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Witness History

Witness History

History as told by the people who were there.

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Ireland's bank bailout

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis Ireland had to borrow billions to stop its banks from going under and to keep its economy afloat. The IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank provided the money. Matt Murphy has been speaking to Patrick Honahan, who was Ireland's central banker at the time of the bailout. Photo: Protesters take to the streets of Dublin in November 2010 to oppose savage public spending cutbacks needed to secure an international bailout. Credit:Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images
2021-02-23
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Acid rain

In the 1960s, Swedish scientists documented how acid rain was poisoning lakes, killing fish, damaging soils and forests. Crucially they said it was an international problem, because the acid rain was caused by industrial pollution being carried on the prevailing winds from countries thousands of miles away. Acid rain is primarily created by the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, which releases large amounts of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air. These particles then mix with moisture in the atmosphere to create sulphuric and nitric acid, which then falls back to earth as acid rain. The phenomenon of acid rain was noticed in the 19th century but the threat was largely ignored. Alex Last spoke to Prof Henning Rodhe of Stockholm University about the research that alerted the world to the dangers of acid rain. Photo: Forest decline caused by acid rain in the Giant Mountains in Poland - 1998 (Getty Images)
2021-02-22
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Mary Wilson

The Motown group The Supremes had a string of number one hits in 1964. They would become the most popular girl group of the 1960s. One of the three original singers, Mary Wilson, spoke to Vincent Dowd about growing up in Detroit, commercial success, and civil rights. Photo: The Supremes, (left to right) Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, on a visit to London in 1964. Credit: PA Wire.
2021-02-19
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Free breakfasts with the Black Panthers

The Black Panther Party hit the headlines in the late 1960s with their call for a revolution in the USA. But they also ran a number of "survival programmes" to help their local communities - the biggest of which was a project providing free breakfasts for schoolchildren. Reverend Earl Neil was one of the organisers of the first Free Breakfast for Children programme at St Augustine's Church in Oakland, California. He spoke to Lucy Burns. (IMAGE: Shutterstock)
2021-02-18
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The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks

The story of an African American woman who played a largely unsung role in countless medical breakthroughs over more than half a century. Henrietta Lacks had cells taken from her body in 1951 when she was suffering from cancer. Those cells were found to be unique in a most particular way. They continued to reproduce endlessly in the laboratory. Culture from those cells have since been used in thousands of scientific experiments. But as Farhana Haider reports, Henrietta herself was never asked if her cells could be used in medical research. (Photo: Henrietta Lacks. Copyright: Lacks Family)
2021-02-17
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Britain's forgotten slave owners: Part two

How one man used research by historians at University College London into Britain's forgotten slave-owners to track down the descendants of the family who'd owned his ancestors two centuries earlier. Dr James Dawkins tells Louise Hidalgo how his quest led him to the famous evolutionary biologist, Professor Richard Dawkins, author of the Selfish Gene, with whom he shares a name and a past. Picture: slaves unloaded from slave ship at their destination; from Amelia Opie The Black Man's Lament: or How to Make Sugar, London, 1826 (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
2021-02-16
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Britain's forgotten slave owners: Part one

It wasn't until recently that researchers working in the national archive in London discovered the extent to which ordinary people in Britain had been involved in the slave trade in the 18th and early 19th century. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Dr Nick Draper, who uncovered volumes of records detailing the thousands of people who claimed compensation when slavery was abolished in Britain in 1834. He and colleagues at University College London set up the Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, documenting this forgotten part of Britain's history. (Photo: Taken from Josiah Wedgwood's medallion, 'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?''. The inscription became one of the most famous catchphrases of British and American abolitionists. Credit: MPI/Getty Images)
2021-02-15
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How US 'smart bombs' hit an Iraqi air raid shelter in the first Gulf War

More than 400 civilians were killed when two US precision bombs hit the Amiriya air raid shelter in western Baghdad on the morning of 13 February 1991. The Americans claimed that the building had served as a command and control centre for Saddam Hussein's forces. It was the largest single case of civilian casualities that ocurred during Operation Desert Storm, the US-led campaign to force Iraq to withdraw from neighbouring Kuwait. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from one Iraqi woman whose four children were inside the air raid shelter the day it was bombed. Photo: Inside the Amiriya air-raid shelter following the US bombing (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
2021-02-12
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A Ghanaian nurse's story

