Christmas Links #10


"Sounds Iconic welcomes you to a collection of ghostly tales, perfect for those long Christmas nights. From classics by H.G. Wells and M.R. James, not to mention Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, you'll hear stories from modern writers like Daisy Johnson and Lizzie Nunnery."

"Nothing lights up the night like Christmas – and the best place to appreciate the scale of its spectacle is definitely from above."

"Take care if seafood is on the menu on the 25th – prawns, salmon and other fish can be tainted by slavery even if they're from New Zealand."

"Newsreel visited a group of Serbian refugees, celebrating Christmas in Suffolk."

"The country superstar has written a clutch of new songs for this Appalachian take on the festive classic. But will she drop by to see it?"

"For study of the status of birds in the Americas here’s nothing else like it in terms of geographic coverage and duration of time—even the revered Breeding Bird Survey has “only” been run for 56 years."

"Every year somewhere between 25 million and 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States. If you’re one of the people who decorate for the holiday with a freshly cut Christmas tree, you might be wondering how to keep it looking good all the way through Santa’s visit – and maybe even a little beyond."

"Not too long ago, LGBTQ+ people who wanted to see themselves represented in holiday movies could either (a) pretend or (b) settle for a second-rate film with a queer character who had very few lines, ambition, or development."

"It's a little hard to find, but the full version of the hit Muppets film, now including the song "When Love Is Gone," is available on Disney+."

Christmas Links #9

Links  Crikey Review 2010, take a step back.  Having enjoyed giving my opinion about things to the three people people who asked the year before and wanting to somehow post something every day in that December, I designated myself an "opinion engine" and solicited for people to suggest topics for me to offer a viewpoint on, and boy, did I.  Paragraphs and paragraphs of them, from this existential odyssey to this other existential odyssey.

Because inevitably I didn't get enough suggestions, I padded out the month with some book and films reviews and co-opted in a survey of that year's Doctor Who,  Christmas Carol (poor Abigail).  Doctor Who also inspired the post I'm highlighting, which was one of my few attempts at writing some Doctor Who fan fiction in which the Eleventh Doctor and Amy do battle with a rather troublesome alien rat which only a few months later did I realise was basically the same gag as Beep The Meep.

"It’s beginning to look a lot like, City A.M.’s annual Christmas sandwiches taste test!"

"Whether it’s trifle, mince pies or cake, turn ready-made products into home-made puddings this Christmas…"

"Coca-Cola is hoping that this holiday season, families will crack open some Cokes, settle into a comfy spot and watch its first Christmas Anthology film series."

"A parish church has been lit up by 47 festive trees at a town's first Christmas tree festival."

"I have more stuff than I want, need or have room for. But still I cling on to that trouser press my dad gave me many years ago."

"Newsreel documented the making of "the periodical with the world's biggest sale", the Radio Times Christmas edition."

"His Majesty the King broadcasts at 3.0 on Christmas afternoon following 'Christmas Journey,' the world-wide programme at 2.0 p.m."

"Wind Chill, for all intents and purposes, accomplished exactly what it was meant to when released back in 2007."

"A nine-year-old child just wants apples and a milky bar for Christmas, a heartbreaking list of requested festive presents has revealed."

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1929.

The Listener, the BBC's in-house magazine containing transcripts of radio programmes and latterly reviews of programmes and new books began publishing in 1929.  Although a project has been undertaking to make the issues available digitally unfortunately it's now behind a paywall apart from a few limited selections.

Also not available online (that I could see) are transcripts of EM Forster's talks so find below a review of the collected works to give you some flavour.  The Week in Westminster also began in 1929, so I've decided to link to a documentary from the 80th anniversary in 2009 which features clips from its history.


