Latest Reviews

The Sunday Times 27.7.20

The Punch. “…independent producers. They’re used to working on slim margins. Many of them make outstanding programmes. Take The Punch from Just Radio. In five 14-minute episodes we met Jacob Dunne, who at 18 was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to prison. Things happened there that changed his life. Jacob told this story himself, alongside the people he met through it… There were holes in this story, places where the listener was bound to ask why, how and when. But that, I think, shows how textured the narrative was, how it let you feel the significance of gaps for doubt, little silences, hesitations. The producers Kim Normanton and Victoria Ferran, working under Covid-19 restrictions, taught Jacob to record himself, and the other contributors how to use smartphones. There it was, radio showing us how to look harder at ourselves. And to understand why.”

The Telegraph 29.7.20

The Punch. “when it comes to what happens before and after prison, there’s nothing as powerful or as exquisite as The Punch. Dunne led this radio exploration of his own crime, tracking its long-lasting impact on two families, and presented a gentle, compelling case for restorative justice as a healing experience for victims’ families and criminals alike, with benefits far beyond what prison time can provide, though he says he deserved that too. He interviewed other participants in restorative justice schemes, his own probation officer and his social worker. The most moving conversations in the series, though, were the intimate and heartbreaking exchanges with Hodgkinson’s grieving parents…the series was utterly mesmerising, blended together with astonishing creativity and beautiful music and sound design by producers Kim Normanton and Victoria Ferran. In the final episode, Dunne asked Joan and David, haltingly, almost not wanting to know the answer, his most difficult and most important question. Could they both forgive him? Their answers were each very different. Both were equally devastating.”

The Observer 27.7.20

The Punch. “The Punch, a five-part series on Radio 4, was a devastating listen. But, also, a positive and complicated one. The Punch made you interrogate your idea of shame, and forgiveness. Dunne hosted, and didn’t shy away from the harder questions. He believes that “the word forgiveness simplifies a complicated set of feelings”. Sometimes he can’t leave the house for shame. God, The Punch delivered all sorts of punches. A must-listen.”

The New Statesman 24.7.20

The Punch. “what tips this series into another category of touching is – because of Covid-era recording restrictions – it had to be made by Jacob himself, mostly speaking to people over the phone from his car; the only place he could escape the screams of his newborn baby. His car is his cell, his consciousness, his studio. The whole marvellous thing reminded me of the movie Locke, with Tom Hardy driving down the motorway enacting the soulful drama alone via phone conversations. Same effect here. The unbelievable intimacy of a missed breath. The incredible baldness of certain phrases, such as Joan admitting, “If I’d have got hold of you in those early days I’d have tried to kill you.” You feel the beautiful stark pallor of words like forgiveness, and love. Jacob’s self-doubt is powerful too, and I wonder if he’d have revealed quite so much had his thoughts been recorded more conventionally. I’m sure I could hear the blood pulsing anxiously in his temples. Does he deserve this newfound reliability and sanity? This new, well-lived, peaceable life? Surely it belongs to someone else. He seems to have the tormenting suspicion that in some way, his happiness is embezzled. But we all suspect that, on some level. Don’t we?

The Sunday Times 14.6.20

Hearing Architecture. “An outstanding programme… The American architect Chris Downey lost his sight, suddenly. After a month he went back to work, rethinking his professional purpose for the benefit of blind and sighted people alike”

The New Statesman 10.6.20

Hearing Architecture. ” An edition of Art of Now that taught me a lesson or two. After losing his sight in his forties ­after the removal of a brain tumour, Downey assumed he’d have to abandon his line of work, but has instead thrived ­designing “acoustically dynamic buildings”

The Spectator 19.6.20

In The Studio – Demond Melancon. “I’m not usually taken with experience-art-in-progress programmes, but can highly recommend one about Demond Melancon, ‘The Bead Master of New Orleans’, which goes out on the BBC World Service next Tuesday.

In it, Wendell Pierce, of The Wire, visits the studio of Demond, a portraitist and carnival-goer, who heads one of the so-called ‘tribes’ of the Mardi Gras Indians, the ‘Young Seminole Hunters’, who parade in fantastical outfits influenced by Native American traditions. Every day, Demond performs what he calls ‘the needle dance’, sewing thousands of beads and feathers on to costumes for Mardi Gras. ‘I know my needle, and I know me, but I’m going to sew till the gristles come off my fingers.’”

The Times 03.5.20

Between The Ears – Songs of The Mojave Desert. “Themes of cultural deracination and ecological vandalism were probed in a thought-provoking edition of Radio 3’s documentary strand Between the Ears: Songs of the Mojave Desert. Expertly and sensitively produced by Victoria Ferran, this transported us to the Fort Mojave reservation, a stretch of mountainous desert that spans California, Arizona and Nevada, the threatened Colorado River running through it. The poet and activist Natalie Diaz and her 91-year-old uncle, Hubert — the last fluent Mojave speaker, also a singer — were our guides to a spectacular landscape, its wildlife and a culture enmeshed in that geography. It was moving without being hectoring.”

