Speechification Vol.001


A few years ago there was a corner of the world wide web called Speechification.

According to those behind Speechification, it was “A blog of Radio 4. Not about Radio 4 but of it. We point to the bits we like, the bits you might have missed, the bits that someone might have sneakily recorded. And other bits of speech radio might find their way here too. Of course, one day this might turn into something else… maybe a new way of curating radio, or maybe it won’t.”

As an indicator of what they were pointing people (and in this instance specifically me) towards, a blogpost I wrote in 2008 states that they “have allowed me to pick up on an excellent interview with the Pet Shop Boys from The London Ear on Resonance FM, a half hour guide to Glitch presented by Paul Morley (somewhat incongruously broadcast on Radio 2) and a programme on Erics, the legendary venue in Liverpool (which was still very good despite being presented by Steve Lamacq)”.

Sadly it didn’t become a new way of curating radio as it’s now no longer transmitting.

With that being the case I’m going to try and pay homage to what the Speechification people were doing, and occasionally publish blogposts to remind myself of some of the great radio that I’ve listened to. And at the same time, signpost anyone who finds themselves here to programmes they may have missed. I don’t know how often I’ll publish these posts, that will be somewhat dependent on others, although I will try and persevere with them.

So here are three programmes, all from Radio 4, and all I hope, firmly in the spirit of the original site.

A Call from Joybubbles 
First up is an introduction to the oddly fascinating world of phone phreaking. Where Josef Carl Engressia Jr. (aka latterly Joybubbles) a blind boy with perfect pitch, discovers he can make free phone calls and create all sorts of telephony based magic merely by whistling. And yes you’re right it does sound unlikely.

On the back of mentioning this programme on twitter the fine people at @MaraidDesign also pointed me to two further associated pieces of radio, namely Long Distance from Radiolab which covers similar but different ground to A Call from Joybubbles, and this episode of This American Life from January 1998 which tells the “stories of who we are on the phone, of things we learn on the phone, and of things that happen on the phone that don’t happen anywhere else”.

Second Side Up – a Life Captured in Radio
Second, naturally, is this from the always excellent Between the Ears slot on BBC Radio 3, that “celebrates innovative and thought-provoking features that make adventurous use of sound”. This episode tells the story of Second Side Up, a long running radio show created by Mark Talbot, albeit one only distributed on cassette to a small network of his friends and family. This is a lovely piece of radio and the fact that people are quietly going about these sorts of labours of love is always cheering.

The ‘Apostrophiser’
And finally, and continuing with the theme of labours of love,  a programme on Bristol’s very own grammar vigilante. This story has been reported all over the shop so you’ll have probably come across the gentleman in question already. That said this is still well worth a listen and having seen a couple of TV news reports on the apostrophiser and his work it’s also a great example of the pictures being so much better on the radio.

2 Responses to “Speechification Vol.001”

  1. 1 Jo Brodie

    Loved Speechification and have been following @Bowbrick on Twitter ever since. Some of my favourite things that I heard from there have made their way onto YouTube, eg Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher (about numbers stations on longwave radio, possibly spies, possibly some weird art project) and Jarvis Cocker’s Musical Map of Sheffield are there but Gershwin’s Horns by Rainer Hersch isn’t sadly.

    • It wasn’t just me that’s good to hear 🙂 I’m an avid radio listener but I was always amazed at how much stuff I was missing that they managed to point me in the direction of. I loved the Lincolnshire Poacher and Sheffield programmes too (and still have recordings as a result), and the programme on the New York blackout was a particular favourite along with the brilliant Don’t Hang Up programmes by Alan Dein. Would love to see it return at some point as there’s so little radio reviewed elsewhere but I fear that it’s unlikely. DWx

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