Nurses from outside the UK form a vital part of the country's National Health Service. Many come from African countries. Cecilia Anim - who left Ghana for England in 1972 - became the first black woman to be made president of the Royal College of Nursing. In 2017 she was awarded a CBE by the Queen. She has been speaking to Sharon Hemans for Witness History. Photo: Cecilia Anim as a student nurse in Ghana in the 1960s. Credit: Cecilia Anim.
2021-02-11
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The paper that helped the homeless

In 1989 celebrities in New York set up the 'Street News' paper to help the homeless. People living rough sold the paper at a profit instead of begging, initially it was very successful with around 250,000 copies sold per issue and the idea was copied around the world. Lee Stringer was living on the street when he began selling 'Street News', he discovered a talent for writing and went on to be a columnist and then editor of the paper. He told Witness History how living on the streets made him a better writer and how he became a successful author as a result of the chance he was given at 'Street News'. (Photo: A street vendor holds a copy of 'Street News'. Credit CBS)
2021-02-10
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Gay and lesbian support for the British miners' strike

In 1984 a group of lesbians and gay men organised a benefit concert to support striking coal-miners. They sent the money they raised to a mining village in Wales. The miners' strike was the biggest industrial dispute in British history. Hear from Mike Jackson, one of the gay men inspired by the miners' struggle. Photo: Campaign activists on the 1985 Lesbian & Gay Pride march. Credit: Colin Clews
2021-02-09
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Francis Bacon in the archives

Francis Bacon painted distorted and disturbing images but his works are now widely considered one of the great achievements of post-war British art. Vincent Dowd has been trawling through the BBC archives listening to Bacon talking about his work, and gaining an insight into his Bohemian, hard-drinking ways. Photo: Francis Bacon in London in 1970. Credit: Press Association
2021-02-09
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DES Daughters

DES or Diethylstilbestrol was a form of synthetic estrogen developed in the 1930s, regularly prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage. But in the 1960s it was discovered that not only did it not prevent miscarriage, it also had dangerous side effects for the daughters of the women who had taken it while pregnant ? including reproductive problems and rare gynaecological cancers. Millions of women were exposed all over the world. Lucy Burns speaks to mother and daughter Linda and Katie Greenebaum about their experiences of DES. This programme was made with the help of DES Action in the USA. www.DESAction.org Photo: black and white image of smiling baby (H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
2021-02-08
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General Robert E Lee: US Civil War rebel

The US Civil War of 1861-65 left 700,000 troops dead. The Southern Confederate states rebelled against the Union of the North because the Confederates wanted to protect the right to own slaves. The hero of the rebel cause, General Robert E Lee, was charged with treason and had his citizenship revoked. So why did Congress reinstate his citizenship in 1975 more than one hundred years after his death? Claire Bowes has been speaking to former Democrat Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who was one of just ten members of Congress to vote against the rehabilitation of General Lee and to John Reeves author of the book, The Lost Indictment of Robert E Lee. They describe how the proposal, put forward by a pro-segregationist Senator from Virginia, passed without even the mention of slavery. Photo: General Robert E Lee courtesy of the Library of Congress
2021-02-05
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Drugs in the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam war, US commanders grew increasingly concerned about the widespread use of drugs by US troops in Vietnam. Initially the focus was on marijuana. But in the early 1970s, reports began to emerge of the large scale use of heroin by US military personnel. The drug had became widely available in South Vietnam. Alex Last spoke to Dr Richard Ratner, then a psychiatrist in the US army in Vietnam, about his memories of treating soldiers suffering from heroin addiction. Photo: Two soldiers in Vietnam exchange vials of heroin, July 1971 (Getty Images)
2021-02-04
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The Burma uprising of 1988

On August 8th 1988 the Burmese military cracked down on anti-government demonstrators, killing hundreds possibly thousands of people. In the weeks of protest that followed, Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence as an opposition figure. The date 8.8.88 has come to symbolise the resistance movement in Myanmar at the time. Ma Thida was a medical student working at Rangoon General Hospital when the dead and injured began to arrive. In 2018 she spoke to Rebecca Kesby about treating gunshot wounds for the first time, and about her political activism and subsequent imprisonment. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Demonstrators in Rangoon in 1988. Credit: Getty Images
2021-02-03
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The Moscow State Circus

