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  • stories about stories
    This is a tiny selection from our vast archive which we will be making available.

    I now realise that many of my documentaries have been a commentary or metaphor on the art and deceit of storytelling.
    Audio can take 30 seconds to load.
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    How the Stories Took Over
    The dangers and snares of narrative in TV, law and life. BBC Radio 4

    It can take 30" for audio to load….
    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      How the Stories Took Over.

      Everyone loves a good story. Now lawyers are taught storytelling because it works better than arguments on juries. Squeezing 'reality' into standard narrative form is distorting TV, non-fiction, and even history.

      Presenter: Russell Davies
      Producer: Matt Thompson
    • Why I like it [+]
      We live in a world of competing narratives much more so now than in 1998 when I made the feature.

      I don't like to repeat myself but I discovered I was falling into the trap in my programmes of having a predictable narrative arc. That got me to thinking about narrative more analytically. How the stories..may have been ahead of it's time and now there is disquiet about how narrative has been used to sell dubious ideas and products. I tried to develop a more unpredictable structure with this one.

      I later made High Contrast which was more unpredictable.
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    The Möbius Strip and the Confidence Trickster.
    How a forensic psychiatrist is using a curious paper strip to explain psychopathy. With noted architectural visionary Cecil Balmond OBE. BBC Radio 3.
    • Trail [+]
      Astronomers of a theoretical bent are nearly always also fascinated by bizarre geometries. So it was with Augustus Ferdinand Möbius who, about 150 years ago, the discovered 3 dimensional ring named after him.

      You can make one at home. Construct a paper chain with a strip of paper. It has two sides, an inside and outside. Undo it, but before joining it up again put one twist in it. That's a Möbius strip, or ring. It doesn't seem so radical at first glance but try drawing a line with a pen along the inside. (I encourage you to actually try this to get the full flavour). After one turn somehow you find yourself on the other side of the strip. Keep going and you’re back at the beginning. You have just proved this 2 sided piece of paper actually only has one side. Where did that happen? Nowhere. There is no boundary.

      The Scottish Police send to Forensic Psychiatrist Anne MacDonald sexual predators they find hard to make sense of. It was whilst observing one such criminal Anne realized the method these manipulative people use to trap their prey, and later to evade conviction by charming judges and jury, was exactly like the topography of the Möbius Strip. It's the same trick used by fraudsters. On
      Between The Ears we hear from Anne MacDonald and also a victim of an extended con who got engaged to a man who wasn't what he seemed - not by a long shot. Also appearing is one of the world's most distinguished architects, Cecil Balmond, who explains beautifully the fundamental properties of the Möbius Strip.

      That’s
      The Möbius Strip And The Confidence Trickster this Saturday evening at a quarter to ten.

      Pronunciations

      Moebius (Mo´bius) moôbi-‡ss
      o´ as in Fr. peu, ‡ as in book

    • Why I like It [+]
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    Paul is Dead
    How a rumour about the death of Paul McCartney was a canary for fake news. BBC Radio 4
    • Original Proposal submitted to Radio 4 [+]

      Programme type: MUSIC PROGRAMME

      1 X 30

      PAUL IS DEAD

      In the late 60’s there was a popular urban legend that Paul McCartney was killed in an accident and replaced by look and sound a like. The evidence can be heard in clues sprinkled liberally in Beatles Songs, obscure symbolism, imagery on album covers, hidden statements. We use this fascinating story to examine how conspiracy theories gain ground and are becoming mainstream, too mainstream.


      Like all rumours it began with one statement. On October 12, 1969 someone telephoned DJ Russ Gibb. Identifying himself as "Tom" the caller announced that McCartney was dead. He also asked Gibb to play "Revolution 9" backwards. Gibb thought he heard "Turn me on, dead man”

      Some believed it was the Beatles themselves who started the rumour to boost sales of ‘Abbey Road’

      The Beatles were so famous they had to issue a public rebuttal.

      But there is a serious side to believing in nonsense.
      Conspiracies have a wider currency now as right wing politicians and dodgy companies try to undermine the liberal, establishment, mind set. As one tobacco company put it ‘doubt is our buisness’. Conspiracy theories have thrived around 9/11.

      Plenty of tunes.

      Semi montage.


    • Why I like it. [+]
      Trump came in in 2016 and we can now see the danger when journalists play around with truth…even if it was only for fun.

      This one was suggested by my wife Yolanda.

