Seriously is home to the world’s best audio documentaries and podcast recommendations, and host Vanessa Kisuule brings you two fascinating new episodes every week.
Dancers at Dawn
On the 1st May 1987 Martin Green’s dad takes him Morris dancing before dawn on Wandlebury Hill outside Cambridgeshire. Many years later, at sunrise on his twenty-third birthday, he walks home from a rave over this same hill.
This uncanny coincidence has got him thinking. To most people, Morris dancing and [raving] rave culture seem so far apart. We like to think we know what sorts of people do what. So, what do these two groups have in common that drives them out into the fields to dance at dawn?
As an accordionist, producer and storyteller, Martin’s own work lives somewhere between traditional music, electronic music and theatre. In 2020 he made a piece of audio theatre that linked the ancient traditions of English dancing to the birth of rave in the 1980s, which led him to draw on events from his own life, of dawn Morris dancing and sunrise raves. This documentary explores those themes. Why do we dance at dawn? Is there an innate desire to do so?
Recollecting his experiences with his father and rave friend Becky, Martin uncovers the traditions and rituals surrounding each activity. He speaks to others who have danced at dawn and seeks expert advice from [the] DJ Lee Burridge, who’s famous for his full moon parties in Thailand and sunrise sets at Burning Man festival.
Taking all this experience on board, Martin undertakes a solo experiment. Removing all people and connections he drives on his own, in the dark to a remote field near his house with a mission. He wants to find out what it is about the music, the dancing and the surroundings that makes dancing at dawn truly special.
Produced by Rebecca Gaskell
Photography by Sandy Butler
A Sparklab production for BBC Radio 4
After a Death
News of people being killed in knife attacks recurs with tragic regularity, but the reports rarely touch on the impact on the victim’s family and friends. In this programme Sarah O'Connell sets out to understand these ripple effects — some perhaps expected, others likely not — as she explores the case of Russell “Barty” Brown, who was stabbed to death in Bethnal Green, east London, in September 2016.
As she speaks to Barty's friends and family, to the medic who treated him and a witness to this terrible incident, Sarah hears about the gap he has left in all their lives, and what kind of a man he was in life.
Producer: Giles Edwards
Executive Producer: Martin Rosenbaum
Sound Engineer: Hal Haines.
James Baldwin’s Last Amen
The work of the American writer James Baldwin gained a new audience in the months following the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Europe and the USA.
His observations on race, power and black identity, featured in clips from 1960s chat shows, were widely shared on social media. A spirited performance in a 1965 Cambridge Union debate titled The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro is now considered a landmark moment.
But in the late 1980s, Baldwin's light was fading, and he was living a quiet life in the south of France when theatre producer and director Anton Phillips of Carib Theatre decided to revive his 1954 play The Amen Corner at London's Tricycle Theatre. It transferred to London's Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue - becoming the first all black production to transfer from Fringe to the West End.
At Phillips' invitation, Baldwin made the trip to London to meet the cast in final rehearsals and see the production open.
During the visit he stayed with one of the cast, Clarke Peters, and gave Joan Bakewell what would be one of his last interviews. He died a few months later in December 1987.
In this programme, Clarke Peters recalls that landmark 1987 production, his relationship with "Jimmy", and the lasting legacy of an extraordinary and insightful writer.
Producer: Rosemary Laryea
Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4
The Northern Bank Job: Episode One
It was the biggest bank robbery in British and Irish history. Days before Christmas 2004, gangs of armed men take over the homes of two Northern Bank officials in Belfast and County Down. With family members held hostage, the officials are instructed to remove cash from the vaults of Northern Bank headquarters in Belfast city-centre and load it into the back of a van - not once, but twice - before the van disappears into the night, along with more than £26.5 million in new and used notes. With the finger of blame pointed at the IRA, the raid makes headlines around the world and sends shock-waves through an already faltering Northern Ireland peace process.
Through dramatized court testimonies, new interviews and archive, Glenn Patterson takes us into the unfolding story of a meticulously planned heist and its chaotic aftermath. Military precision giving way to soap powder boxes stuffed with cash. The bickering of politicians against the silence of the man said to be the robbery’s mastermind. There are even rumours that proceeds from the robbery are to be used as a pension fund for IRA members as it prepares to disarm and disband.
Glenn Patterson has unfinished business with the Northern Bank Job. In fact, he thinks all of Northern Ireland does.
Episode One: Unexpected Visitors
Northern Bank employee Chris Ward is watching TV with his dad when there's a knock at the door. Kevin McMullan is at home with his wife Kyran when Police come to tell them there's been a road traffic accident. But all is not as it seems...
Presenter: Glenn Patterson
Actors: Louise Parker, Conor O'Donnell & Thomas Finnegan
Music: Phil Kieran
Executive Editor: Andy Martin
Producer: Conor Garrett
A BBC Northern Ireland production for Radio 4
Able to Parent
Emily Yates and her partner Christopher ' CJ' Johnston have been together four years. CJ really wants a baby but Emily - a wheelchair-user with Cerebral Palsy - has fears and barriers that she feels she needs to overcome.
Will she be able to carry a baby? What extra strain will her disability put on her and CJ's relationship as parents? What impact will her disability have on their child as he or she grows up?
To help quell these concerns and make a final decision, the couple look around them for advice and inspiration. They meet Kelly, a powerchair-user and mum to two boys, who offers practical advice on handling trickier situations. Megan was raised by a paraplegic mother and gives a child's perspective, while the artist Alison Lapper - arguably Britain's highest-profile disabled parent - shares her story, including the astonishing level of vitriol she received during her pregnancy. In 2019, Alison's son Parys tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. How will this experience colour Alison's advice to Emily and CJ?
As they explore all this together, Emily increasingly realises that many of the barriers she faces are ones of perception rather than practicality.
Producer: Leeanne Coyle
A Bespoken Media production for BBC Radio 4
A Pyrotechnic History of Humanity: Fire
This is the first in a four-part series looking at the energy revolutions that drove human history. In this programme Justin Rowlatt goes right back to the origin of our species two million years ago to explore how the mastery of fire by early humans transformed our metabolism, helping us to evolve our uniquely energy-hungry brains.
The physical evidence for early use of fire is frustratingly thin on the ground, according to archaeologist Carolina Mallol. But primatologist Jill Pruetz says she has learned a lot from observing chimpanzees interact with wildfires on the African savanna.
Research collaborators Rachel Carmody and Richard Wrangham theorise that our ancestors' unique ability to cook their food transformed the way our bodies access the energy it contains - something Justin seeks to test out by going on a raw food diet. The bounty of metabolic energy it delivered may have enabled us to become the formidably intelligent species we are today, according to neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, transforming us into prolific hunters who conquered the world.
Producer: Laurence Knight
Presenter: Justin Rowlatt
Studio manager: Rod Farquhar
Production co-ordinator: Zoe Gelber
Editor: Rosamund Jones