"On 6 November 1929 listeners to BBC radio heard the first ever programme to analyse the workings of Parliament. The 15-minute scripted talk billed as The Week in Parliament was the first in a new series to be presented by woman MPs and aimed at women voters. In the words of its producer Marjorie Wace the notion was to have "a woman MP to give a simple explanatory talk on the week in parliament, every Wednesday morning at 10.45; a time we find most busy woman can listen best when they have their cup of tea.""
[Random Radio Jottings]

"The Week in Westminster, one of the longest-running radio programmes, celebrates 80 years of broadcasting. Peter Oborne looks back on its history."
[BBC Sounds]

Fascinating piece in which its revealed that after the Tories lost the 1929 general election, Winston Churchill offered to pay the BBC a hundred pounds out of his own pocket to allow him to speak for half an hour on politics.  Reith turned him down because it would lead to a US-style "time for money" scheme.  Churchill's reaction?   That "he preferred the American approach to “the present British methods of debarring public men from access to a public who wish to hear."
[International Churchill Society]

"The maverick Churchill and other critical voices were kept off the BBC in the 1930s."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"It is not, perhaps generally realised that, in one sense, time is the basis of all broadcasting, for time is the reference against which is measured the frequency of the electromagnetic waves used for radio transmission."
[British Horological Society via Transdiffusion]


"Using BBC frequencies, John Logie Baird broadcast some of his first experimental television broadcasts from studios near Covent Garden in London. Pictures were in black and white, created by mechanical means, and flickered, consisting of just 30 lines definition."
[BBC Clips]

"John Logie Baird is rightfully regarded as the father of television, but the experimental “low definition” transmissions on medium wave that the BBC, after continuing lobbying of the Postmaster General, Sir William Mitchell-Thompson, by the Baird company, began, from September 30, 1929, to transmit on 2LO from Baird’s studio facility at Savoy Hill were hardly representative of the shape of things to come."

"The second of the booklets produced under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Spoken English deals with the perplexing question of the English place name, and it is to be hoped that the information here published will be of interest not only to the English-speaking world, but to the ever-increasing body of foreigners who make English their second language"

Forster began giving a series of talks on the BBC in 1929 and these were later published as The BBC Talks of EM Forster, 1929-1960.  Here in 2008, Zadie Smith reviews the collection for the The New York Review of Books.
[The New York Review of Books]


"Broadcasting is still in its early years, and there are no precedents to assist in forecasting its development."

"The Handbooks of 1928 and 1929 are now followed by the first issue of the Year-Book, which, it is believed, takes its place as an important auxiliary to the broadcasting service."
[World Radio History]

Christmas Links #8

Links  Review 2009 was even shorter, just four posts which went out weekly.  It was the year that Twitter felt like it went mainstream and so the idea was for people to interview me via Elno's new toy and with the twist that I wouldn't know what the topic would be beforehand and then I'd just post the results.  In the end I managed to get three people to participate, although one of them wasn't on Twitter so we did it on Facebook instead.  If memory serves, Twitter was a bit flaky and labour intensive as a way of conducting long conversations due to the 140 character limit so it was a big ask for people to become involved.

So here's me talking off the top of my head / entering Pseud's Corner and staying there on film ("I loved Big Fish - thought it was like his silly/dark early themes were distilled into something dark and poignant"), whether pop music is dead ("Arguably the sea change happened when the first, best, Sugababes line-up were dropped by the record company because their singles only charted in the top twenty and that was registered a failure.") and the news ("But isn't it true that it's impossible to present the news without some kind of bias or agenda, political or otherwise?").
"Arthur Rackham is one of the great figures of Britain's Golden Age of illustration."

"A ninety-year-old Vermont farmer tells all."

"A safety risk in Port Macquarie, an inappropriately spiky star and a literal coat rack are among the nation’s least-accomplished examples of festive spirit."

"Christmas is upon us, which means it’s time to rediscover all those favourite festive pieces of music."

"A British writer covering indie and retro gaming, esports, and more."

"See the huge names set to enter the battle for this year's coveted Christmas chart-topper."

"Russell T Davies is already working on 2024's festive episode."

