Seriously is home to the world’s best audio documentaries and podcast recommendations, and host Vanessa Kisuule brings you two fascinating new episodes every week.
Return to the Homeless Hotel
A year after rough sleepers were given emergency accommodation during the first coronavirus lockdown, has the unprecedented operation had a lasting impact?
In March 2020, Simon’s life was transformed, from sleeping in shop doorways in Manchester to an en suite room at the Holiday Inn. He was one of thousands of homeless people across the country offered somewhere to stay as the Covid-19 pandemic reached the UK. The highs and lows of Simon’s experience were captured in Radio 4’s The Homeless Hotel as he dealt with the challenges of his addictions, illness, and the fear of ending up back on the streets.
In Return to the Homeless Hotel, reporter Simon Maybin asks where Simon is now. What’s happened to the hotel? And has the radical approach to accommodating people who are street homeless resulted in a radical reduction of rough sleepers - or a return to the status quo?
Reporter/producer: Simon Maybin
Frank and fearless teenagers from Company Three youth theatre spent 2020 making a time capsule of their lives in lockdown, from the day their schools shut down to the present. Re-cording on their phones, they created lively, intimate scenes from family life, reflecting on what it means to come of age without the usual rites of passage like exams and school leaving parties. They have lost much - but, as the year went on, they found sides to themselves that took them by surprise, and a new appreciation of relationships with other. Presented by Kezia Adewale and Shilton Freeman, the programme includes songs, jokes, sound recordings and thoughts from many other members of Company Three.
Sound design and composition: Jon Nicholls.
Producer: Monica Whitlock
School for Communists
A witty and surprising personal view of communism from Alexei Sayle, whose parents were Communists and took him on holidays to the Eastern bloc during the Cold War. Alexei soon rejected their brand of left wing politics - and became a Maoist. He says, "I'm a Marxist-Leninist survivor!"
Alexei meets children's author Michael Rosen, and shares memories of growing up in Jewish Communist homes.
He also meets Tom Bell, a former member of the London Recruits, who was sent to apartheid South Africa to work for the ANC and the South African Communist Party. While Nelson Mandela and others were jailed, Tom and others worked under cover, risking arrest and death.
The current General Secretary of the Young Communist League, Johnny Hunter, explains why they have returned to the Hammer and Sickle, love pictures of Che Guevara and want the destruction of capitalism.
The Young Communist League is a democratic organisation for people under 30, founded in 1921 as the youth wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain. They describe themselves as "Britain's biggest organisation of revolutionary young people - fighting for a society that provides for workers and young people, not big business". They want a revolutionary transformation of society - an end to poverty, unemployment, destruction of the environment, exploitation and division, including oppression based on gender, race and sexual orientation.
In the 1930s, many League members volunteered to join the International Brigades and fight for the Spanish Republic against Franco.
In the 1960s, the YCL helped establish the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and organised medical aid and hundreds of bicycles to support Vietnam against the United States.
A Perfectly Normal production for BBC Radio 4
A Sense of Music
Music can make us feel happy and sad. It can compel us to move in time with it, or sing along to a melody. It taps into some integral sense of musicality that binds us together. But music is regimented, organised. That same 'sense' that lets us lean into Beethoven makes a bad note or a missed beat instantly recognisable. But does that same thing happen in the minds of animals? Can a monkey feel moved by Mozart? Will a bird bop to a beat?
Do animals share our 'Sense of Music'?
Charles Darwin himself thought that the basic building blocks of an appreciation for music were shared across the animal kingdom. But over decades of scientific investigation, evidence for this has been vanishingly rare.
Fresh from his revelation that animals' experience of time can be vastly different to our own, in the award-winning programme 'A Sense of Time', presenter Geoff Marsh delves once more into the minds of different species. This time he explores three key aspects of musicality: rhythm, melody and emotional sensitivity.
