Creating a film about creating The News Quiz

On Thursday I published a short film I made for BBC Radio 4 called Creating The News Quiz.

I was very lucky to have the chance to visit the QI offices (they’re just as cool as you’d imagine – they have a collection knitted QI bobble hats and a wall of fake moustaches) earlier this year to meet with producer, presenter and broadcasting legend, John Lloyd.

John is one of those people who you meet because of one thing – be it because of his role as the founder of QI (so much more than a TV show), producing the radio series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with his late best friend Douglas Adams or presenting The Museum of Curiosity for Radio 4 – and then go away discovering he’s responsible for more than you could ever have imagined. Occasionally you’ll see him as a talking head on a BBC Two programme talking about some epic advert he made in the eighties, or a classic telly show such as Not the 9 O’Clock News.

John himself isn’t a name dropper, or someone who’d ever assume people would know who he was or what he’s done. He’s just a really brilliant person, basically, so I was dead chuffed that he agreed to chat to me about the early days of his time in BBC Radio. I don’t want to say too much because it’d be great if you watch the film above and see for yourself, but the story involves Nicholas Parsons, former Film [insert date here] presenter Barry Norman and a 13 hour turnaround – from reading the morning papers to broadcast.

The News Quiz airs at 18:30 Fridays and 12:30 Saturdays on BBC Radio 4.

Bridget Christie Minds the Gap

Earlier this week I met up with comedian Bridget Christie to chat about feminism ahead of her new series, Bridget Christie Minds the Gap, which starts tonight at 23:00 on Radio 4.

We spoke about Mary Wollstonecraft, the British Enlightenment thinker who set up a school for girls in Newington Green and later authored A Vindictation of the Rights of Woman, widely seen as the text that started the modern feminist movement.

Please share if you can and spread the word!

Finding out about feminism

Next week BBC Radio 4 is doing a bit about feminism, including the start of a new comedy series written and performed by stand-up Bridget Christie.

I’m doing a bit more on the website for it – so it’s not going to be the fairly plain space currently there, but I wanted to post some links here first – BBC Editorial Policy means I can’t publish all the links I want to because most feminist sites are campaign based, or (quite rightly) have a bias towards, well, you know, feminism!

So here’s some ace sites I think are worth checking out:

The Vagenda

From their ‘reasons to be a feminist’ series, to an articles on women in pop culture and the freedom of cutting your hair not having to imply political or social beliefs, the Vagenda is one of the most prolific feminist blogs on the net, while remaining utterly accessible to all. It is edited by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter, who also write ‘The V Spot’ for The New Statesman.

The Everyday Sexism Project

Laura Bates set up this pioneering website to give women a platform to discuss their experiences of sexism – from derogatory comments to abuse. The stories now feature in weekly columns on the Huffington Post and the Independent newspaper and a book is on the horizon. Ultimately the project aims to dispel the myth that equality has been gained and ‘the fight is over’.

The F Word

Founded in 2001 by Catherine Redfern, The F Word is a contemporary feminist site, featuring articles and interviews centred around feminist culture and politics. The site welcomes contributions from new writers and does not subscribe to one particular feminist viewpoint.

The Fawcett Society

Leading the lobby for equality in Britain, The Fawcett Society is a charity named after peaceful suffragette Millicent Fawcett. The site features news on their latest campaigns – including equal pay and the impact of austerity measures on women – and how you can get involved.


PinkStinks is a social enterprise that aims to defeat the ‘culture of pink’ that determines the ‘acceptable’ appearance of girls and replace it with one that motivates children to achieve based on merits that don’t rely on beauty or attractiveness, such as educational ability and effort.

UK Feminista

UK Feminista is a network of campaigners who want to see political, social and economic equality between women and men realised. As well as organising campaigns, they provide support and training to activist groups. It was founded by author Kat Banyard and men are encourage to get involved too.

Feminist Library

This South London library houses an archive of Women’s Liberation Movement Literature, particularly from the ‘second wave feminism’ period between 1960 and 1990. They support feminist networks and research projects, host events and raise awareness of Women’s Studies as an educative subject.

