This Union: A Sea Between Us (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
This Union: The Ghost Kingdoms of England (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
This Union: Two Kingdoms (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Radio 4
Neil Oliver’s Love Letter to the British Isles Acast
The Irish Passport
Electrical Journey UK (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
Once in a while, TV and radio commissioners really feel moved to discover the “state of the union”. They choose up a map, and a newspaper, take a look at them for a few seconds and marvel: “Whither the UK?” And the way they unwhither their whithering is by asking somebody they like (a comic or in-favour presenter) to journey round elements of Nice Britain in an uncommon automobile, similar to a practice, or to take an extended hike alongside the coast, or to cycle about having chats with pleasant locals. The underlying query is at all times the identical: what precisely is the UK? What do Scotland, Wales and England have in frequent aside from a shared seaside, some legal guidelines and a bent to binge-drink? And, oh dearie me, what about Eire?
Such questions are laborious to reply as a result of the historical past is sophisticated, which is truthful sufficient. Nevertheless it’s additionally as a result of the default setting for such exhibits is English. The norm is England, and the opposite nations are pressured to outline themselves in relationship to it. Maybe it will change now that the BBC is dedicated to creating programmes outdoors London; we will see. There are many related exhibits made in Northern Eire, Scotland and Wales which might be by no means broadcast in England.
Which brings me to Radio 4’s This Union, a group of collection from every of the 4 nations that began in July. As ever, it’s a tough fee. To this point, collection one, A Sea Between Us, has been essentially the most profitable. Andrea Catherwood, who grew up in Belfast, went again there to debate unionism with a wide range of folks. She motored by means of present unionist tradition, the way it has been affected by the truth that unionists now not dominate Stormont, and many citizens don’t establish as unionist or nationalist. She even discovered folks from a historically unionist background who would vote for a united Eire, moderately than keep within the UK. All her interviews had been delicate however to the purpose; I loved the man who took her to a unionist store in episode one. “I really like retailers like this, they’re incredible … one thing for everybody,” he mentioned, as Catherwood browsed UDA flags and child’s first union jack boots.
The Ghost Kingdoms of England, offered by Ian Hislop, was much less efficient. Not due to Hislop, who’s at all times enjoyable, however due to the subject. Hislop’s topic was the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; how the previous areas of England had been outlined. It was an try and unpick Englishness, however solely emphasised that England, as ever, is simply involved with England.
Final week, Allan Little, who’s Scottish however sounds virtually English, was having his go on behalf of Scotland in This Union: Two Kingdoms. We’re again to whithering. Little’s central argument, maybe made for English ears, is that Scotland was tremendous about being hooked up to England for a few centuries, however that not too long ago it has turn into much less eager. This doesn’t chime with lots of my Scottish associates, who’ve wished to be unyoked for many years; you’d hardly blame them, while you hear Little’s interviewees clarify the Darien catastrophe. Within the late 1690s, King William II of Scotland and III of England intentionally sabotaged Scotland’s try and construct a street, a commerce route in Panama, as a result of the English authorities didn’t need Scotland to achieve an excessive amount of energy. Scotland’s personal king prioritised England and virtually bankrupted Scotland. Little, one other glorious presenter, is as clear and truthful as ever. The concluding collection, This Union: Being Welsh, hosted by Jeremy Bowen, begins on the finish of October.
Should you want some extra Scottish/Britishness, then Neil Oliver, the long-haired, mellifluously voiced Scot from BBC Two’s Coast, has his personal podcast in regards to the UK, referred to as Neil Oliver’s Love Letter to the British Isles. In it, Oliver hops round Britain and Eire, utilizing his historic data to inform us tales we would or may not know (do we actually must know any extra about Nelson?). Some sharper modifying could be good, and I’m not eager on the music, however as soon as he will get going, Oliver tells some fascinating tales. The episode on the Highland clearances is nice: he makes the neat level that, because of the practices of its historic clans, kings and queens in Scotland had been deemed to be kings and queens of the folks (therefore “of Scots”), whereas the English monarchy is about ruling the land.
And for ongoing perception into how Eire works, in relation to Northern Eire, England or wherever else, then The Irish Passport, offered by Naomi O’Leary and Tim Mc Inerney, has lengthy been the podcast to seek the advice of. As I’ve mentioned earlier than, it must be prescribed listening to any Westminster politician: if it had been, then perhaps our post-Brexit, oven-ready Irish Sea commerce issues would possibly not less than have been foreseen.
Right here comes one other Northern Irishman with an English conundrum: Peter Curran is driving from Land’s Finish to John o’Groats. Curran’s downside, although, isn’t with England itself, however with the quantity of charging factors for his electrical automobile. That’s the hook for Electrical Journey UK.
Although this journey, too, is somewhat hackneyed (the Guardian’s Sam Wollaston wrote a characteristic on the identical subject in July, adopted earlier this month by a Right now in Focus podcast), it’s Curran’s presentation we’re right here for. He brings the enjoyment, whether or not he’s describing how different drivers are laughing at him when he pulls up at a charging level that’s actually in bits, or speaking to electrical automobile consultants. Info and revelations are sneaked in – Toyota led the best way with hybrid automobiles however BMW are forward with totally electrical vehicles; there’s lithium in Cornwall, able to be mined to make batteries – all cushioned by Curran’s amiable wit. Quite a lot of enjoyable.