Geoff finds rhythm is lacking in our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. But it's abundantly clear in a dancing Cockatoo, and internet sensation, named Snowball. He speaks with scientists who have revealed that birds enjoy their own music, but may be listening for something completely different to melody. And Geoff listens to music composed for tamarin monkeys, that apparently they find remarkably relaxing, but which sets us on edge.
In 'A Sense of Music', discover what happens when music meets the animal mind.
Produced by Rory Galloway
Presented by Geoff Marsh
The Tulsa Tragedy that Shamed America
Alvin Hall tells the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst episodes of racial violence in US history - using newspaper archives, manuscripts, oral history interviews, and local experts.
For many years this horrific event was suppressed, even Oklahomans didn’t know about it. In the early 20th century, Tulsa was a wild west town which became a boom city. But the oil capital of the world was also home to the thriving and prosperous district of Greenwood - nicknamed Black Wall Street by Booker T Washington - because it was a mecca for Black entrepreneurs. Several were millionaires in today's money and and figured out ways to prosper during segregation, creating profitable businesses for Greenwood’s 10,000 residents who couldn’t spend their money with white businesses downtown.
On May 30th, a young Black shoe shiner Dick Rowland, was wrongly accused of attacking a white elevator operator Sarah Paige (the girl later recanted her story). This was the trigger, on May 31st and June 1st, for an armed white mob to loot and burn Greenwood, in a violent 16-hour attack.
It’s impossible to know the true extent of the damage. Many estimate up to 300 Black citizens were killed. Over 1200 homes were destroyed, every church, hotel, shop, and business was completely wiped off the map. Almost $4 million in insurance claims were filed, but never paid since the city designated it a ‘riot'.
Alvin examines the role of the local media in stoking up racial tension, the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, and how city officials instigated a cover up, while trying to prevent Greenwood's Black community from rebuilding so they could take the land. They resisted however, working and living initially in tents, and by the 1940s Greenwood was twice as prosperous, though this was ultimately short-lived.
The story of the massacre was then buried, documents were destroyed, and threats were issued. Local historians, brave survivors and their descendants, fought for decades to bring it into the open. Now, on the centennial of the massacre, Tulsa is grappling with its shameful past and opinions are divided on how to mark the anniversary, including the right to reparations.
Archival interviews by kind permission of the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma State University, Voices of Oklahoma oral history podcast, and White Plains Public Library NYC.
Made in collaboration with the Tri-City Collective - producers of Focus: Black Oklahoma on Tulsa Public Radio.
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4
Why Time Flies (and how to slow it down)
Armando Iannucci travels through time - discovering why it seems to accelerate alarmingly as he gets older and what, if anything, can be done to slow it down.
How exactly does the human brain calculate the passing of time? Why are the results often so distorted, with time either dragging or flying by? Armando meets physicists, psychologists and philosophers who help him unravel the emotional, physical and cultural factors which affect our perception of time.
Along the way he finds out how time flies….for flies.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains how he attempted to simulate the experience of time slowing down during a road accident, by throwing participants off a 150 foot high platform. Would they be able to decipher flickering images which would normally flash by too quickly?
Physicist Adrian Bejan suggests that Armando's brain has simply worn out, generating temporal discrepancies. He argues that as people age, the rate at which their brain processes visual information slows down, making time speed up.
Can the phenomenon be explained by mathematics. Kit Yates explains that each moment of our lives, every hour, day or week, becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of our entire life.
Psychologist Ruth Ogden, has conducted experiments to test how people of all ages estimate the passage of time, including under lockdown conditions. She says the reason our perception of time varies so dramatically lies in the way we form memories. Children’s lives are filled with new experiences, creating rich memories which make time seem to pass slowly. As we age, we have fewer new experiences, fewer vivid memories, and time rushes by.
To slow down time we must inject new, exciting experiences into our lives… like listening to this programme for example.
Producer: Brian King
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4
Surprising and always interesting