      I like the use of music throughout.

      TX 2014
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    High Contrast - The amnesic and the opera singer.
    …that rather peculiar programme which isn’t really about anything. It counterpoints two stories which are totally unrelated to each other.
    BBC Radio 4 Nominated for
    Prix Italia.
    • Trail [+]
      Programme Title: HIGH CONTRAST PROG 1
      Date & time of Tx: 1/6/01 11.02
      Producer & tel.: Matt Thompson 0131*** *****
      High Contrast is that rather peculiar programme which isn’t really about anything. It counterpoints two stories which are totally unrelated to each other. The motto of the programme is ‘Where lives come together but never meet’. The listener, that’s you, is invited to make connections between these two oddly compelling tales. That’s enough theory…

      On Friday morning at 11 we hear of an amnesiac who slowly pieces together his past and discovers he was once a good artist. Is memory a burden to creativity? How does he learn anything new if he doesn’t have a past? He is contrasted with an opera singer with a fabulous future. That is until a chance meeting with a svengali who trained her in all the wrong ways and destroyed her singing voice for ever. What does she do with her past? And where is her voice now?

      High Contrast this Friday at 11.


    • Why I like It [+]
      Inspired by William Faulkner's The Wild Palms. Two narratives you keep expecting to come together but never do.

      The most powerful moments in editing are the juxtapositions. The beginning and endings of scenes. In this structure each story acts as a metaphor and commentary on the other.

      I had the idea whilst shaving. Now I have come a grey beard I don't have so many ideas.
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    The Book of Disquiet
    Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa dreamt up a menagerie of over 75 pseudonyms – including a shepherd and a love sick hunchback girl with a crush on a welder. But over time his addiction to being other writers started to ruin his real life. BBC Radio 3
    • Promo Note [+]
      Pessoa is Portugal’s most famous poet and a pretty odd dude. He invented over 75 pseudonyms. Some were literary critics and had lively bitchy correspondence with each other in magazines. You could almost say Pessoa suffered from multiple personality syndrome. He was ‘possessed’ by these alter egos. In fact he didn’t call them pseudonyms but rather heteronyms to emphasis they had a separate existence. But after a while these excursions into imaginary characters became an excuse not to deal with his own life. He had no real friends and only one somewhat doomed love affair with an office clerk called Ophelia.

      His writing was done on the back of envelopes and the printed stationary you used to be able to get in cafes. Pessoa was a commercial translator working for shipping and mining interests - he spent most of his free time bouncing between those various Lisbon cafes or riding around in trams.

      After he died archivists found a huge trunk of writing which was his plans for a strange book Pessoa called ‘The Book of Disquiet’ written by the heteronym most like himself - Bernard Soares - ‘a mutilation of myself’. The mutilation was an absence of Pessoa’s witty take on life. Bernard Soares was a portent for the latter life of Pessoa when the effort of maintaining 75 separate existences got too much and the lack of any intimate social life or fame ground him down. He turned into the grey half shadow of the man he had dreamt up. Or had dreamt up him..

      I spoke with Pessoa’s best English translator and an expert on the book of disquiet, Richard Zenith. Also Pessoa’s niece, Manuela Nogueira, who knew him well when she was a child.

    • Why I like it. [+]
      I first heard about Pessoa from my sister-in-law Elsa Joao. After reading The Book of Disquiet and Richard Zenith's wonderful translations I had to make a programme about him.

      I have since read a brilliant reimagining of Pessoa -José Saramago's 'The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.' I highly recommend this book after you have read Pessoa.
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    Angel Horn Radio 3 A Profile of Shake Keane told backwards.
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  • yarns
    There is a lot to be said for escapism. Nearly always with a point though.
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    Bold Endeavour
    How Shackleton's polar expeditions have informed astronauts going to Mars. BBC R4

    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      Going to Mars is not so different from the pioneering Antarctic explorations: outside the ‘capsule’ you die quickly and being trapped for 3 years in a tiny space with the same old faces could drive even the strongest-willed crazy. Astronauts Shannon Lucid and Michael Foale did time on Mir and got inspiration from the successful explorers like Shackleton and Nansen. So what makes for a brilliant leader and what was wrong with the noble failure Scott?

      Producers: Matt Thompson & David Hendy

    • Why I like it.. [+]
      David Hendy came to me with this great idea. He did the research, travelled to America to collect all the interviews - the astronauts etc. I then put it together with archive and music.

