Friday 19 January 2018

Radio: One date, three famous deaths and an added twist of irony

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination is upon us and I'm intrigued: Kennedy's shooting has always been of enduring fascination to my generation.

It's the defining conspiracy theory of our age. Forget Princess Di, Michael Jackson or Kurt Cobain, any of those deaths surrounded by murkiness and question marks. They were celebrities, but JFK was the most powerful person on the planet. And somehow, someone murdered him.

As a sort of teaser, Book of the Week (BBC Radio 4) began a five-part adaptation of The Letters of John Kennedy. That should count us down nicely to the anniversary, although this opener left me a bit cold, focusing as it did on Kennedy's personal relationships during WWII. Roll on Marilyn, the Mob and the Missile Crisis.

In one of those weird coincidences that life throws up now and again, two famous writers died the exact same day as JFK, Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis (Anthony Burgess on that date too, 30 years later). And there's an added twist of irony, in that Huxley was an ahead-of-his-time atheist, while Lewis, famously, was a Christian proselytiser. I wonder if they ended up in an afterlife somewhere, hammering out their differences into eternity?

The Brave New World, also Radio 4, used archive audio to examine both men's lives, and was typically erudite but accessible. You were reminded again just how much these writers influenced the culture and indeed the world itself in the last half-century: the programme title, drawn from Huxley's most famous work, is now shorthand for any well judged but disastrous social engineering.

Spin South West is a station based in my neck of the woods, aimed at 15- to 34-year-olds. Which means it ain't aimed at old duffers like me – too much Rihanna makes my brain hurt – but I was interested in This Sporting Life, a series of in-depth interviews with local sportspeople.

Produced by Ciaran Ryan, the show takes a broad remit: everything from biggies like GAA and soccer to minority interests like tennis, rowing and boxing. It's good stuff, ambitious in its own way, and a refreshing change of pace for a mostly music station.

Irish Independent

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