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.

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.
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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.




Pursuit of Beauty: Art Beneath the Waves

Artist Emma Critchley meets filmmakers, photographers, sculptors and painters who are drawn beneath the sea to create underwater art. Julie Gautier performs a graceful, lyrical ballet on the floor of the deepest pool in the world. Without a tank of air or mask, she dances magically through crystal-clear waters across a sunken stage. In the azure waters of the world, sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor uses the seabed as his canvas. He has installed hundreds of life-sized, concrete people on the...


Thankful Villages

A Thankful or ‘Blessed’ village is a place where every soldier returned alive from World War One. Songwriter Darren Hayman heard about ‘Thankful Villages’ and knew that he had his next album title. He then embarked on a three year odyssey to visit all 54 of them.. Hayman writes a song for every village based on local characters, hidden stories and chance meetings. He records soundscapes in graveyards, playgrounds, churches, road sides and village fetes, uses playground xylophones, and old...


Un-forgetting Julius Eastman

Experimental vocalist and movement artist Elaine Mitchener remembers the life and music of the brilliant New York composer-performer, Julius Eastman, whose work, she feels, has been wrongly overlooked. Born in 1940, Eastman was black and gay when there were few like him in the world of classical music. He crossed between the worlds of minimalism, disco and contemporary new music and, for Elaine as a young British-Caribbean student of classical singing, was a much-needed hero. Eastman studied...


Guy Garvey: Recording Dad

Guy Garvey spent a decade recording his dad’s stories and now he wants you to do the same. When Elbow singer Guy Garvey began to record his father Don's anecdotes, he already knew a lot of the stories he was capturing. What he didn't know was his father's childhood memories, his thoughts and feelings, the characters of long-gone family members, the stories which were much more touching and personal - or, as Guy describes it, 'the tales without a punchline'. Once he got his dad talking, a...


Would You Go To Bed With Me?

Forty years after the infamous 'would you go to bed with me?' experiment, what are the social repercussions of biological inequality if men have a higher sex drive than women?


Ghosts in the Machine

Laurie Taylor investigates the people who hear the voices of the dead in recorded sounds - and uncovers the strange and haunting world of auditory illusion. Believers in EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomena think they're hearing the voices of the beyond - messages captured in the throb and static of white noise. Laurie Taylor's a rationalist - he doesn't go in for this mumbo-jumbo. But whilst the peculiar world of EVP may not be evidence of the afterlife, it does show how we're susceptible -...


Witnessing the Worst

On the fields of battle, and in conflict zones, women reporters are now commonplace but, in the past, the female perspective was much harder to find. War reporters spend their careers giving voice to the survivors of violence, but the reporter's own experience seldom makes the cut. In this Archive on 4 we hear strong personal accounts from the archives of early female war reporters such as Martha Gellhorn, Clare Hollingworth, Kate Webb, Gloria Emerson and Marie Colvin which show that the...


Class Act

Lenny Henry on how to get more young working-class and BAME actors into the industry. Of course, acting is one of the most difficult careers to crack no matter what your background. But the hurdles are certainly higher for aspiring actors from low income backgrounds. Lenny looks at some of the positive moves being made to make ensure young working class and BAME actors can still get a foot in the door. Open Door is a charitable organisation that has taken on 30 young aspiring actors from low...


The Supercalculators

Alex Bellos is brilliant at all things mathematical, but even he can't hold a candle to the amazing mathematical feats of the supercalculators. Alex heads to Wolfsburg in Germany to meet the contestants at this year's Mental Calculation World Cup. These men and women are the fastest human number crunchers on the planet, able to multiply and divide large numbers with no need to reach for a smart phone, computer or calculator. So how do they do it, and is it a skill that any of us can learn?...


Right Click: The New Online Culture Wars

Gavin Haynes, editor-at-large of VICE UK, goes in search of this new wave of political thought. On the internet, and on YouTube specifically, a huge new political movement is taking shape in the shoes of a very old one. Some are calling it classical liberalism, the intellectual dark web, anti-SJW, or the skeptic movement. It’s on the right of the political spectrum - but not the right as we knew it. It’s socially libertarian, economically centrist, nativist - but anti-identitarian. It's...