      Some of the archive was 'faked' - that is I got a reader and made it sound scratchy. The reader was my friend and collaborator the late Nigel Acheson.

      I was familiar with the space archive having made another programme about space where we interviewed Buzz Aldrin. This programme was way better.

      I really like montage programmes where the music and all the elements should add up to more than the sum of the parts and if the listener gets lost it is for a good cause..

      David Hendy has been doing wonderful stuff with the bbc archive

      100 Voices that made the BBC


      If you are interested in Shackleton there are books I can recommend.

      Roland Huntford - Shackleton - brilliant

      And for the ideas behind the obsession with polar exploration a terrific read is:

      Frances Spufford - I may be some time…

      As for Scott…Roland Huntford's book Scott and Amundsen is a devastating take down. I find it too hard to read because it reminds me of other incompetents. (And my own incompetence)

      Shackleton's book South is lovely.

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    The Art Of War
    … is an ancient Chinese treatise on military and intelligence strategy.

    It was written by the military scholar Sun Tzu about 2,500 years ago and still has tremendous relevance to war now.

    Presenter: Julian Putkowski

    BBC World Service
    • Website description [+]
      Over the centuries it has been influential to both traditional armies and guerrilla fighters - the IRA, for instance, read it with interest and commanders in the first Gulf war and the recent war in Iraq have spoken of the influence of Sun Tzu on direct military operations and the intelligence cycle during extended wars.

      But ultimately the moral of Sun Tzu's book is that the greatest leaders avoid war:

      'A government should not mobilize an army out of anger, military leaders should not provoke war out of wrath. Act when it is beneficial, desist if it is not. Anger can revert to joy, wrath can revert to delight, but a nation destroyed cannot be restored to existence, and the dead cannot be restored to life.'

      How have Sun Tzu’s ideas stood the test of time?
    • Why I like it.. [+]
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    Brass Barmy
    Natalie Wheen visits a school that uses music to inspire. BBC R4
    • Short Description [+]
      Why music is so important in schools…. 30' doc broadcast 1999
    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      Wardle High is mad keen on Brass. 10 big brass bands, countless ensembles and over 600 school kids blasting away at full volume. But what about the 3 R’s and will we even hear Natalie Wheen’s questions above the din?

      Producer: Matt Thompson
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    Bold Endeavour
    How Shackleton's polar expeditions have informed astronauts going to Mars. BBC R4

    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      Going to Mars is not so different from the pioneering Antarctic explorations: outside the ‘capsule’ you die quickly and being trapped for 3 years in a tiny space with the same old faces could drive even the strongest-willed crazy. Astronauts Shannon Lucid and Michael Foale did time on Mir and got inspiration from the successful explorers like Shackleton and Nansen. So what makes for a brilliant leader and what was wrong with the noble failure Scott?

      Producers: Matt Thompson & David Hendy

    • Why I like it.. [+]
      David Hendy came to me with this great idea. He did the research, travelled to America to collect all the interviews - the astronauts etc. I then put it together with archive and music.

      Some of the archive was 'faked' - that is I got a reader and made it sound scratchy. The reader was my friend and collaborator the late Nigel Acheson.

      I was familiar with the space archive having made another programme about space where we interviewed Buzz Aldrin. This programme was way better.

      I really like montage programmes where the music and all the elements should add up to more than the sum of the parts and if the listener gets lost it is for a good cause..

      David Hendy has been doing wonderful stuff with the bbc archive

      100 Voices that made the BBC


      If you are interested in Shackleton there are books I can recommend.

      Roland Huntford - Shackleton - brilliant

      And for the ideas behind the obsession with polar exploration a terrific read is:

      Frances Spufford - I may be some time…

      As for Scott…Roland Huntford's book Scott and Amundsen is a devastating take down. I find it too hard to read because it reminds me of other incompetents. (And my own incompetence)

      Shackleton's book South is lovely.

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    The Art Of War
    … is an ancient Chinese treatise on military and intelligence strategy.

    It was written by the military scholar Sun Tzu about 2,500 years ago and still has tremendous relevance to war now.

    Presenter: Julian Putkowski

    BBC World Service
    • Website description [+]
      Over the centuries it has been influential to both traditional armies and guerrilla fighters - the IRA, for instance, read it with interest and commanders in the first Gulf war and the recent war in Iraq have spoken of the influence of Sun Tzu on direct military operations and the intelligence cycle during extended wars.