The biggest circus in Soviet Russia opened in Moscow in April 1971. Circus was considered the ?people?s art form? in the USSR and was highly popular. The new Moscow State Circus building on Vernadsky Avenue could seat up to 3400 people and was filled with state of the art technology. Alexander Egorenko was one of the backstage crew, and still works at the circus today. He tells Lucy Burns about his memories of the circus. (Elephant Nicole celebrates her birthday at the Great Moscow State Circus, Jan 18 2021. Photo: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Getty Images)
2021-02-02
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The first Eurostar from England to France

The first Eurostar train left London's Waterloo station heading for the Gare du Nord in Paris in November 1994. It was the first commercial passenger train to travel through the Channel Tunnel which had only been finished a few months earlier. Robert Priston was one of the drivers on that three-hour journey and he has been telling Bethan Head about that day. Photo: one of the first Eurostar trains. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.
2021-02-01
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The anthem of the Arab Spring

In December 2010, anti-government protests broke out in Tunisia after a young fruit-seller called Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight outside a government office in the south of the country. At one of the huge rallies in Tunis, a young singer called Emel Mathlouthi sang a song called "Kelmti Horra" or "My Word is Free". A video of her passionate performance immediately went viral and inspired protestors to take to the streets in other parts of the Middle East in what became known as the Arab Spring. Emel Mathlouthi talks to Witness History. PHOTO: Emel Mathlouthi performing in 2012 (Getty Images)
2021-01-29
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Libya's Arab uprising

In the early months of 2011 demonstrators took to the streets across the Arab world in what became known as the Arab spring. In February, protests in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi soon turned into an armed revolt seeking to overthrow the dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Six months later, following fierce fighting, Libyan rebel forces swept into the capital, Tripoli. After more than 42 years the Libyan leader was forced from power. He was later captured and killed. Farhana Haider has been speaking to BBC Arabic correspondent Feras Kilani, who was detained and beaten while covering the uprising. Photo: Libyan anti-Gaddafi protesters wave their old national flag as they stand atop an abandoned army tank in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on February 28, 2011.(Credit PATRICK BAZ/AFP via Getty Images)
2021-01-28
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Yemen's 2011 uprising

Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt young Yemenis took to the streets in January 2011. Ishraq al-Maqtari was a lawyer and women's rights activist from the southwestern city of Taiz. She took her two young daughters on the first demonstration in her home town. She has been speaking to Sumaya Bakhsh about how the uprising was an unprecedented opportunity for women to have their voices heard. But in Yemen, war and a humanitarian catastrophe followed the popular uprising, so does Ishraq regret taking part in the protests of the Arab Spring? Photo: Ishraq al-Maqtari in 2011.
2021-01-27
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Syria in the Arab Spring

Protests erupted across the Arab world in 2011, people wanted change, an end to tyranny and dictatorship. But in Syria the unrest, and its put down by the authorities, led to civil war, years of violence and the survival of the Assad regime. One eye witness to events was Rami Jarrah, he was at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus when one of the first protests began in Syria. He told Rebecca Kesby how powerful it felt just to even shout the word "freedom" during the protests. (Photo:
2021-01-26
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Egypt's Facebook Girl

A wave of popular anti-government uprisings swept through the Arab world in the early months of 2011. Many of the activists who took to the streets were inspired by social media posts. Israa Abd el Fattah was one of the first Egyptian activists to use social media. In April 2008 she tried to organise a general strike in protest at low wages, and rising prices. She was given the nickname "Facebook Girl". In 2011 she used her experiences with Facebook to help mobilise people before the Egypt's Arab Spring uprising. She spoke to Zeinab Dabaa for Witness History in 2017. She has since been detained by the Egyptian authorities. Photo: Israa Abd El Fattah in her office in Cairo in 2011. Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
2021-01-25
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Fighting for justice for India's Sikhs

Anti-Sikh violence erupted in India after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984. Looting, raping and killing broke out in Sikh areas. One of those killed was Nirpreet Kaur's father who was burnt to death by a furious mob in Delhi. She spent decades trying to bring to justice a politician she had seen encouraging the violence. She has been telling her story to Ishleen Kaur. Photo: Nirpreet Kaur's family before the events of 1984. Copyright:Nirpreet Kaur.
2021-01-22
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Kenya's pioneering publisher

