Reflections on Radio Drama:
Kevin Flynn

Kevin has kindly provided this piece, along with an interesting update to Colin Finbow's page; many thanks, Kevin - ND.

I've taken the opportunity of looking through some of your many radio drama pages: rich pickings for a lifelong fan of radio drama and features! They also evoked many memories.

Born in 1948, I was, of course, an avid listener to the Children's Hour dramas: the one that sticks in my mind, and that I've never seen mentioned anywhere since, is a series about the Seven Wonders of the World. The wonder of the modern world that is the BBC Genome project now reveals to me that I was nine years old when the phrase "the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus" embedded itself in my brain! The same source also reveals that the plays were written by Norman Painting (Phil Archer, who also wrote many of the Archers scripts, under the nom de plume of Bruno Milna).

There was more adult drama too. Surprisingly, perhaps, at age seven I was allowed to listen to "Journey into Space", so long as I'd got changed into my pyjamas by the time it started, after Radio Newsreel. Perhaps not ideal bedtime listening! I do remember being mocked mercilessly in the school playground one morning when I asked my chums whether they'd heard last night's exciting episode about the Martians travelling towards the Earth in their "spears". Well, I didn't know, did I? To me it was no more unlikely that Martians would travel in very long thin spaceships than in round ball-shaped ones, especially since no-one had ever previously told me about the word "spheres".

Later, I recall scaring myself half to death listening to "The Day of the Triffids" in bed on my crystal set (using WWII Army-surplus headphones). Also on the magical crystal set (no power needed!) I was mesmerized by "Under Milk Wood" (probably one of the repeats in the later 50s) even if most of what it was all about passed over my head.

We didn't get a telly until I was about 10 or 11, so my taste for radio drama was well established by then, and I went on listening through my student days and into adulthood. One play that made such a particular impression on me that I recorded it when a repeat came up was Don Haworth's "On a Day in Summer in a Garden". And perhaps I might just have planted a small seed of enthusiasm for radio drama when, by now a teacher, I played it one day (as an end-of-term "special") to a class of 12-13-year-olds in the school language lab in place of the scheduled German lesson. A surprising number of pupils told me they enjoyed it, and even the rest appeared to tolerate it (they were probably making charitable allowance for the fact that "sir" was a bit cracked anyway).

Appropriately (?) enough, Howarth's play went on to gain much acclaim in Germany (as "An einem Tag im Sommer in einem Garten"), in particular in an East German Radio production, much repeated since, which was first broadcast in 1982. I think that this is probably the version you can listen to at https://youtu.be/r0zYvVEMd2Q

Alhough there's lots more I could write about the radio drama scene, in Britain and in the rest of Europe (in some countries it's dead; in others it forges on) I think I've gone on long enough for now. Let me just leave you with a recommendation for the recent RTÉ Radio 1 drama "People Walking on Water" (http://www.rte.ie/drama/ radio/plays/2017/1022/914425- people-walking-on-water-by- alan-mcmonagle/): I think it's very close to the Colin Finbow tradition of powerful drama built around no more than "voices talking".

9 Nov 2017


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