      But ultimately the moral of Sun Tzu's book is that the greatest leaders avoid war:

      'A government should not mobilize an army out of anger, military leaders should not provoke war out of wrath. Act when it is beneficial, desist if it is not. Anger can revert to joy, wrath can revert to delight, but a nation destroyed cannot be restored to existence, and the dead cannot be restored to life.'

      How have Sun Tzu’s ideas stood the test of time?
    • Why I like it.. [+]
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    Brass Barmy
    Natalie Wheen visits a school that uses music to inspire. BBC R4
    • Short Description [+]
      Why music is so important in schools…. 30' doc broadcast 1999
    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      Wardle High is mad keen on Brass. 10 big brass bands, countless ensembles and over 600 school kids blasting away at full volume. But what about the 3 R’s and will we even hear Natalie Wheen’s questions above the din?

      Producer: Matt Thompson
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  • proflies
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    The Man who Stank of Butter
    Profile of Haruki Murakami including a rare interview. BBC R3
    • Short Description [+]
      What is it about Murakami's writing that has captured readers all over the world? 45' doc broadcast 2001
    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      An interview with reclusive Haruki Murakami, Japan’s leading novelist. His books sell by the millions but traditionalists don’t care for his shallow and flashy protagonists who mimic the attitudes of Chandler’s hard boiled Philip Marlowe and find the answers in sex, men dressed as sheep, and bizarre lumber rooms of the subconcious. ‘The Wind up Bird Chronicle’ took Murakami’s dissaffected anti-hero into the unpopular territory of Japan’s past. ‘Underground’, Murakami’s account of the Tokyo Gas Attack, analysed how a guru hijacked ordinary people’s own stories and replaced them with fantasies, something he thinks society itself does. Can the virtuoso storyteller Murakami help readers find themselves? And why does he feel responsible for the dead people he has known? With Jungian Prof. Hayao Kawai, Kawasaki Kenko and Prof. Motoyuki Shibata.


      Producer: Matt Thompson
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    Man's Search for Meaning - Profile of Viktor Frankel BBC R4

    'When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.'
    • Short Description [+]
      A holocaust survivor who found meaning amidst nihilism of the death camps.
    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING TX 2002



      Viktor Frankl invented a new type of psychotherapy which revolved around finding meaning in our lives. As Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”. In a cruel twist of fate Frankl got the chance to put his theory to the ultimate test when he was transported to Auschwitz. Could he find meaning in the suffering he was to experience? And if there was none, even if he by happen stance survived, would life be worth living? Extracts from his best selling book read by John Rowe.

      Prod. Matt Thompson

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    Profile of Per Petterson BBC R3
    • Short Description [+]
      Norwegian author of 'Out Stealing Horses'. His influences and those he has influenced.
    • Long description [+]
      Profile of the leading writer in Scandinavia and one of the top contenders for the Nobel Prize. Recorded on location in Oslo, Norway, and Petterson's writing hut in the country.
      Petterson's novel 'Out Stealing Horses' has won many awards including the 2007 IMPAC Literary Award. It is the best selling work of Scandinavian fiction (leaving aside crime) in the last fifty years. Petterson is a writer who has suffered tragedy in his life: both parents and one of his brothers were killed in a ferry fire in 1990.
      Paul Binding, the author of a study of Ibsen, admires Petterson "for his eschewal of the artificial or fashionable ways of fiction. He doesn't seem tempted to go down any route but the one his theme demands. I suspect that he has always harboured feelings of being unlike other people, and that the ferry accident must have enforced the sense of having a lonely race to run.'
      His books tell us - from his own experience - that the dreadful does happen, and to people we love and are close to, but that our respect for them and their lives and our love for other people (and too for ourselves) can and does carry us through. His exploration of that lonely race has made him able to portray one-to-one relationships, particularly the familial, more strongly and honestly than any living writer.
      At the heart of the documentary is Petterson's uneasy relationship with his mother which because of her sudden death he was never able to resolve. We also touch upon the nature of fictionalised personal narrative and the blurred lines between 'making things up' and imagining what 'could have' happened in life.
      Presented by author David Szalay.
      Producer Matt Thompson Rockethouse Productions ltd.

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  • fictions
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    Curiouser and Curiouser
    5 imaginary worlds from Alice In Wonderland made real.
    • Short Description [+]
      Jo Morris came up with and presented this brilliant little series. 5 X 15' features.