When Dr Henry Chakava became Kenya's first African book editor in 1972, there were virtually no books or educational material published in African languages, even in Kiswahili. He made it his priority to translate work by African authors into African languages, he also commissioned original work in several of Kenya's many languages, and published hundreds of textbooks. A champion of cultural diversity across East Africa, Dr Chakava tells Rebecca Kesby why he devoted his life to preserving and enriching the region's languages, and why he believes even more must be done to make sure they survive and thrive in the future. (Photo: Dr Henry Chakava. From his private collection)
2021-01-21
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The Turner Diaries - America's manual of hatred

Following the assault on the US Capitol earlier this month, Amazon banned The Turner Diaries, a racist novel blamed for inciting American neo-Nazis to violence. The book calls for a race war and a coup against the institutions of US democracy. It was the favourite reading of Timothy McVeigh, the white terrorist who blew up a federal government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people. The Turner Diaries was published in 1978 by a former physics professor and neo-Nazi called William Luther Pierce. Simon Watts has been hearing the memories of his son, Kelvin Pierce. They were recorded as part of the BBC series on the American far-right, Two Minutes Past Nine. PHOTO: Shawn Walker, a former leader of William Pierce's neo-Nazi organisation, the National Alliance, posing with a copy of the Turner Diaries (Getty Images)
2021-01-20
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Hitler's beer hall putsch

Adolf Hitler made his first attempt to overthrow democracy in Germany in Munich in 1923. It started at a beer hall called the Bürgerbräu in Munich, so it has become known as the "beer hall putsch" or the "Munich putsch". It ended with 16 Nazis and four policemen dead. Although the coup failed, Hitler's trial allowed him to raise his profile on the national stage, and within ten years he became chancellor of Germany. PHOTO: Nazi members during the Beer Hall Putsch, Munich, Germany 1923 (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
2021-01-19
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Landing on Titan

The story of the remarkable mission to land on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. The large mysterious moon has a thick orange atmosphere. No-one had ever seen the surface. In the late 1990s, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was sent on a 7 year, 3.5 billion km journey through space to explore Saturn and Titan. Alex Last spoke to Prof. Emeritus John Zarnecki of the Open University who worked on the mission. Photo: A flattened (Mercator) projection of the Huygens probe's view of Titan. Taken by the Huygens probe on 14th January 2005 (ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)
2021-01-14
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Cornelia Sorabji: India's first woman lawyer

Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman lawyer working in India. She helped women living in purdah or seclusion in the 19th century who had no access to the law. The women were married into royal families and prevented from seeing men other than their husbands or family. This meant they had no way of seeking justice when they received cruel treatment, attempts on their lives or were disinherited by their husbands' families. Cornelia Sorabji was able to visit these women and often helped free them from violent abuse. She was so successful that some royal families tried to kill her. Claire Bowes has been speaking to her nephew, Sir Richard Sorabji, about her life and how she helped pave the way for women lawyers in Britain. Photo: Cornelia Sorabji in a BBC studio in January1931.
2021-01-13
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Puerto Rican attack at the US Capitol

In March 1954, a group of Puerto Rican militants opened fire from the public gallery of the US Congress in an effort to promote their fight for independence for the American territory. Five members of the House of Representatives were wounded in an attack which made headlines around the world and turned its leader, Lolita Lebron, into a nationalist heroine on the Caribbean Island. Simon Watts has been listening to archive accounts of the incident. PHOTO: Lolita Lebron and two Puerto Rican colleagues are arrested after the attack (US Congress/Corbis/Getty Images)
2021-01-12
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When Spain's parliament was stormed

In February 1981 armed Civil Guards tried to take control of the Spanish parliament. For 18 hours they held 350 politicians hostage in the debating chamber. One of those politicians was a young Socialist MP called Joaquin Almunia. Photo: The leader of the coup attempt, Lt Col Antonio Tejero, on the speaker's platform (AFP/Getty Images)
2021-01-11
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The book that warned 2020 would bring disaster

The Limits to Growth was published in 1972 and warned of global decline from 2020. Claire Bowes spoke to one of the authors of the book, Professor Dennis Meadows, in 2019. He described how they used computer modelling to analyse how the Earth would cope with unrestricted economic growth. In the early 1970s he and his team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology fed in huge amounts of data on population, pollution, industrialisation, food production and resources. They found that if the trends continued, the result would be a sudden and uncontrollable downturn beginning around 2020. This programme was first broadcast in January 2020 but in this edition we catch up with Professor Meadows for a final thought on the significance of the global pandemic during 2020. Image: Front cover of The Limits to Growth, published in 1972
2021-01-08
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Sequencing the Ebola virus genome

