Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Short Story Tradition Savita Kalhan

The recent announcement by BBC Radio 4 that the short story slots were being cut was met by an outcry by writers and listeners alike. The new controller, Gwyneth Williams, intended to axe them in order to make room for more news, specifically a longer World at One programme. She felt that the programme wasn’t long enough. In her words, “Stories now develop faster and need a fresh eye by lunchtime. Parliament sits in the morning now and WATO needs to cover emerging issues." Many people disagreed with her. Yes, current affairs are important, but is fifteen minutes every other day too much for a small slice of fiction?

A campaign began to save the short story slots. A petition was started and signed by almost 6,000 people the last time I checked. To sign – No More Short Story Cuts - please follow the link below.

The campaign has already helped bring about a small U-turn. Radio 4 have said they will keep two short story slots instead of one.

Short stories suited radio, and Radio 4 championed them for many years. But why is the short story so suited to radio?

Maybe because the short story has its roots in oral tradition. Long, long ago, short stories were told before they were read aloud. They had their origins in fables and anecdotes in many cultures across the world. But the same is true of the intervening years and it’s even true of the present day. The short story has been around since before Aesop. Chaucer wrote a linked collection, The Canterbury Tales. The short story covers every genre from crime to science fiction, and every age group from toddlers to adults.

If you’re lucky to have had parents who read aloud to you as a child, you will probably have been read short stories, and before that stories told from pictures. In school you will have been taught how to write compositions for English exams. They were basically short stories. As you got older, those short stories may have become longer.

For me, listening to a short story on the radio is an oasis in the day. I won’t know where I will be taken or how far it will take me, or how much I will enjoy it, or become involved in it. But I know the voice in the story will transport me to a very different place, to a different experience, and that is something I look forward to.

I wasn’t one of the lucky ones whose parents read to them as a young child because my mother was illiterate, but, like generations before her, she retold the stories that had been handed down to her by word of mouth...


Stroppy Author said...

So true - it's not as though the BBC doesn't provide other places people can get their news fix, after all! And much of the news is either waffle or barrel-scraping and really *doesn't* need an update! And it's not as though they couldn't claw some time back by reducing the number of repeats, either... #bbcgrouch

Sue Sedgwick said...

Thanks for the link. I've signed and will pass it on

Savita Kalhan said...

Anne - so true about the repeats too!
Sue - thanks for signing the petition and sharing the link.

Emma Barnes said...

I do agree...despite being a news junkie. Maybe I am biased as I had a short story "The Prince's Favourite" broadcast on Radio 4, and going to listen to Claire Skinner record it, then getting so much positive feedback afterwards, was both a huge pleasure but also made me realise how big an audience this slot reaches, and how much short stories are enjoyed.

Savita Kalhan said...

Emma, congratulations on having your short story read on radio! And yes, the short slot reaches so many people. It's a shame they're being cut down.