      It's a curious fact that many people don't like Alice in Wonderland, they find it too frightening.

    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      Curiouser and Curiouser is an impressionistic take on 'Alice in Wonderland'
      and 'Alice Through the looking glass'. Different aspects of Alice are magnified and distorted in an attempt to draw out the nightmarish quality of her life in that other place.

      We use modern music by the late Toru Takemitsu and we edit the material to
      evoke the logic and illogic of Alice's world. The blend is, we hope,
      unsettling and imaginative.
      5 imaginary worlds from Alice In Wonderland made real.

      1: The Mad Tea Party

      An Edinburgh tea party gets too personal when six 6 year old lassies get
      high on Coke and The Bee Gees. Lewis Carrolląs nightmare world where
      everything is not what it seems is in danger of becoming true.

      2: Who Stole the Tarts?

      Alice is in danger of being had up on charges of stealing the tarts. The
      sentence is 'Off With Her Head'. Luckily British Justice never makes such
      mistakes. Or does it? Ridiculous actual cases come before the bench.

      3: Croquet with the Queen of Hearts

      Croquet played with live flamingoes isnąt easy. What about the real game?
      In Victorian times it was a useful place to lose your head over a girl.
      What about now?

      4: Looking Glass Room

      In 'Through The Looking glass' Alice crosses through a mirror to another
      world. Disturbing psychiatric conditions are brought to a head by mirrors.
      What is it about mirrors that disturb us so?

      5: The Dormouse

      Whilst the British Dormouse slept an invader took over. The true story of
      how the foreign edible dormouse was released by a well meaning zoologist
      and is now taking over peopleąs attics and ousting the real thing.

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    Blindness by José Saramago
    A plague turns an entire population blind….except for one woman.
    ‘A shattering work by a literary master’
    • Short Description [+]
      Nobel prize winning author Saramago wrote this allegory in 1995. We adapted it for BBC R3 in 2007 90'

    • Billing in Radio Times [+]
      A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind: patient zero in a contagion of blindness that sweeps through a city. The authorities isolate the blind in a mental asylum. Blind thugs take over. When all are blind, all the rules change. What it is to be human must change.

      Don’t expect the cosy grammar of a typical radio play, the clues are not provided, the listener will be blind too.

      Written by Nobel prize winning author José Saramago and translation by Giovanni Pontiero.

      Cast

      Doctor's Wife - Josefina Gabrielle

      Doctor - Anthony Howell

      Girl in Dark Glasses - Madeleine Worrall

      Old Man with Eye Patch - Peter Sproule

      Writer - John Rowe

      Car Thief - Stewart Porter

      Driver – Michael Cannon

      Gang Leader - Joe Montana

      Lackey - David Webster

      Driver's Wife - Pat Borthwick

      Boy - Sean Gardner


      Sound Design: Joe Acheson

      Adaptor and director: Matt Thompson
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  • poems
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    Woods Beyond a Cornfield
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    Night Fishing
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    • Walking a Stick Back Home [+]

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  • noise
    This section is under construction but this will give you all you need!

    A gigantic series I produced with Professor David Hendy. All his ideas and writing, I put it together. He also wrote a great book to go with it.

    Link to BBC site of series

    Link to Book

    Link to all the audio.
    IN PRODUCTION NOTES
    SEPT 19-23

    David and I travelled to Orkney and Arc-Sur-Cure neolithic caves in France for Programmes 1 and 4. We also took in Vezelay Abbey which has a remarkable acoustic. We were greatly helped by Iegor Reznikoff. In Paris we did some recording on a street where cats were put on trial in 1730. In Orkney Lisa Budge took us into Maeshowe which is like going into a pyramid. Cosy rather than creepy inside, almost homely for a burial tomb. The weather was still and we could hear echoes at the Ring of Brodgar when David banged a drum we got from Brad (thanks!) at The Orkney Music shop. We recorded between traffic noise. The sun set very quickly.


    Igeor Reznikoff gave us an informal concert deep in the cave.
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    David Hendy at The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. It is said that the stones create a unique echo, with a drum David tests it in perfect conditions on the day before the equinox.

    What did neolithic folk get up to in caves? Imitate animals? Iegor Reznikoff is an expert on acoustics of caves. Here he is in Arcy-sur-Cure, France

  • beautiful
    Under Construction
  • strange
    Under Construction