Wednesday 17 July 2019

Celebrating 50 years of mixed-up Miscellany magic

 

Presidential seal of approval: RTÉ’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’ radio programme celebrated 50 years of broadcasting recently. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were shown through programme archives by executive producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain. PHOTO: KINLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Presidential seal of approval: RTÉ’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’ radio programme celebrated 50 years of broadcasting recently. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were shown through programme archives by executive producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain. PHOTO: KINLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Sunday Miscellany (Radio 1, 9am) has long been a well-loved institution on Irish radio. I didn't realise quite how long until Miscellany50: The Archives (Radio 1, Thu 10pm), a four-part series celebrating half a century.

One of Sunday Miscellany's chief virtues is there in the title: the fact it's a miscellany means that you can, and often do, come across virtually anything during the weekly hour-long programme. But, in a nice twist, Miscellany50: The Archives devoted each episode to a single theme: water, home, character and, my favourite of the lot, work.

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If for no other reason, it was lovely to hear again the unmistakably rich voice of the great Benedict Kiely, riffing in 1971 on the diverse meanings of the word "graft", particularly in regard to childhood memories of "hucksters" at the market in his hometown of Omagh, Co Tyrone.

"It was the delight of townies," he said, "to study the struggle between the cunning of the country man and the sophisticated style of the huckster. Victory went this way and that - a tightly-run thing, as the Duke of Wellington once said."

I also enjoyed an essay by James Plunkett, broadcast in 1991, about Samuel Beckett as "artist and man". But all four shows were a delight, and well worth a listen on RTÉ's website.

Screentime (Newstalk, Sat 6pm) is a relatively new programme, which replaces the long-running movie-themed Picture Show and adds in some TV. It's pretty good, once you get past the fact that host John Fardy has one of those twangy, mid-Atlantic "radio" accents. He's a likeable guy but that accent grinds my gears a bit.

This week had an excellent interview with Mark Kermode: one of Britain's finest film critics, with a laudable appreciation for horror, and most impressively, a PhD-holder who plays in a rock band. This man is basically me in my dream life.

He's also a thoughtful, engaging interview subject. Meanwhile, Screentime found space for a brief history of "body swap" movies - Freaky Friday, Big et al - just the sort of pointless pop-culture triviality I love.

Zooming up now through about 15 registers to "high-brow", The Life Scientific (BBC Radio 4, Tues, 9am and 9.30pm) made the genuinely remarkable revelation that organic molecules exist in deep space.

I, and presumably you, had assumed the colossal distances between stars and planets were empty of matter: maybe gamma waves or what-have-you, but essentially a sterile void. However, scientist Ewine van Dishoeck has spent her life studying this "space between the stars", and found that not only are there "astonishingly sophisticated" molecules, they're organic.

Is there life on Mars? No, but it may well be out there somewhere.

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