When the deadly Ebola virus broke out in West Africa in 2014, scientists in the USA set to work analysing it. What they discovered would eventually lead to a treatment. Pardis Sabeti is a virologist at Harvard University and leads the team who sequenced the Ebola virus genome - she has been speaking to Ibby Caputo for Witness History. Photo: Pardis Sabeti (front row, right) with some of the team who sequenced the virus in the lab.
2021-01-07
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The 'strike' in space

The three astronauts on the Skylab 4 space research mission in 1973 got behind schedule when one of them vomited before they'd even got onto the space station. They felt they were being micromanaged by ground control, and that their workload was unreasonable - and one day, all three of them missed their daily radio briefing. Some people at Nasa thought they'd gone on strike. But what really happened? Lucy Burns speaks to Dr Edward Gibson, the only surviving member of the trio, about an incident that has been misremembered as the Skylab space strike. Photo: Scientist-astronaut Edward G Gibson sailing through airlock module hatch of the Skylab, demonstrating the effects of zero-gravity, February, 1974. (Image courtesy National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa)/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
2021-01-06
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Buddhists and death row

In the 1990s a practising Buddhist called Anna Cox began visiting a murderer called Frankie Parker in jail. After his execution by lethal injection she carried on talking to prisoners on death row in Arkansas. Anna Cox has been speaking to Ibby Caputo for Witness History. Photo: Anna Cox and Frankie Parker.
2021-01-05
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The oldest song in the world

A 3,500 year old song was found on a clay tablet by archaeologists in Syria in the 1950s. Often called the Hurrian Hymn, it had been unearthed amid the ruins of an ancient palace which belonged to the ancient Hurrian civilization. It is the oldest complete song ever found. The tablet was inscribed in the Hurrian language but using cuneiform script. Academics have spent decades debating how to interpret the song's ancient musical notation. Alex Last spoke to Richard Dumbrill, a leading archaeomusicologist, who has spent decades studying the tablet and has produced his own interpretation of the song. Photo: The Hurrian song written in cuneiform on the clay tablet H6 (Richard Dumbrill)
2021-01-04
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The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas

In March 2001 the Taliban destroyed huge ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. The statues were carved into the cliffs above the Bamiyan valley. Sayid Mirza Hossein, a local farmer, was taken prisoner by the Taliban and forced to pack explosives around the ancient Buddhas. He told Witness History what it felt like to destroy something that he had seen every day of his life. (Photo: Taliban fighters looking at the Bamiyan cliffs. Credit: Getty Images)
2021-01-01
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Saving the Great Barrier Reef

In the 1960s conservationists began a campaign to prevent the Queensland government from allowing mining and oil drilling on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Eddie Hegerl told Claire Bowes that he and his wife were prepared to sacrifice everything, to protect the world's biggest coral reef from destruction. Photo: Science Photo Library
2020-12-31
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Le Corbusier and Chandigarh

Shortly after Indian independence Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru persuaded the maverick Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, to help reinvent a newly independent India by building a new capital city for the province of Punjab. Le Corbusier had revolutionised architecture and urban planning in the first half of the twentieth century. He was loved and hated in equal measure for his modernist approach, favouring flat roofs, glass walls and concrete. Nehru said this new city would be "symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past". Starting in 1950 the city of Chandigarh was built from scratch on farmland and is unlike any other city in India. The broad boulevards, pedestrianised plazas and green spaces were designed to encourage a feeling of order and of being close to nature. Claire Bowes spoke to Sumit Kaur, former Chief Architect and lifelong resident of Chandigarh, about the legacy left by Le Corbusier. Photo:The Chandigarh Legislative Assembly building. 1999 (AFP PHOTO / John Macdougall)
2020-12-30
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The building of the Aswan Dam

In July 1970, one of the largest dams in the world - the Aswan High Dam in Egypt - was completed. It had taken ten years to build, and was not without controversy. Louise Hidalgo brings us voices from the archives and from one man who was there, Professor Herman Bell, about the cost of the dam to the region's people and its antiquities. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo: The Aswan High Dam under construction in southern Egypt in the 1960s. Credit: AFP)
2020-12-29
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UNESCO and race and tolerance

