I love making radio programmes. Both for the freedom I get in producing the material for them, there’s so much less fuss than in tv, and for the impact radio has on its listeners, they have so much more room to think and to imagine. Radio makes a theatre of one’s head. None of the programmes below would have been possible without the excellent and inspiring work of the producers I have been privileged to work with, they are the true stars of the medium. Thank you for listening and please let me know what you think and feel about the work.
Programmes I Have Made for Radio 4
How to Archive Yourself
In October 1998 Gordon Bell went paperless. This is Gordon Bell, of Microsoft, who has been described as “the Frank Lloyd Wright of computers”. He has archived everything he has written and now records the minutiae of his life digitally as part of a project called MyLifeBits, an experiment designed to assist and maybe even supersede memory. But now that we can record so much of our lives are we missing out on the living of them?
The wealth, range and affordability of devices to record your own life - from the ‘basic’ camera phone, hand-held internet connection, and even biological and genetic sequencing, has expanded exponentially over recent years.
Take a look at the next event you are enjoying - viewing the Mona Lisa, watching David Byrne at the Royal Festival Hall, enjoying a friend’s birthday cake candles being blown out - and count how many people are watching and how many are recording the moment.
But what is all this for? Why are we doing it? And is an archive an archive if it is not structured, indexed, given meaning? Talking to passionate archivist Robert Fripp, from King Crimson, dispassionate archivist Geoff Dyer, and Sue Aldworth, an artists whose whole house is her archive, presenter and self-archivist Toby Amies argues that the virtual moment has now become a vital part of the moment, not a dilution of it and that by being part of this new explosion of archiving we are playing our part in a shift of consciousness. He believes that the virtual is becoming as important, or as real, as the real and that this is part of the slow move into a future where technology and humans intersect in a different way. He examines the explosion in the archiving of human existence, wondering whether we are in the age of the super diary or at a launching point for the transference of our consciousness into the digital universe, for good.
Producer: Sara Jane Hall. First broadcast 9th April 2011
The Artiness of Naughtiness
What have Jonathon Swift, Orson Welles, Marcel Duchamp, Yoko Ono, Malcolm Mclaren, Jeremy Beadle, and Sacha Baron Cohen got in common? Toby Amies discovers how tricksters and pranksters have turned the poking of fun into an art form.
Pranking is such a part of society, we’ve got a specially sanctioned day of misrule in the calendar. Mark Twain described the 1st of April as “the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year”. But for some people April Fool’s day is just not enough; generally opposed to the status quo, they are determined to alter our relationship with reality by forcing us to question its veracity.
There are pranksters who have been determined to show us our folly all year round and most have philosophical, political and artistic reason to do so.
Toby investigates this reasoning behind pranking - discovering why people will risk consequences as serious as prison to make a point or get a laugh. Sometime the motivation behind a prank is not always only a good laugh at someone else’s expense. It can be a very serious business.
Toby draws a wobbly line from the court jester to the hoaxes of Swift and Welles to Yves Klein to the playful Marxism[!] of Debord and the Situationsists, through to the commercial modern pranking industry and the work of Sacha Baron Cohen, Improv Everywhere, Jeremy Beadle and America’s king of the prank, Joey Skaggs.
Producer: Rob Alexander. First Broadcast 1st April 2011
Beatmining with the Vinyl Hoover
Broadcaster Toby Amies digs into the archives to discover the value and significance of old vinyl.
He uncovers a network of dealers and buyers, supplying a community of ‘crate diggers’ and 'beat miners’ and a world in which samples from records bought for a few pence in a car boot sale can provide the basis for a million-selling hit.
Produced by Tamsin Hughes. First broadcast 28th March 2009
The Man Whose Mind Exploded
Toby Amies meets Drako Oho Zarhazar, an extraordinary resident of a Brighton council estate. Drako has modelled for Salvador Dali, been filmed by Andy Warhol, spent some wild times with Keith Richards and danced at the London Palladium. He has also been in two comas, had two nervous breakdowns and made two suicide attempts. He now has almost no short term memory and has filled his flat with thousands of pieces of paper to remind him of who he is and what is happening in his life.
Produced by Sara Jane Hall. First broadcast 22nd May 2008.
Nominated for The Prix Europa
Who Likes Techno?
Toby Amies explores the history of Techno. Created in Detroit in 1988, the originators of the genre were strongly influenced by the aesthetics of Arthur C Clarke and Fritz Lang.