""No polished West End actors these, just members of a village congregation"  Newsreel secured front row seats to the entertainment event of the year - the Pentlow nativity play.""

"Self-described Christmas fanatic Blair Struble never missed flying home to Michigan to spend the holiday with family – until the pandemic hit in 2020."

"The Christmas market didn't have the Christmas vibe we anticipated."

Christmas Links #7

Links  Review 2008 was a bit of a bijou selection of posts, clustered in the gap between Christmas and the last day of the year.  The premise was to write a series of open letters to a number of subjects and the end these were Obama (who had just been elected US President), the ten year old version of me, the BBC (just weathering Sachsgate), Steve Coogan (who seemed to be rehearsing his tour on stage in front of paying customers) and my choice from the year, George Lucas which is a lesson in careful what you wish for.

Advent crown (1965)
"Christopher Trace makes the iconic Blue Peter Advent crown. BBC Archive reckons you should probably replace those candles with something less of a fire risk these days, maybe some nice LED ones."

"I could eat a Christmas dinner every day – and so I did, all in the name of research. But from Wetherspoon’s to Beefeater and Toby Carvery, which chain had the perfect roasties, the best brussels and the poshest pigs in blankets?"

"Christmas has arrived at a central meeting point in Parliament - following the gift of a tree by the ambassador for Georgia to the Speaker of the House of Commons."

"The towns who are going to great lengths to make sure their Christmas lights stay on during the cost of living crisis."

"We asked you to send in your strange and wonderful Christmas ornaments and you didn't disappoint. Here are some of the special decorations you have sent in so far."

"Jack Pepper curates a playlist of the best arrangements of festive favourites from carols to jazz hits."

"Handpicked festive music for every Christmas occasion from BBC Sounds."

"Oliver Johnson, Professor of Information Theory at the University of Bristol, helped explain the constant stream of statistics during the pandemic. He has also been busy writing his debut book Numbercrunch, out next year with Heligo Books, which reveals how numerical thinking can help resolve some of life’s biggest conundrums."

“As soon as we heard about Mission Christmas, myself and the other artists wanted to get involved"

"Some Britons to receive one-off, tax-free gift to boost festive coffers."

Christmas Links #6

Links  With Review 2007, I pushed things back into the blogosphere and asked others to define what "home" meant to them.  Perhaps signalling the times, I didn't get as many submissions, but the quality was incredibly high.  I rather cheated by submitting a book review, but there had already been two other entries about Liverpool and I didn't want to repeat myself.  Also unlike previous years, I emailed more strangers out of the blue so that some far-flung places could be included.

The entries were incredibly heartfelt.  Perhaps the most relevant for today is the piece by Annette about her home town of El Paso and her interactions with the local immigrant population.  It's an incredibly moving piece, especially given everything which has happened since and how similar people, perhaps even relatives of those mentioned have systematically had their humanity removed in the eyes of some members of the public.

"Paint a friend’s ceiling, fix their bike, babysit. There’s joy to be had if you pull yourself off the meathook of consumerism."

"A Manchester company has set up a 'virtual store' on something called the internet.  This clip is from North West Tonight.  Originally broadcast 22 December 1997."

"Lindsay Lohan’s comeback in Falling for Christmas puts Netflix in a strong position but there are countless hunks-in-plaid yuletide romcom options this year."

"For the first time in the poll’s 70-year history, a film by a female filmmaker takes the top spot: Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles."

"Over the weekend of Saturday, December 2 residents were left dismayed after spotting a tiny Christmas tree in the town centre."

"A teenager in Cornwall has run out of space on the front of his house so he has decided to decorate the rest of his housing estate."

"An excited golden retriever not only couldn't wait for Christmas before unwrapping her gift, but she also knew exactly which one was hers."

"The final dates for sending off packages for Christmas have been brought forward."

"One of the UK's largest accountancy firms will close most of its offices over Christmas and New Year for the first time to save on energy bills."