The Radio Times 25.4.20

Archive on 4: Malcolm Mclaren, Spectacular Failure. “This is a fun and heavily stylised spin on Mclaren’s frenetic life that the great svengali would have embraced.”

The Radio Times 28.12.19

Wild Music. “A poet John Burnside, and a composer, Erland Cooper, meet on Orkney and something magical takes place, inspired by the stunning landscapes, Neolithic monuments, heavy rains, gale-force winds and a wealth of local folkore. Inspired by the lives of ancient Orkney-dwellers, the pair create music and words that transport listeners to a time and place of faeries, seal people and disappearing islands. This is something really special.”

The Observer 28.12.19

Wild Music “Despite a surfeit of strong competition, my highlight of the week was Wild Music, an unadulterated paean to elemental nature as it thrives in remote, rainswept Orkney… Stirring Stuff”

The Sunday Times 23.12.19

“Judy Garland – The Final Rainbow. “A superb archive hour. The producers Victoria Ferran and Susan Marling, for the independent Just Radio, found their own eyewitnesses to Garland’s final season at the Talk of the Town, in London, in 1969. Here was Rosalyn Wilder, then the young production assistant whose job was to get Garland on stage every night. It was a very particular and glamorous stage, the capital’s equivalent of Las Vegas or the Folies Bergère, surrounded on three sides by a dinner-and-show audience, dressed up, demanding, there to see big names (Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr) in cabaret. Here was Garland, a megastar, but down on her luck, a brilliant performer but perpetually broke, dependent on pills, notoriously nervous. Wilder watched her, learnt, talked Garland into the confidence needed to get through her act without pill-popping.Here was Dave Lee, Garland’s London accompanist for years, witness to her “incredible ability to pick the wrong man”, but watching in wonder at how brilliantly she talked to the audience. “When she was happy, she was wonderful,” he said. “The best performer I ever worked with. Meticulous.” He’s 93 now, but, as he spoke, our Now melted into his Then. This became a landmark portrait.”

The Radio Times 10.12.20

Judy Garland – The Final Rainbow. “In this outstanding documentary, we hear from Renee Zellweger and director Rupert Goold, of Judy, the new film about Garland’s late-career burnout. There are also testimonies from Rosalyn Wilder, impresario Bernard Delfont’s assistant, and Michael Hirst, general manager of Talk of The Town in 1969 as well as a wealth of archive. A programme that may astound those unaware of the way in which Hollywood studios often chewed up and spat out the stars they had created.”

The Spectator 19.10.19

Akenfield Now “Akenfield Now, on Radio 4, followed local sixth-former Anna Davies as she surveyed the landscape afresh. The highlight of this richly textured, hour-long documentary (produced by Ned Carter Miles) was her conversation with Blythe himself, now 96.”

The Times 07.10.19

David Cannadine: Across The Religious Divide “Historian David Cannadine gives a compelling half-hour audio essay arguing something important: that while we tend to classify conflicts around the world as having been fought on religious grounds, that’s not always the case and there are often much more complicated issues involved.”

The Telegraph 26.05.19

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s Age of Emulsion “..the most joyous radio I heard this week, The Age of Emulsion with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (Radio 4, Saturday), an archive-strewn history of how DIY seduced us all. There were some fantastic archive clips illuminating class, politics and British decorating anxiety, including from Margaret Thatcher on the satisfaction of hanging her own wallpaper. The post-war dawn of DIY was the most fascinating bit, as we heard of women who took home the drills they’d learned how to use in factories during the war, and approving Fifties TV voice-overs detailed householders ripping out original Victorian fireplaces and replacing them with practical cupboards.

Llewelyn-Bowen was the ideal guide, and much more likeable on radio than he is on TV. He was knowledgeable, funny, and with an infectious sense of the absurd (he described his time on Changing Rooms as “design meets panto”, with genuine respect for anyone’s desire to improve where they live. He expressed sadness that, in recent years, DIY has faded and been replaced by GSI (“get someone in”), and DIY stores have been struggling. “Today the Age of Emulsion seems like a distant dream,” he concluded in wistful tones. I may repaint the wardrobe in his honour.”

The Guardian 14.7.19

When Parents Split. “In a powerful report, Philippa Perry explains how children caught up in bitter divorces can end up unjustly rejecting one of their parents on the basis of lies peddled during the break-up. The human cost is fully explored in a programme revealing how easy it is to manipulate a young mind”

The Irish Times 20.04.19

A Psalm for The Scaffolder “A poet? The rest of my family might not consider it a job, jokes Kim Moore. But a poet is who she is. Her poem – A Psalm for the Scaffolder – is tender. It is a psalm for all of them – including the ones who don’t like heights but spend their whole lives hiding it. Her family has grafted their whole lives and she grafts too, but differently.There is a hint of the Seamus Heaney poem, Digging, about it. The love shines through.I stumbled upon this on the car radio the other day and found it hauntingly beautiful.”