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Radio review: All Things Considered, and Scarlett Moffatt Wants to Believe

01 October 2021

BBC

Sisters of the convent of Ty Mawr, who feature in All Things Considered (Radio Wales, Sunday)

Sisters of the convent of Ty Mawr, who feature in All Things Considered (Radio Wales, Sunday)

YOU cannot quite fit the Sisters of the convent of Ty Mawr into a mini. A people carrier, perhaps. But there are advantages to being few in number, one of which is that all can contribute unhurriedly to a half-hour radio documentary. In All Things Considered (Radio Wales, Sunday), we met the whole cohort — all eight of them — at the only enclosed Anglican convent in Wales.

The existence of the community, established by the Society of the Sacred Cross, is, in the words of member, “a continuous miracle”. But in none of their conversations with the presenter, Mary Stallard, was there any sense of anxiety for the future. The key is not to think too far ahead, Sister Victoria, a former lawyer and charity worker, advises. This is not an institution in which you are measured by your productivity. Success looks somewhat different here.

It is a complex business, capturing a sense of place on radio. It often comes down to a tone of voice, the pace at which the listener is taken from one scene to the next. When it is done well — as here — the listener falls into step with the narrative, and the heart-rate gently drops. Perhaps that was due to the generous allowance of plainchant, drawn from the Sisters’ compline repertoire and sung with unaffected skill.

The acceptance of internecine tension as an inevitable by-product of close confinement — and its resolution — is something that the Sisters have apparently mastered. “What I dislike in other people is myself,” Sister Gillian admitted. If you find yourself staring disapprovingly across the chapel at another, you are only looking into a mirror.

From the restful to the raucous. It is fair to say that the former Gogglebox personality and I’m a Celebrity contestant Scarlett Moffatt has not yet embraced the contemplative life. The Radio 1 podcast that she hosts with her partner — Scarlett Moffatt Wants to Believe (BBC Sounds, released every Friday) — celebrates the virtues of saying the first thing that comes into your head. Or, at least, pretending to; someone will no doubt claim that to achieve this feeling of spontaneity requires hours of preparation, in which case one has to admire Moffatt’s work ethic.

The first ten minutes involved the presenters’ laughing at their own jokes. But, beyond that, there did emerge last week the charming story of the Little Green Children of Woolpit: the appearance in the 12th century of a boy and girl, speaking an unintelligible language and whose skin had turned the colour of the beans that were their sole diet. Robert Burton, commenting on the tale in the 17th century, proposed that they had fallen from heaven. Alternative theories include one in which the children had been transported from the future. It ascribes the green hue to genetically modified plants.

Moffatt, charmingly indulgent towards the more eccentric explanations, supported the claim of the green girl herself, who — having learned to speak English — said that she came from a subterranean land where all were green. In contemporary parlance, we should respect her truth.

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