Being repellent, repugnant and venomous can be a springboard to possible riches and celebrity. As our online world starts to drown out our physical reality, it becomes easier to see humanity as a hopeless and hateful species. People who wake up and turn straight to social media or the newspaper find themselves in a slump before they’ve even left the house.
That is why I have taken to listening back to Radio 4’s The Listening Project, presented by Fi Glover, a series of short conversations between friends and families.
Artifice can be hard to avoid when a microphone is positioned in front of you but whatever the process of recording The Listening Project, it perfectly captures conversations and relationships.
Taylor and Lauren are the brother and sister who make the band Brand New Friend.
Taylor tells Lauren how proud he is to see his younger sister’s increasing confidence on stage asshe laughs in the background.
Brief insights reveal much bigger stories of support, delight in the company of others and the necessity of real contact.
Dot tells Jean about how thoughts of gardening and the necessary crop rotation helped distract her from chemotherapy.
Grandmother and granddaughter Gwen and Yumi are divided by 60 years but bonded by their love of reading. Though Gwen questions the limits of the vampire novel, they are united in their love of the words and ideas of Terry Pratchett.
Victoria and David discuss the problem of the contagious anger that social media can cause.
These are small doses of simple humanity, charming but no cloying, moving but not manipulative.
In three minutes we get three dimensions, these short tales and brief insights reveal much bigger stories of support, delight in the company of others and the necessity of real contact.
Short Cuts is presented by Josie Long, a comedian and writer known for the warmth of her onstage demeanour and her activism with Arts Emergency, an organisation dedicated to offering artistic encouragement for young people who may not have easy access to such things. Short Cuts won best radio podcast at the British Podcast awards last month. Each show contains a series of first-hand stories loosely held together by a theme and Long’s diverting, anecdotal introductions. Most recently, it was the theme of tests. James Acaster explained how you can be certain that your attempts at a musical career are going nowhere when your parents advise you to take up comedy as “a safer bet”. Mike Edwards explained the sceptical ways of debunking spoon benders and other self-proclaimed psychokinetic manipulators. And friends in poetry, Joe Dunthorne and Ross Sutherland, explained how their “inversely proportional luck” was tested in the casino.
The most powerful piece of radio last week was the poet Tony Walsh reading This is the Place at the vigil for those murdered and injured at the Manchester Arena last Monday night. After such horror and destruction, and the attempts to hastily stir up hate by some, Walsh was one of many Mancunians who reacted to this atrocity with defiant expressions of love.