The week in audio: Archive on 4; Black and Gay Back in the Day; My Life; Bible John; Jane Garvey and Fi Glover

An old ology is back in the spotlight; Audrey Gillan turns a true crime story on its head; and Fi and Jane, now Jane and Fi, are a scoop for Times RadioArchive on 4: The Art of Habit (BBC Radio 4) | iPlayerBlack and Gay Back in the Day | Aunt NellMy Life Fun …

Archive on 4: The Art of Habit (BBC Radio 4) | iPlayerBlack and Gay Back in the Day | Aunt NellMy Life Fun KidsBible John: Creation of a Serial Killer BBC Radio Scotland | iPlayerJane Garvey and Fi Glover Times Radio

A lovely Archive on 4 tonight, The Art of Habit, considered the greatest “ology”: sociology. Anyone who’s interested in people and how we live, or in interviews with non-famous people, is naturally interested in sociology, and the journalist Lynsey Hanley took us through how the discipline developed in the UK, its greatest moments, and how, in the 1980s, it was overtaken by a different university subject: economics. This last, combined with Margaret Thatcher’s disavowal of society, moved the focus to the individual, rather than groups, and sociology fell out of fashion. “If there’s no such thing as society, there’s no such thing as sociology,” said one expert.

Some wonderful overlapping archive interviews were interspersed with fascinating chats with sociologists, including Laurie Taylor, of Radio 4 fame, and Gary Younge, the brilliant former Guardian journalist and, since 2020, professor of sociology at Manchester Uni. There was much talk of mid-century optimism about the idea that everyone, no matter who they are, should be able to find their place in society; plus, some truly odd moments, including the time in 1959 when a white sociologist, John Howard Griffin, decided to find out what being a black person was like by pretending to be one! A fascinating topic, excellently crafted into a lovely programme by Hanley and producer Simon Hollis.

And here’s a new show that’s sociological by its very nature. Black and Gay Back in the Day is a podcast from the makers of the immensely moving series The Log Books. The Log Books had a specific starting point: the notes taken by volunteers at the gay helpline Switchboard. Black and Gay… has a different trigger for each show: a photograph. Memories of moments in British black queer history, these photos are owned by Marc Thompson, who built up the archive with journalist Jason Okundaye. The warm and engaging Thompson also hosts the show, popping up at the start and the end of each episode, in which a young black gay person talks to an elder about their experiences around the issues raised by the photo.

In the first show, journalist Abi McIntosh talks to Ted Brown, a writer for Gay News, about a picture of him in the 1970s; in the second, activist Fopé Anjanaku discusses protest and section 28 with Femi Otitoju, who worked to prevent the clause being introduced into local government directives. Some lovely moments ensue. You can find the photos on the Instagram account @blackandgaybackintheday, though you have to scroll to find the relevant picture; it might be nice if the image being discussed was put up as each episode lands.

If you want something else cheering, you could try a few episodes of Fun Kids’ new series My Life, which starts tomorrow. Here, we hear from a single child, who tells us about their life. The first three episodes are sweet and interesting, and if you’re a parent whose children have hit less innocent years they might make you yearn for the days when “feeding a rabbit some lettuce” or “pushing Dad off his paddleboard” was deemed an absolutely brilliant way to spend some time.

Speaking of children, the BBC has offered us a plethora of true crime/cold case podcasts recently, but as so many of them concern missing or murdered kids, I’ve found them hard to turn to. I did give BBC Scotland’s Bible John: Creation of a Serial Killer a try, though, as it’s not about children, and, more importantly, it’s made by Audrey Gillan, a brilliant documentary-maker known for Radio 4’s Tara and George and 5 Live’s On the Ground, and a woman incapable of making a boring show. In Bible John she decides to go back to the crimes of the notorious Scottish 1960s serial killer, and, instead of concentrating on him, to take a proper look at the lives of the three women he murdered. First up is Patricia Docker who, like the other women who were murdered, dared to enjoy nights out at Glasgow’s Barrowlands dance hall, even though she had a child at home. The police reports at the time drip with disapproval of her lifestyle, as Gillan points out. Fascinating and revelatory.

And finally, the redoubtable Fi (Glover) and Jane (Garvey) moved to a new afternoon programme (Monday to Thursday, 3-5pm) on Times Radio last week; though they’re now Jane Garvey and Fi Glover, presumably to distinguish themselves from their old BBC/Fortunately… selves. Their first show, on Monday, opened with Ukraine, which, as a genuinely serious subject, led to a slightly stilted chat between our two mickey-takers. Things felt easier once the topics became lighter: a discussion about rents going up in Liverpool due to the Eurovision song contest was great, as was an interview with Jamie Oliver – and the trademark Fi and Jane (Jane and Fi) wry-turned-up-to-11 feel was back. A delight to hear these brilliant hosts doing an actual live radio show. The BBC has missed a trick.


  1. The material is five-plus. But there is a minus! I have an internet speed of 56kb/sec. The page took about 40 seconds to load.

  2. Holy crap! Cool! You answered it yourself. I’ll put it on my list! The meaning of life and everything else. Done. No kidding.

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