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Saturday, 14 September 2013

BBC Radio Four

Me and Jenni Murray just after my interview. 
Many thanks to fellow guest and children's book illustrator Sarah McIntyre for taking this photo.
Sarah has written a great account of our Woman's Hour adventure here

I have loved BBC Radio 4 all my adult life. We have at least six radios in our house and I increasingly listen via my phone wherever I am. Radio 4 wakes me up every morning and accompanies me on car, train, bus and plane journeys. It has stopped me feeling lonely in hotel rooms from Salford to Salt Lake City and keeps me amused when I am cooking. I even listened to Radio 4 whilst giving birth to my two sons.

Yesterday was quite simply one of the most exciting days of my life. I moved from passive listener to active participant as I was interviewed by the majestic Jenni Murray on Woman's Hour (from 30:30). I was talking about my take on the What I See project and the ways modern society is obsessed with how we look.

It seemed particularly fitting that I was arguing for a rethinking of the hierarchy of the senses via a largely sightless medium. Radio 4 is an essential part of mainstream British culture. And yet its enduring hold over the nation testifies to the fact that sight is not a necessary part of our lived experience. Yesterday I realised that radio journalists and producers build a subtle kind of audio description into everything they do. Places and people are announced as a matter of course. Every time Jenni Murray asked me a question she prefaced it with my name. Her primary reason for doing this was to remind listeners who I was and to differentiate my voice from that of my fellow interviewee Edwina Dunn. But Jenni's technique was crucial to me for another reason. Because I cannot always see enough to know when someone is addressing me, I rely on the kinds of audio prompts which are much more common on the radio than in real life.

The Woman's Hour team: 
Jenni Murray in the centre, and from the left Assistant Producer Jane Worsley, Producer Bernadette McConnell, fellow guest Sarah McIntyre and me. 

There is no doubt that modern society places too much emphasis on the visual. And this has the unpleasant consequence of marginalising the blind and the partially blind. But my experiences yesterday reminded me that anyone who engages with radio - as listener, presenter, producer or technician - already has an intuitive appreciation of the non-sighted world. Anyone who listens to the radio already knows what it is like to be blind: it is not a tragedy, it is just a different way of being.

1 comment:

  1. Great point, and an excellent blog post! Really glad I got to meet you, Hannah! x