Presenting his first programme for Radio 4, the evolutionary biologist, author and former Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Richard Dawkins, investigates trust in science. It's an issue of concern for scientists as well as others. Despite our scientific and technological advances, many people still believe the Earth is flat and that vaccines cause autism. Even the President of the United States has called climate change a hoax. Richard Dawkins considers what scientists are doing right and what they're doing wrong, concentrating on the process of science, communication, education, and policy with experts in their field. These include Bad Science author and academic Ben Goldacre, physicists Dr Jess Wade and Prof Jim Al-Khalili, science policy fellow and podcast presenter Dr Maryam Zaringhalam, Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards who exposed the Flint water crisis, Norman Lamb chair of the science and technology select committee, education consultant Tom Sherrington, head teacher Alan Grey and director of the Science Media Centre Fiona Fox. The programme looks at an increasing divide between scientific evidence and public opinion and concerns that science communicators are simply preaching to the converted. Is there a need for greater openness and accountability to restore trust?
Producer: Sue Nelson
A Boffin Media production for BBC Radio 4
The Art of Living: Elvis - A Tribute in Dance
Claire Cunningham is a Scottish choreographer and contemporary dancer who performs with crutches. We join her in the studio during the research period for a new work, Thank You Very Much, which draws on Claire’s current fascination with Elvis Tribute Artists. Claire is intrigued by the difference between impersonation and tribute, what it means to train to become someone else - or an ideal of someone else - and relating this to the lived experience of disability. She asks, “Is this also a life of being pressured to be someone you are not?” The programme is a fun, exuberant and occasionally poignant mix of dance, music, singing, text and, of course, fabulous costumes. Claire is a hugely respected artist who tours all over the world in both disabled and non-disabled arts festivals. For this new work, she has brought together an ensemble of professional performers who all identify as disabled - Dan Daw, Marissa Perel, Tanja Erhart and Victoria Malin - and they are all involved in the creation of the piece, which has been commissioned by Manchester International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland for 2019. Through one-on-one masterclasses with Elvis Tribute Artists, practising harmonies, and offering up their own personal experiences of physiotherapy and speech therapy, the group not only learn to sing and dance like Elvis Presley, but also explore how paying tribute involves bringing something of themselves into the act. These tasks become part of improvisations in the studio, from which the final show will be devised. As a choreographer, Claire is interested not so much in traditional dance techniques but in individual languages of bodies, particularly disabled bodies. For her, the lived experience of disability is inherently creative due to the ways it requires you to rethink how to move through the world.
Produced by Victoria Ferran
TheA Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4
Pursuit of Beauty: The Spider Orchestra
The Berlin-based Argentinian artist, Tomás Saraceno, trained as an architect. He was struck by the beauty of spider webs, their structural intricacy and began making them into sculptural works. Then he realised that every time a spider tugs a string as it spins a web, or moves along the silken strands, this causes vibrations. Using microphones and amplifiers it is possible to hear the tiny music they make. The different species create various sounds - bass, treble, percussion - and the result is an orchestra of arachnids. On Air is Saraceno's latest and most ambitious exhibition. He has filled the Palais de Tokyo in Paris with extraordinary, beautifully lit spiders' webs, some connected to microphones so their occupant's movements echo round the gallery. There is an African spider that spins large webs which lift in the wind and so they travel, gliding places new. This inspires Saraceno's light-weight sculptures that do the same, and an aeolian harp of spider silk, which sings in response to the turbulence caused by gallery visitors. In another piece, the amplified sound of a spider's movements cause dust motes in a beam of light to move, and these, too, produce sound. A whole room is strung with elaborate patterns of tensed ropes. Visitors move among them, plucking and stroking the strings which sound, the floor itself vibrating - the closest humans can get to the experience of a spider in its web. Saraceno's work is a collaboration between artist, spiders and people, a kind of jam session. He also invites musicians to to respond to them, to play along with spiders. The famous experimental composer Alvin Lucier does this in a concert, featured in this programme (and he bounces the sound of his heartbeat off the moon). In the gallery in Paris, and his Berlin studio, Saraceno reveals his thinking and observations. The Spider Orchestra captures these, and all these sounds in a sonic web, and combines them. It, too, is a collaboration, between artist, spiders, people and producer - creating a compelling composition, for radio.
Producer: Julian May
Lights Out: A Sense of Quietness
Documentary adventures that encourage you to take a closer listen. This episode follows a line of connection through four women across two referendums to explore the unexpected consequences of talking about abortion. Starting on live television at a beauty pageant, we hear from a journalist, a radio producer, the founder of a woman's clinic and a woman travelling from Ireland to the UK - and discover the quiet power and hidden dangers of speech itself. Featuring the voices of Brianna Parkins, Siobhan McHugh and Anne Connolly. With additional recordings courtesy of Zoë Comyns and Regan Hutchins
Produced by Eleanor McDowall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
Joni Mitchell Taught Me How to Feel
Music writer and broadcaster Ann Powers explores Joni Mitchell’s impact on her fans and on songwriting. "Even the songs of hers I’ve heard a thousand times can still give me the weird feeling that she knows me personally," she says. In the month of Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday, Ann Powers considers what it is about her music that speaks to people in this way. And how does this emotional connectedness square with an artist who has constantly shape-shifted, who is full of contradictions? She’s a master lyricist who dislikes most poetry. Her words challenged who women were supposed to be, who they could be, and yet she bristled against feminism. And when she’s had such a powerful effect on so many listeners, why has she only had one top 20 hit? Through excerpts from live BBC recordings from the late 1960s and 70s, and the conversations Joni Mitchell recorded in the same period with broadcaster Malka Marom, we travel across a decade of her music. From the familiar territory of songs like Woodstock, we reach the wilder, exploratory sounds of her late 70s work, via some of her most critically acclaimed albums from earlier that decade - Blue, Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira. Writers and critics Linda Grant, Sean O’Hagan, Jessica Hopper and Barney Hoskyns reflect on the rapid evolution of Joni Mitchell’s musical and lyrical approach, alongside the memories of some of those who’ve been closest to her -: songwriter and former lover Graham Nash, bassist and ex-husband Larry Klein, and longstanding friend Malka Marom. With thanks to Malka Marom and the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at the University of Toronto, for sharing clips Joni Mitchell’s conversation with Malka Marom.
Producer: Chris Elcombe
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4