bat enthusiast Prof Kate Jones argues that invasive human behaviours are offering these viruses multiple chances to jump into people – mostly al

  • Faith, Lies and Conversion Therapy

    Faith, Lies and Conversion Therapy

    09/03/2021 Duração: 28min

    Despite the overwhelming evidence that human sexuality is innate and immutable over time, proponents of conversion 'therapies' have sought to change or 'fix' queer peoples' sexuality for much of the 20th century. Presenter Caitlin Benedict speaks with scientists, historians and survivors to uncover the heinous practices that LGBT+ people were subjected to with the guise of changing their sexuality, including lobotomies and chemical castration. Caitlin examines how adherents of these 'therapies' adapted to the improving legal and social recognition for homosexuals by modifying conversion practices to embrace Freudian psychoanalytic techniques. Evangelical churches took up the baton left by the discredited 'treatments' in the effort to suppress or 'repair' the sexualities of their LGBT+ congregation, and Caitlin asks what faith groups are doing today to eliminate these practices within their communities. During the summer of 2020, Prime minister Boris Johnson called conversion therapy 'absolutely abhorrent'

  • The Price of Song

    The Price of Song

    05/03/2021 Duração: 29min

    Seriously is home to the world’s best audio documentaries and podcast recommendations, and host Vanessa Kisuule brings you two fascinating new episodes every week.

  • Made of Stronger Stuff: The Heart

    Made of Stronger Stuff: The Heart

    26/02/2021 Duração: 35min

    Psychologist Kimberley Wilson and Dr Xand van Tulleken take a journey around the human body, to find out what it can tell us about our innate capacity for change. In this episode, Kimberley and Xand focus on the heart, which has been branded the seat of emotion by generations of poets and songwriters. They find out whether it’s medically possible to die from a broken heart, hear from a woman who lived for 16 months without a human heart, and Xand opens up about how Long Covid is affecting his heart. Producer: Dan Hardoon Researcher: Emily Finch Executive Producer: Kate Holland A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4

  • The Battersea Poltergeist – Ep1: 63 Wycliffe Road

    The Battersea Poltergeist – Ep1: 63 Wycliffe Road

    23/02/2021 Duração: 31min

    63 Wycliffe Road is an ordinary house on a quiet South London street, but in 1956, it becomes famous as the site of an alleged poltergeist. The strange events focus around teenager Shirley Hitchings – but is it a haunting or hoax? Ghost hunter Harold Chibbett arrives to investigate. This series blends drama and documentary to explore an intriguing paranormal cold case. As we hear the original haunting brought to life, host Danny Robins begins his own present-day investigation – what really happened to terrify the Hitchings family 65 years ago? Written and Presented by Danny Robins, starring Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials), Toby Jones (Detectorists, Capote), Burn Gorman and Alice Lowe, with original theme music by Mercury-nominated Nadine Shah and Ben Hillier, this gripping 8-part series interweaves a chilling supernatural thriller set in 50s London with a fascinating modern-day investigation into Britain’s strangest ever haunting – a mystery unsolved... until now. Cast: Shirley Hitchings........Dafne Keen

  • Sideways: Siding with the Enemy

    Sideways: Siding with the Enemy

    16/02/2021 Duração: 29min

    Best-selling author Matthew Syed explores the ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently. A criminal walks into a Swedish bank brandishing a machine gun. He takes a handful of bank workers hostage. The police lock the victims and their captors in the vault and then things start to get weird. Despite being held captive and threatened with violence, the hostages side with the criminals. Stockholm Syndrome is born. In this episode, Matthew Syed reexamines the birth of this peculiar psychiatric disorder and discovers that all is not what it seems. Producer: Gemma Newby Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

  • The Flipside with Paris Lees: Beyond Touch

    The Flipside with Paris Lees: Beyond Touch

    29/01/2021 Duração: 29min

    Paris Lees hears from two women learning to cope as they deal with the complexities of human touch. One who struggles with intimacy and the other who misses it. Presenter: Paris Lees Producer: Marijke Peters An ITN Production for BBC Radio 4

  • Battle for the Capitol

    Battle for the Capitol

    25/01/2021 Duração: 28min

    In the run up to the 2020 Presidential election, journalist Leah Sottile explored the motivations and agendas of America’s far right for the Radio 4 series Two Minutes Past Nine. Recordings were made against a backdrop of a country that felt tense, divided and dangerous. In the past month, a lot has happened. In this reactive and raw programme, Leah explores America’s far-right at this very moment; fired up by conspiracies, frustrations, and the defeat of the first President they have ever supported. On Wednesday 6th January, as a Joint Session of Congress met to certify the election of Joe Biden, Trump supporters breached security lines and stormed the Capitol Building in scenes that looked straight out of the racist hate filled propaganda novel The Turner Diaries. Two pipe bombs were found just blocks away at the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees. Leah asks how Donald Trump has managed to manipulate a rabble of foot-soldier extremists and asks what’s next - and how worried we s

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