Gender Agenda

Gender Agenda welcomes everyone to submit articles on the subject of ‘feminism, gender, sexuality and anything related’. They host discussions between feminist with the aim that people will work out what their ideas really are if they can share their thoughts with the rest of the feminist community. You can submit a post for publication on the site and, aside from formatting, it will be published unchanged and uncensored.

Bridget Christie Minds the Gap starts at 23:00 on Thursday 7th March. (And it’s really bloody funny.)

New stuff from Radio Comedy

I’ve been hauling cameras around for the past months doing various bits in the name of BBC Radio Comedy.

Not all of the results are on Youtube. But here’s the ones that are:

This is from The Guns of Adam Riches, which is on Radio 4 for the next three Thursdays at 11pm. Adam won the Edinburgh Festival Comedy Award in 2011 and has since made various appearances on BBC Three shows, usually in some crazy guise.

For this video, he brought audience member Mark onstage and worked his magic – Adam is amazing at making feel comfortable, no matter what he’s asking them to do. Plus, and I know I say this a lot, but he’s a lovely person too – as are his fellow very talented cast members Cariad Lloyd (sadly not in the film) and Jim Johnson.

Not too long ago I found myself in front of the camera, rather than in my usual spot behind it, to film an interview with Tom Binns’ spiritual medium character, Ian D Montfort. Sadly we couldn’t include everything we shot, but it’s really rather fortunate thing as I was rendered helpless with giggles frequently.

The show is produced by the brilliant Julia McKenzie and it’s one of those things you listen to and wonder how it was done. So go and listen to it and wonder how it was done. Because I’m not telling you. (Sorry!)

Episode 1 is available on iPlayer Radio now. Episode 2 goes out at 21:30 on Radio 2 this Thursday.

Equal marriage

Firstly, let me start by saying I don’t think I have anything original to say on this subject. I just want to show my support.

Now that the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill has been backed at a second reading, they’ll doubtless be thousands of similar blogs across the UK publishing their joy – and their relief. And thank goodness for that! It’s really important that people – no matter their sexuality – get behind the bill because it says so much about the country we live in, our friends, our rights and our future.

As many have commented, one day the generations that follow ours will wonder what all the fuss was about – they might stumble across blogs far superior to this and experience it as an alienating kind of history. And to be perfectly honest, the generations that have issues will have probably gone to the grave by then, their bigoted views dying with them.

There’s a (frankly) disturbing video of Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale claiming that he was ensured that the Civil Partnership Bill wouldn’t lead to equal marriage. He now wants to scrap civil partnership in favour of ‘civil union’, entirely missing the point.

MP David Burrowes was quoted in the same BBC article; “marriage is a great way of celebrating the difference between a man and a woman”. Now, if I ever were to marry, it wouldn’t be because I wanted to celebrate lacking a penis. I’m a massive fan of Don’t Tell the Bride, and I swear there’s never been a vow which involves a description of differing anatomies or hormones. Therefore, this quote concerns me even more than Gale’s as it appears to affirm Burrowes’ belief in breadwinner/housewife stereotypes.

More refreshing is MP David Lammy’s more emotive response in support of the bill; David Lammy, Labour;

“There are still those who say this is all unnecessary. Why do we need gay marriage when we already have civil partnership, they say. They are the same – separate but equal – they claim. Let me speak frankly – separate but equal is a fraud. Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus…. Separate is not equal so let us be rid of it.”

Marriage is not exclusively a religious institution. It is a sacrament in many religions, therefore being part of their institutional structure, but these religions do not have ownership – and nor should they have control – of the definition. It’s the legal, social (and hopefully in most cases, emotional) union of two people.

Next Tuesday at 11pm on Radio 4, equal marriage supporter (and one half of a happy civil partnership) Susan Calman will be explaining why she calls her ‘civil partner’ her wife and how she can’t wait to have the term legally recognised. I did a video interview with her ahead of the broadcast, which you can watch here.