Radio review: Rewinder, The Listening Project, and Crossing Continents

24 May 2019

BBC/Leigh Keily

Greg James, a Radio 1 DJ, presents Rewinder (Radio 4, Saturday)

Greg James, a Radio 1 DJ, presents Rewinder (Radio 4, Saturday)

IF ANYONE was entitled to say of the young “They don’t know they’re born,” it is the late Manchester City goalkeeper Bernhard Trautmann. When you see one of today’s over­paid snowflakes limping off having sustained a knock to his precious Achilles tendon, spare a thought for Trautmann, who played the last 17 minutes of the 1956 FA Cup Final with a broken neck.

The anecdote came courtesy of Rewinder (Radio 4, Saturday), a show which, although obviously another money-saving trawl through the BBC archives, is entertaining enough to justify its Saturday morning slot. Much of the credit for this must go to the presenter, Greg James, from Radio 1, who sounds entirely at ease addressing the antiquated Radio 4 listenership. That despite the fact that most of his clips come from way before he was born, but which are as fresh as memories can be to most of his listenership.

He opened with an unlikely prognostication from Dame Edna Everage, delivered on Terry Wogan’s television chat show in 1981. The guest line-up included Donald and Ivana Trump; and Trump’s message on this occasion — that the United States was being taken advantage of — has a ring of familiarity about it. But it was Dame Edna teasing Ivana that she was “First Lady material” which really sends a chill down the spine.

The toe-curling prize, however, must go to See You Sunday: a faith show designed to engage with modern culture, including the hit parade. The show’s disdain for “Bennie and the Jets”, which became one of Elton John’s biggest hits, is an excruciating insight into life as an earnest Christian youth in the 1970s.

I dare not imagine what the presenters of See You Sunday would make of last Friday’s episode of The Listening Project (Radio 4). Rebekah and Scott were discussing the challenges of bisexuality and gender identity. Both were doing Ph.D.s: Scott’s special subject was the theology of superheroes. If, in 40 years’ time, the BBC still exists, then one assumes its content will be almost entirely drawn from the archive; in which case, I wonder whether Rebekah and Scott’s conversation will bring on the same shiver of recognition as those clips from Rewinder.

Shivers of a different kind attended Linda Pressly’s Crossing Continents (Radio 4, Thursday of last week). The story that she told of the Mennonite community in Bolivia, and a case of mass rape in 2009, is horrifying; and the campaign being waged to free the perpetrators after just ten years in prison is equally astounding. But there was a back story: namely, what are 100,000 members of a Northern European sect doing in Bolivia?

The question was not addressed, and thus we were asked simply to assume that there were traditional, repressive Mennonites, and there were more liberal, modern Mennonites, and what distinguished them was whether they allowed motorbikes.

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