The short story on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 has been a fantastic champion of the short story and short story writers for many years. It provides one of very few opportunities in the UK for both new and established writers to
have their short stories broadcast to a large national audience, and for radio
listeners to enjoy readings of the short story form. That's why we and many others were so surprised and disappointed to read a press release of 10th July stating that the the short story output on BBC Radio 4 would be reduced to two stories a week from November and just one story a week from next spring. Since we first alerted people to the news there have been some concessions and Radio 4 has now announced that two stories a week (Friday afternoon and Sunday evening) will remain in the schedule. However, the current Afternoon Reading slot will disappear from Radio 4 after nearly 40 years of the station broadcasting 3 - 5 short stories a week.
The Society of Authors, The Writers' Guild of Great Britain and Equity UK have written a joint letter to BBC Chairman Chris Patten and Director General Mark Thompson. Along with them, we will continue to argue the case for no reduction in the current volume of short story output on Radio 4. If you also feel strongly about this you can still sign our online petition here (signing the petition is absolutely free. After signing there is an option to donate to iPetitions to keep it free, but this is not a donation to National Short Story Week and no donation to iPetitions is necessary).
Ian Skillicorn, Director, National Short Story Week and Susie Maguire
A brief history of the short story on BBC Radio 4
With so much in the news about the Radio 4 short stories we thought we'd give visitors a potted history of the short story form on the network.
In the early 1970s a daily story, called "Today's Story" had been heard each afternoon on Radio 2, as part of the Tony Brandon show. When the schedules of both Radio 2 and Radio 4 were revamped the short story, and Woman's Hour (presented by Sue MacGregor), moved over to Radio 4. On Monday 2nd July 1973,"Morning Story" was first broadcast on Radio 4. This regular slot was at 10.45am each Monday to Friday.
The first short story to be broadcast was "The Lily" by H E Bates and it was read by Bernard Miles, founder of the Mermaid Theatre in London. The rest of the stories in that first week were:
Tuesday 3rd July: "The Suitcase" written by Iris MacFarlane, read by Hannah Gordon
Wednesday 4th July: "Romance with a Double Bass" written by Anton Chekhov, read by Tony Bilbow
Thursday 5th July: "The Braidley Bomber" written by Geoff Perkins, read by Frank Windsor
Friday 6th July: "Songs of the Islands" written and read by Peter France.
Other writers whose work was broadcast in 1973 include Liam O'Flaherty, Frank O'Conner, Saki and Katherine Mansfield. Some of the narrators that year are still household names today, including Terry Wogan and Annette Crosbie. David Suchet's first radio job was reading a Morning Story, and we have discovered that this was "Rosa's Mule" written by Luigi Capuana and translated by Alfred Alexander (produced by David Shute). It was broadcast on 19th October 1973.
Reaction from the Society of Authors
Reaction from the Writers' Guild
Reaction from Equity
The BBC's initial response to the news of short story cuts
"From April next year, Radio 4 will still commission around 100 short stories a year – 50 of which will be broadcast first on Radio 4 Extra. Radio 4 will continue to support the National Short Story Award, with all five short-listed stories broadcast across the week. Radio 4 also continues to broadcast its popular reading strands Book of the Week and Book at Bedtime and promote books and reading in programmes such as A Good Read, Open Book and Book Club. Dramatisations of works of fiction can also be heard in the Classic Serial and the Woman's Hour Drama. Radio 4 Extra also commissions a number of abridged book readings throughout the year.
From November through to next spring, all short story commissions bought so far will continue to be broadcast elsewhere in the schedule."