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Category: Radio 4

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‘So, what are you?’ BBC Today host questions Konta on her Britishness

Wimbledon semi-finalist pulls Radio 4’s John Humphrys up on factual inaccuracies in interview that at times appeared tense

The BBC presenter John Humphrys has questioned whether or not the tennis player Johanna Konta – a Team GB Olympic athlete and UK citizen – is truly British during a Today programme interview.

Konta, who this month became the first British woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since 1978, pulled Humphrys up on factual inaccuracies in what appeared at times to be a slightly tense discussion on Radio 4 on Tuesday.

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David Beckham admits ‘wrong decisions’ led to rift with Alex Ferguson

• Former Manchester United player ‘can see why manager got so frustrated’
• Beckham grateful for Ferguson’s support during ‘toughest time of my life’

David Beckham has said he made mistakes during his time at Manchester United that led to a breakdown in relations with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Beckham progressed from the youth ranks at Old Trafford but was sold by Ferguson to Real Madrid in 2003. Beckham accepts that his celebrity status and marriage to Victoria, a former Spice Girl, gave Ferguson cause to doubt his professionalism.

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David Beckham to be castaway on 75th anniversary Desert Island Discs

Special edition of Radio 4 programme will also have sound of sea wash during the credits for first time since 1960s

David Beckham is to be the castaway on the 75th anniversary episode of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

The former England footballer will appear on a special edition on 29 January, which will also feature the return of the sound of sea wash to the programme credits for the first time since the 1960s.

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Bradley Wiggins to guest star on The Archers for Sport Relief

The Tour-winning cyclist and knight of the realm will turn up in Ambridge playing himself, as part of the 2014 Sport Relief celebrations

Ambridge, the sleepy, definitively English fictional village in Radio 4 soap The Archers, will welcome a very special visitor next Friday: Sir Bradley Wiggins, the laconic Tour De France-winning cyclist and Olympic champion.

Rather than take on the mutton-chopped farmer role he was born to play, he’ll appear as himself, as Ambridge gets into the swing of Sport Relief and organises its own charity fundraising venture. Wiggins is the guest of honour, crowning the winner of a village contest, but will apparently get into some comic scrapes involving Lynda Snell’s rusty bike.

“When I was asked to record a Sport Relief special for The Archers, there was no way I could turn it down,” Wiggins said in a statement. “I grew up with it on the radio in the house, and it’s not every day you get to star in the world’s longest running soap opera. Meeting the cast, the writer and the director was an honour and I really hope the storyline will raise awareness about Sport Relief’s amazing work, and that it shows people that everyone can get involved in Sport Relief this year.”

Wiggins is in good company, as many other celebrities have previously pitched in among the sounds of crunching gravel, sometimes also in the name of charity. Princess Margaret appeared on the show in 1984, joining an NSPCC fashion show, while Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall joined a 2011 Royal visit storyline – prompting some complaints of “forelock-tugging” from fans, especially given Prince Charles’s Duchy Originals shortbread was also given a hearty recommendation by one character.

Superfan John Peel had a moment of wish fulfillment when he made a cameo in 1991, as did fellow Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles in 2004, while Judi Dench made a memorable appearance for the 10,000th episode in 1989, playing not herself but the hitherto silent character Pru Forrest.

The episode will air at 7pm on Friday 21 March on Radio 4, with the Sport Relief Games beginning the following weekend.

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BBC Radio 4 makes its move with Across the Board chess series

Lennox Lewis is one of the guests who will be interviewed while playing former Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson

It is not the easiest of spectator sports, but BBC Radio 4 will put chess on the airwaves over the Christmas period with a series of interviews across the board by Dominic Lawson, beginning with former heavyweight boxing champion, Lennox Lewis.

Lawson, a chess aficionado and former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, will interview Lewis, a fan of the game, and four other guests while playing a game. The series, Across the Board, will begin on 30 December and run across the week.

It is the first time the BBC has put chess on the radio for half a century, since a series featuring chess prodigy and grandmaster Bobby Fischer ran on what was then called the Third Programme between 1958 and 1964.

Each game will last a maximum of an hour, with Lawson and his guests given 30 minutes each to make their moves. Listeners will not hear the game in its entirety, however, with each programme lasting 15 minutes.

Other guests will include shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves, a former British girls under-14 champion, and 19-year-old Hou Yifan, the current women’s world chess champion.

Lawson said: “It wasn’t easy, but I hope it won’t be difficult listening. It was a very imaginative idea – hats off to [Radio 4 controller] Gwyneth Williams.”

It is 20 years since the BBC broadcast coverage of Nigel Short’s world chess championship encounter with Gary Kasparov. The 1993 face-off, held at London’s Savoy Theatre, was shown on BBC2 and Channel 4.

Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams said: “Chess is much more than a game – it provides a different perspective on the way we live; talk of endgames, pawns and checkmate has become part of everyday life, war and politics.

“I’m delighted that Dominic, an aficionado himself, will interview, whilst playing, a surprising list of chess devotees from all walks of life.”

The show’s producer, David Edmonds, said: “If we can get Test match cricket to work on the radio, then we can get chess to work as well.”

The series was born after Williams heard Lawson take on John Humphrys in a game of chess on the Today programme in March this year.

Listeners will be able to see all of the players’ moves on the BBC website, which will link to a graphic recreation of the game on the Chess Base site.