Behind the Scenes: Kwame Kwei-Armah

Backstage access to director Kwame Kwei-Armah's debut at the Young Vic - his version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub. Kwame Kwei-Armah is facing high expectations as the new Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre in London. He has been away, directing in the USA for five years. While there, he took the cast of his Bob Marley musical One Love onto the streets and transformed the bullet-proof glass and bricked-up windows of Center Stage Theatre in...


Mamma M.I.A.: Influence of an Icon

Rapper, mother, director, refugee and activist - Maya Arulpragasam is one of Britain's most successful and provocative working-class artists - M.I.A. Ten years on from the release of M.I.A’s single Paper Planes - a global hit blending agitprop pop, satire and punk - comedy writer Jack Rooke profiles his idol’s artistry, from her activism to the controversies, while telling his own story of teenage grief, super fandom and how Maya's work inspired him and many others to turn adversity into...


The Art of Now: Border Wall

Donald Trump's pledge to build a "big beautiful wall" along the US-Mexico border has inserted a political urgency into the mainstream art world and made the Latino experience a point of inspiration for many. Seven artists working on either side of the border wall, from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Gulf of Mexico in the east, describe their work and how recent US immigration policy has helped to shape it. From music, to sculpture, virtual reality and performance art, the Art of Now...


The Cod Wars Revisited

When a country unilaterally takes back control of its waters, the results are dramatic. This isn't a prediction about Brexit. It's a statement about our recent history. The modern cod wars were a series of disputes (starting in the late 1950s and ending in 1976) between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the waters surrounding North Atlantic island. Each started when Iceland extended its territorial waters, claiming more and more of the seas that had been traditionally fished by the...


The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle

How instant noodles, now 60 years old, went from a shed in Japan to global success. What is the most traded legal item in US prisons? Instant Noodles. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, 270 million servings of instant noodles are eaten around the world every day. Annually, that's 16 to 17 portions for every man, woman and child. At the turn of the millennium, a Japanese poll found that "The Japanese believe that their best invention of the twentieth century was instant...


The Ballad of the Blade

The story of knife crime, told in verse by the weapon itself. Why do teenagers carry knives? How does it feel to live in a world where that's normal? How should we respond to the moral panic generated by the current wave of youth crime? Momtaza Mehri, Young People's Poet Laureate for London, presents a verse-journey into the thoughts and feelings of those for whom knife crime is an everyday reality. Perpetrator or victim, armed or defenceless, all the lines blur in "Ballad of the Blade" - a...


The Sound Odyssey: Nadine Shah travels to Beirut

The Sound Odyssey is a new series in which Gemma Cairney takes British artists for musical collaborations in different countries around the world, hearing the musicians in a new light, and exposing their artistic process as they create something new in different and unfamiliar surroundings with an artist they have never met before. In the first of a series of journeys Nadine Shah a British Muslim artist travels to Beirut, to collaborate with Lebanese singer songwriter and musicologist Youmna...


Intrigue: The Ratline

A story of love, denial and a curious death. Philippe Sands investigates the mysterious disappearance of senior Nazi, Otto Wachter, and journeys right to the heart of the Ratline.


The Ballads of Emmett Till

Emmett Till, 14 & black, was put on the train from Chicago by his mother Mamie in August 1955. She got him back in a pine box. His corpse mutilated & stinking. He had been beaten, shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for supposedly whistling at a white woman. His killers would forever escape justice. What Mamie did next helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement & make Emmett the sacrificial lamb of the movement. From the very first Till's death was both a call to political action & the...


What Happened Last Night in Sweden?

In February 2017, President Trump made a speech to his supporters. He moved on to the topic of immigration and Sweden. "You look at what's happening last night in Sweden," he told the crowd at a rally in Florida. "They took in large numbers; they're having problems like they never thought possible". This confused the Swedes because they hadn't noticed anything happening on that Friday night in their country. What Trump was referring to was a Fox News report he had seen about immigration and...