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Radio review: The Banksy Story, A Point of View, and The Retrievals

28 July 2023

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The Banksy Story (Radio 4, weekdays of last week) had much to enjoy for fans of the pseudonymous street artist

The Banksy Story (Radio 4, weekdays of last week) had much to enjoy for fans of the pseudonymous street artist

FOR somebody so elusive, there are plenty of people who claim to have met Banksy. Talk to anyone in Bristol, it seems, and they will have a story about the city’s greatest rebel: that mysterious, subversive wit who has reframed the definition of an artwork. But, in The Banksy Story (Radio 4, weekdays of last week), we appear to have closer access than usual, thanks to the involvement in the documentary of Steph Warren, who met Banksy in the early days and went on to work in his gallery Pictures on Walls.

If you were in at the start, there was money to be made. We heard from one lucky art collector who acquired an early Banksy for £75; and, although he didn’t like it much, he did not have the energy to throw it out. The presenter, James Peak, although not, it seems, a collector, was an early adopter of the Banksy brand, and has earned himself the right to make this extensive series on his hero, despite his avowed lack of experience in radio. You would hardly know. But for some strategically amateurish exchanges with his sound producer, Peak does a polished job. If you are a Banksy fan, there is much to enjoy.

If you like tales of youthful rebellion, then Sir Trevor Phillips can treat you to a few. As NUS president, back in the day, he was an indefatigable protester, crying “Wadda we want?” on almost every university campus in the country. In part-fulfilment of the cliché that a teenage rebel will become a middle-aged reactionary, Sir Trevor used the platform afforded by A Point of View (Radio 4, last Friday) to complain about the protesters of today — Just Stop Oil, in particular — who fail to appreciate the need to appear like the good guys.

To pitch up at an event where most people are sympathetic to your cause and then annoy them with your tactics is the opposite of good strategy. Sir Trevor remembered with nostalgia the tactics of Peter (now Lord) Hain against the South African cricket team of 1970: locusts devouring the grass, mirrors to dazzle the players, and model planes to invade the pitch. Now, those were the days!

For what it tells us about ourselves, I must defer to experts on other pages of this paper; but the popularity of True Crime — on both radio and television — is a phenomenon that shows no signs of abating. Hard on the heels of Scamanda (Media, 7 July) comes The Retrievals (full series now available on all podcast platforms), which gives a typically painstaking account of a scandal at the Yale Fertility Center in 2020. If I tell you that it involves a drug-addicted nurse who stole supplies of fentanyl and replaced it with saline solution, then you can probably guess the rest of the excruciating details.

What lifts this series above the merely prurient is the consideration given to the way in which the pain reported particularly by women is acknowledged by the medical Establishment. Suffice to say, agonised screams do not always work.

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