Treasure Trove: the BBC Archive and #inourtime

A Treasure Trove of Ideas

A Treasure Trove of Ideas

Yesterday’s post about the current Henry Moore exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery prompted an interesting Twitter conversation concerning a recent suggestion that Moore’s shelter drawings were inspired by specific published photographs of the time. Whether they were or weren’t, and whether if they were it mattered, is a topic for another day. But in the course of the exchange I was directed to the BBC Archive which happens to have assembled a wonderful collection of broadcast items about Moore and his work. And a whole load of other amazing stuff.

I had come across the Archive before, but had completely forgotten about it, which is both a shame and a good thing. It’s a shame because the lists of content alone are so fascinating I could spend an entire day browsing. And a good thing because the lists of content are so fascinating I could lose an entire day browsing.

One of my all-time favourite Radio 4 programmes is In Our Time, which each week discusses the history of ideas with academics who are serious specialists in seemingly esoteric fields. The programme is packed full of the subjects I firmly believe are essential to the wellbeing of humanity and when I looked at the archive index, I wanted to almost cry with happiness. The only problem with my desire to catch up on every missed episode (and we’re talking 500 here) is that I can’t work/paint/draw and properly listen to In Our Time simultaneously. I used to think I was good at multi-tasking until I tried that, and after three attempts one day to listen to a programme podcast about Mary Wollstonecraft, I regretfully concluded that I have to sit and listen without distraction. Or, even better, go back to bed and listen without distraction. Because it is the sort of programme most definitely worth not getting out of bed for.

I’m not alone in my passion for this programme. Poking around the net for this post, I found an equally laudatory TV blog post from the Guardian, suggesting that it may in fact be the best radio programme around.

It is not unusual to hear complaints that Radio 4 is elitist and doesn’t cater to a wide enough audience. I’m going to be openly selfish about this and say that this is not a problem for me. If opening up centuries of human knowledge and understanding in such an accessible way is elitist, then great. I’m all for that sort of elitism which provides a glimmer of comfort for the substantial minority bored senseless by most of the superficial rubbish broadcast over much of the globe.


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