"The Mendelson family would love to find the envelope where their father, Lee, scribbled some lyrics to jazz musician Vince Guaraldi’s composition “Christmas Time is Here” for an animated TV special featuring the “Peanuts” gang in 1965."

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1928.

You will notice that the selection below, apart from the opening lecture, is mostly texts and documents.  Some years aren't as well represented in the archives I've been covering and so now and then they will be a slightly threadbare, though I hope with a no less interesting selection.

One of the topics I've been less able to find material on is the foundation of the BBC Dance Orchestra under Jack Payne (see above).  Even the History of the BBC page is a bit threadbare.  Fortunately they did release a lot of material on 78 and there are plenty of those recordings at the Internet Archive.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

"The technical challenges of transmitting a service live from a space like King’s with its notoriously difficult acoustic must have been an almost impossibly ambitious feat in 1928, involving early Marconi-Reisz microphones slung on cables across the Chapel as well as fixed around the building."
[Recorded Church Music]

"To mark the centenary of this Christmas tradition, composer Bob Chilcott returns to King's College Chapel to explore the history of the service, to meet the people involved and to reflect on why this sequence of carols and readings has had such a major impact."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

Includes detailed account of the first broadcast, including order of service and participants.
[Gresham College]

Behind The Scenes

"Memorandum from William Joynson-Hicks, Home Secretary, concerning the commemoration of the Armistice and the BBC, 16 April, 1928."
This led the way to the first radio broadcast of the service of remembrance from the cenotaph later that year.
[The National Archive]

Wide-ranging video lecture by Professor Jeremy Summerly about BBC radio in this period which partly uses as its basis a poem written by a listener to the Radio Times in 1928.
[Gresham College]

"If the true policy of an open forum is adopted the BBC may become one of the greatest educational forces in the country."
[The Guardian]

"In advance of a special Media Show debate on the future of the BBC, Steve Hewlett explores the troubled past behind today's dilemmas - and traces them back to the Corporation's origins in the distant world of the 1920s."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"The year 1928 witnessed a steady endeavour to improve the quality and increase the variety of programme material transmitted, and developed the plans for better distribution combined with a service of alternative programmes, referred to in the last Report as the Regional Scheme."

"The second issue of this Handbook shows that consolidation and further preparation are the characteristics of 1928 in broadcasting. The plans for an improved system of distribution by fewer and higher powered stations, framed two years ago, received official sanction in principle, and the construction of a twin wavelength regional station for London and the south-east has begun. The work of the Daventry Experimental Station has been continued and developed. It will be seen that there has been no relaxation of effort to improve the programmes."
[World Radio History]

Christmas Links #5

Links  This will have to be quick because I'm writing thison the evening of the 4th, it's almost bedtime and I'm going to Southport tomorrow.  Review 2006 flipped the paradigm of the previous year and was the first year I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer on any topic.  There's a full list here with subsequent comments.  As you can see there were a wide range from asking how to fix Torchwood to why Doctor Who was "so disappointing all of a sudden?" which is a bold moment after what's now considered the imperious second season with the Tenth Doctor and Rose.  

There's some satire ("What are your views on the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre?"), some genuine fact finding ("What is the significance of the Wolf in American Indian teachings?") to others which really challenged me to do some of the personal blogging which I'd probably leave on Twitter if at all now.  Looking back at that final link, I realise that I was more progressive than I thought in those days.  Now I think I'd identify myself as being on the ace spectrum in that I fancy women and want to spend time with them but don't think I could go further.  Or something.

You weren't expecting that, were you?  Anyway, my favourite post is the answer to "Which famous 5 people, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party. What would you eat/drink ? What entertainment would you lay on for the 6 of you afterwards?"  Whereas I could have simply dashed off a list, I went into some detail on the choices which were chosen because they'd been meaningful to me in 2006.  It's also the moment when I realised I'd left a huge factual error in the introduction of my MA dissertation and none of the markers had noticed (I'd accidentally credited Tim Bernier-Lee with coining the term "hyperlink".  Sigh.  Anyway, I'm off to bed.  Good morning.