“It’s an odd concept but intriguingly it works,” said Edmonds. “I have played it to a few non-chess players, and when Dominic says ‘bishop to E6, what a disaster’, I thought they would be utterly bored and baffled but actually that is the bit they are intrigued by,” said Edmonds.

“I’m hoping it will work for non-chess-playing audiences as well.”

The other guests in the series will be John Healy, the writer and former homeless alcoholic who took up chess in prison, and former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky.

Edmonds said: “The problem was always going to be the chess players being very competitive, they wanted to win and focus on the chess, rather than responding to the questions. I had to try to persuade them that while the chess was important, it was secondary to the conversation.

“Talking and playing chess at the same time is a difficult thing to pull off. He’d be annoyed by me saying this, but Dominic has got the easier of the roles, asking questions while playing chess rather than answering them.”

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Radio Times encouraging listeners to take in chess through the ear | Media

Chess … on the radio. BBC Radio 4 is getting round the obvious drawback of the game of kings not producing a lot of actual, um … sound with the clever wheeze of having Dominic Lawson interview his opponent across the chessboard during their match. A chesserview, if you will. The BBC has tried chess on the radio before, 50-odd years ago, with Radio Times writer Christopher Holme providing helpful hints for listeners planning to tune in. “As a subject for the sound medium, chess has obvious difficulties.” Yes, go on. “Many of these programmes will be a of a kind which can be taken in by any listener through the ear alone; for others, diagrams will be provided in Radio Times (see page 34); but there will be some few programmes which can be fully enjoyed and appreciated only by the listener who has his board and men set up in front of him.” Holme expresses the hope that “chess-players of all classes will not only listen but also compete”, as chess by radio will only succeed with the “fullest participation of the audience up and down the country”. You don’t get a lot of sentences constructed along the lines of “taken in by any listener through the ear alone” these days, more’s the pity. So stand by your boards, people – but radio chess will still have to go some to compete with the thrills and spills of the World Championship Stare-out Finals.

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Ed Miliband’s pop choices reveal a man of no musical taste

Our pop critic applauds the Labour leader for making his own choices … even if they are terribly naff

Reading on mobile? Watch the video for A-ha’s Take On Me here

Say what you like about Ed Miliband’s Desert Island Disc choices – and people will – his eight selections do have a warped sincerity about them. Attempts by politicians to appear “down with the kids” routinely curl the toes; here, Miliband circumvents the danger of doing a Gordon Brown (who claimed false familiarity with Arctic Monkeys in 2006) by exhibiting no taste, of any kind, whatsoever.

From Ed-Mili’s selection, you can only conclude that he doesn’t do music. His choices subdivide into two categories: the political statements and the “cheesy” ones (his words). Often these are songs someone else actually put on – either his parents, or a DJ – while Miliband was passing on the way to the politics library. At least when David Cameron opines on Hull’s selection as city of culture, the Housemartins reference trips out effortlessly. (Cameron often specialises in winding up leftwingers with his student tastes.)

So there’s A-ha’s hit Take On Me, a hit from Miliband’s youth. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, if you like something. But there is no enthusiasm evinced here for the song, or its groundbreaking video, or the gap between Morten Harket’s teeth. Miliband merely remembers it was on at a disco, once.

Of all Miliband’s choices the most arresting, artistically and historically, is The Ballad of Joe Hill, sung by Paul Robeson. It’s doubly red. The song recalls a US union activist accused of murder; Robeson, of course, was one of the most sonorous voices of the trade union and civil rights movements, an operatic baritone whose time on the London stage and compassion for the plight of those excluded by capitalism – workers, Africans, Spanish communists – makes this a revealing selection; one that Miliband associates with his dad.

And what of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline? Written for JFK’s daughter, Sweet Caroline is played frequently at Boston sporting events. Throughout his session, Miliband only really becomes animated when talking about the Boston Red Sox, an allegiance presumably forged at Harvard. Had this been desert island ball games, Miliband may have emerged as quite a dude. As it is…

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Charlotte Green nets high praise for her football results debut

There was much praise in today’s newspapers for Charlotte Green after her debut as the voice of the BBC’s classified football results.

The Observer’s Niall McVeigh thought her performance “flawless” and that she had proved “a fitting new voice” after the 40-year stint by her predecessor, James Alexander Gordon.

She did the job “brilliantly”, wrote Jim White in the Sunday Telegraph, who also considered her delivery “flawless”. He waxed poetic about “her crystal enunciation, her perfect phrasing, her absolute command of her material.”

“She sounded as though she’d been doing it for years,” noted Boris Starling, in the Mail on Sunday. She was “word perfect”.

Also on MailOnline, Mark Webster wrote of Green’s “assured debut” and predicted that she “is clearly going to be the steadiest of hands on the tiller.”

And Roland White, in the Sunday Times, likened Green’s voice to “a lady vicar unexpectedly asking if you’d care to slip into something more comfortable.”

In his article, headlined “Her silky syllables hit the back of the net”, he reminded us of a gaffe from Green’s Radio 4 news-reading past.

She evidently once spoke of a “cross-flannel cherry” going aground in the English Channel in high winds. It is easily done.

During my short spell as a news-reader in 1974, at the now-defunct BBC Radio Brighton, I read an item about the sinking of a German cargo ship. I recall bursting into uncontrollable laughter after saying: “The Hedwig Lunstedt, which stank off Sussex yesterday…”

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