Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Reaction Time; the Archers

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Reaction Time; the Archers

Article excerpt

Much ado about Radio 4's latest venture into the new smart world of aural selfies. Reaction Time , on Thursday mornings, is a compilation of mini-recordings by listeners telling us about their lives (overseen by Kevin Core). No tape machine needed or sound recordist. Just a listener with a smartphone and a thick skin. For these stories are not the kind of thing you would tell your nearest and dearest (unless they, too, have an equally thick skin). But rather they reveal disappointments in love, embarrassing date nights, 'how I met my husband', things you might unburden to a good friend over a couple of glasses -- but would you do the same to almost 11 million listeners?

Gary tells us about his night with Briony, back in the Seventies when he was a gauche student. A night without passion. A lost opportunity. Rita, now much weightier, you can hear it in her voice, recalls her first love, a much older and more sophisticated man she meets as a young Irish girl new to London when he asks her to share his umbrella at the bus stop. Crystal, in triumphant mode, confesses that she has just 'fired' her husband after 25 years, but then adds with a twist, 'I looooove men. I've always loved men and their company...'

It's listener power, for sure, but will it keep listeners listening? To me it's gruesome, ear-flinching stuff, but then I could never get on with John Peel's Home Truths , let alone those episodes of In the Psychiatrist's Chair when Anthony Clare led his subjects to break down on air. The show is presented by Narelle Lancaster, a listener who was invited to read the scripted links between stories after sending in her account of a disastrous date containing the brilliantly awful chat-up line, 'Your breasts look magnificent in that dress.' She has a great voice and a beguiling style which might just lead her into a career change in a year or so.

Give It a Year , also on Radio 4 (Monday to Friday lunchtimes), does much the same thing, giving us the inside stories of people's lives, but this time the emphasis is not so much on what happens but on what doesn't happen but might, you never know. Five very different people look back on the last year and think about what it taught them, gave them, took away in five slick episodes (produced by Polly Weston). 'I'm glad it's not TV,' says Susie, laughing. She's just shaved off her hair for charity 'and it looks awful'. …

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