"Charitable donations peak in December, but what about the rest of the year? Sally Howard meets the people dedicated to random acts of kindness – and learns why giving anonymously is even better for you."

"Channel 4's terrestrial premiere of Season 30 of The Simpsons in the UK began on Tuesday 1st November. A Tuesday. I ask you.  Anyway, it wrapped up earlier this week; back in September, I predicted which episodes might be cut, dropped altogether or otherwise moved around for the fourth year in a row, and here we see how the battle of expectations versus reality panned out."

"Nationwide investigates whether the recession is having an effect on shoppers this Christmas."

"It’s refreshing to have a Jamaican cook from Britain write about Caribbean food culture."

"Christmas market stall holders fear their profit margins will be badly hit this year as their goods are costing far more to produce."

"It's an event - you don't get Wetherspoons prices at an event."

Tie-in author Una McCormack's amazing AMA on the Star Trek Reddit.

"With December finally gracing our doorstep, the season of Christmas candles is officially here, meaning it's time to bring out all the warm, spicy and cosy scents to help us get into the festive spirit."

"Christmas food, parties, celebrations and festivities of all kinds including stage plays, singing and dancing, became illegal under Cromwell making him the original Grinch."

"A Hokkaido-grown Sakhalin fir tree towering about 20 meters was set up for the event at the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse commercial complex next to the city's harbor, and a fireworks display drew oohs and aahs from residents and tourists."

Christmas Links #4

Links  Around this time, seventeen years ago, I was a couple of months into my MA course, working on this assignment about the Doctor Who novel The Dying Days and looking forward to the final course screening of the year, all three hours of The Box of Delights.  Just getting to university had been a five year project of saving up enough money to pay for the tuition by working in call centres.  Sometimes I call it my Everest but it really was, that someone with my background managing to get to a red brick university.

To celebrate, for Review 2005, I boldly asked a bunch of people, mostly fellow bloggers, to write about something they'd achieved that year and in the event, thirty odd people submitted guest blogs which were posted daily across that December.  As I said in the epilogue, I hadn't expected that.  It's all worth reading to be honest so it would be unfair to choose one particular entry although I will say I'm still not convinced at least one of them isn't a hoax and I know for a fact another was written by someone using a pseudonym. 

"Heritage project finds practices thought to bring good fortune in one place were believed to sow disaster down the road."

"James Stewart chats to Michael Parkinson. He explains why Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life is his favourite ever film, and why his trombone teacher had to quit after five days."

"The Christmas fun run returns for its 19th year."

" Perhaps more than any other holiday season, Christmas is full of nostalgia. As the years go on, whether anyone likes it or not, it can be nearly impossible to avoid memories of the seasons that have passed and Christmas traditions around the tree, whether spent with family or alone. As different as those holiday memories are for everyone, so is the music often heard during this time, whether it’s traditional Christmas carols or new tunes."

"Everyone will enjoy a slice of this Christmas cake, which can be baked and matured up to eight weeks before Christmas. Feed the cake weekly with your choice of brandy, rum or whisky for extra moisture and a warming flavour."

"The Gentleman Jack star is a modern-day Scrooge in the Sky Christmas special."

"Two Pittsville families have united this holiday season as Christmas Town and the Nick Family Christmas Light Show will be in the same place in Pittsville for people of all ages to see."

"The Coliseum Shopping Park is based just yards from the festive frenzy at Cheshire Oaks."

"A community in Glasgow is calling for its Christmas tree to be set free after it was obscured by boards and a high fence."

Dreaming of a white Christmas? AccuWeather forecasters weigh in on where it’s most likely:
"Winter got an early start in some areas this year, but will snow stick around long enough for the holiday? AccuWeather meteorologists provide a sneak peek at which places have higher-than-normal chances for snow this Christmas."