UNESCO ? the educational, scientific and cultural arm of the United Nations was first established in 1945. Its aim was to use education as a means of sustaining peace after the horrors of the Second World War. Addressing race and racism was a key part of its mission. Caroline Bayley has been speaking to Doudou Diene who spent many years at UNESCO working on anti-racism and tolerance. (Photo: UNESCO logo seen at 39th General Conference of the organization, 2017 in Paris, France. Credit: Chesnot/Getty Images)
2020-12-28
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It's a Wonderful Life

In December 1946, the classic Christmas film "It's a Wonderful Life" had its premiere in Hollywood. Starring Jimmy Stewart, the movie's message of hope and redemption is loved by millions. Simon Watts talks to former child star, Karolyn Grimes, who played six-year-old Zuzu Bailey. The programme was first broadcast in 2015. PHOTO: Karolyn Grimes with Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" (Getty Images)
2020-12-25
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Studio Ghibli - Japan's Oscar-winning animators

In August 1986 the first Studio Ghibli film hit the cinema screens. It would go on to bring Japanese animation to a world audience. Hirokatsu Kihara was a young animator who joined the studio to work on Castle in the Sky, its first feature length film. He spoke to Ashley Byrne of Made in Manchester about the early days of the great animation studio. Photo: Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki, one of the founders of Studio Ghibli. Credit: Getty Images.
2020-12-24
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Satyajit Ray - India's master of film

Bengali film director Satyajit Ray has been described as one of the most influential directors in world cinema, with acclaimed US director Martin Scorsese among those crediting him as an inspiration. Early on in his career, Satyajit Ray released the classic Apu trilogy, which followed the life of a character called Apu from his childhood in rural Bengal to adulthood. Soumitra Chatterjee, the actor who played the title character in the final film, spoke to Farhana Haider. Soumitra Chatterjee died in November 2020. (Photo: Satyajit Ray in 1989: Credit AFP/Getty Images)
2020-12-23
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The Sound of Music

The heart-warming musical, The Sound of Music, was released in 1965 and went on to become one of the most successful films of all time. It was based on the true story of the von Trapp family singers. But was their life really as it was portrayed in the movie? Maria von Trapp's youngest child, Johannes, talks to Louise Hidalgo. The programme was first broadcast in 2015. (Photograph: The Trapp Family Singers, whose story inspired the film The Sound of Music, in Salzburg in 1937. Credit: BBC Photo Archives)
2020-12-22
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The Great Dictator

In late 1940, The Great Dictator was first released in the USA. In his first role in talking movies, Charlie Chaplin satirised Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers, before America had joined World War II. The film was a commercial success, but at the time, many people thought it should never have been made. Louise Hidalgo hears the memories of Hollywood set designer, Laurence Irving, and Chaplin's official biographer, David Robinson. The programme was first broadcast in 2010. PHOTO: Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (Bettmann/Getty Images)
2020-12-21
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The GDR's Namibian children

On December 18th 1979 hundreds of Namibian children were taken to East Germany to escape the war in their home country. But after communism in Europe collapsed in 1989 the children were sent back to Africa and an uncertain future. Johannes Dell has been speaking to Selma Kamati who was just four years old when she found herself experiencing a snowy East German Christmas. Photo: Selma Kamati (far right of picture) and some of the of the other Namibian children.
2020-12-18
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The blockade of Gibraltar

In December 1982, Spain reopened its border with Gibraltar after a 13-year blockade of the disputed British territory. The border was closed by the dictator General Franco and led to the separation of families as well as a hardening of Gibraltarian attitudes towards Spain. It was only reopened when the new democratic government in Madrid wanted to join the European Union. Simon Watts talks to Tito Vallejo Smith, a retired defence worker and historian. PHOTO: Gibraltarian and Spanish police officers side-by-side in the 1980s (Getty Images)
2020-12-17
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British reality TV is born

The first British fly-on-the-wall documentary series aired on the BBC in 1974. It was called The Family and followed the lives of the Wilkins family in Reading. Marian Wilkins - now Archer - was the eldest daughter in The Family and has been speaking to Bethan Head about what it was like to be followed by cameras and have her wedding broadcast on television. Photo: Screengrab from the first episode of The Family (1974).
2020-12-16
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The birth of Bangladesh

In December 1970 Pakistan held its first democratic elections since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The elections led to war, the break up of Pakistan and the creation of a new country, Bangladesh. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the economist and leading figure in the Bengali independence movement, Rehman Sobhan, about the historic elections and their aftermath. Photo East Pakistan 1971 The flag of Bangladesh is raised at the Awami League headquarters. Credit Getty Images
2020-12-15
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