Afterlives of BBC Radio Features

Wrigley, Amanda (2018). Afterlives of BBC Radio Features. Media History, 24(2) pp. 266–282.



BBC Radio feature programmes written by established literary figures in the mid-twentieth century enjoyed richly creative afterlives across many decades and in a variety of media—for example, in print, as commercial recordings, in theatre performance and on television—as well as in a succession of new productions on radio. This activity kept works alive in the public imagination beyond the ephemeral moment of first broadcast and, it is argued, contributed to the sense (for audiences past and scholars present) of an informal canon of literary radio features. This essay explores the intermedial afterlives of three such literary features—Sackville-West’s The Rescue (1943), MacNeice’s The Dark Tower (1946) and Thomas’ Under Milk Wood (1954)—in order to demonstrate the significance of the form as a site for exploration of social issues, politics and cultural life. The essay concludes with a call for more wide-ranging attention to the protean feature form, including work that may not have persisted in the schedules, or had rich, intermedial afterlives, but that may still offer significant insights into the history of social, political and cultural life in mid-twentieth-century Britain.

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