LEADERS OF THE PACK / One war widow's fight to the death: Radio Programme Of The Year

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The Independent Culture
A DIGNIFIED, eloquent, very old lady called Gertrude Farr died last summer. She had spent 75 years hoping that her husband's good name would be restored, but it wasn't. The story of Harry Farr, wrongly shot for cowardice in Flanders, was told in Matt Thompson's It is with Very Great Regret (R4), part of the excellent Document series and the best programme I heard this year. It combined the excitement of discovery with a sense of living history as Gertrude remembered her distant courting days and her tragic widowing. And it came right up to date with John Major's insulting refusal to set the record straight.

With the field so full of fanciable runners, it is hard to pick a winner. Some Radio 4 series with proven staying power, such as Medicine Now, Woman's Hour and Kaleidoscope all had a good year and the quiz show Slightly Foxed, though comparatively new, is so well managed by Gill Pyrah that it should run and run. The World Service has been my big discovery, particularly for its truly international News, its erudite but accessible History of Warfare, its beguiling Artists in a Nutshell and its magnificent Marlowe and Stoppard seasons. It also produced the best single play, Marsha Norman's tense, emotional Night Mother.

Individual broadcasters slipped away from other good things to stand alone. From Allan Little in Bosnia, came the most compassionate and lucid foreign reporting. Gerry Anderson provided a similar standard of coverage for Northern Ireland, leavened with endearingly wry and quizzical humour. Brian Redhead sunlighted from Today to make the first Priestland Memorial Lecture a model of humane wisdom.

Classic FM grew broader while Radio 3 regained its steadiness, broadcasting a blessed balm of excellence - a recent highlight was the Polska] season. Radio 5, unfairly doomed, produced some magnificent teenage features. But the most consistent serial killer was the unmissable I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (R4). When my husband broke his leg, it was the only thing in the world that made him laugh.

(Photograph omitted)

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