The Week in Radio

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The Independent Culture
IF YOU'RE a male resident in Iran these days, life's doorway is wide open. You can enjoy group laughter sessions at dawn in Teheran's public park. You can learn the great truths of Islam from a CD-Rom in a downtown computer-software centre. Or you can go to football matches, standing on the terraces with 30,000 other like-minded fellows, passing glasses of hot tea to one another and shouting rude things at the ref.

For women, however, there is much less choice. Apparently, it's football or nothing. In Crossing Continents (Radio 4, Thursday), Tim Whewell related how thousands of women fought their way into a stadium after their national team's victory over the United States in last year's World Cup. Hitherto they had been barred from watching or taking part in the game, but lately these women have gone it alone, setting up independent sports federations and playing five-a-side matches behind closed doors. Twenty years after the revolution, women in Iran are still obliged to wear full Muslim dress when they go out. But they feel a lot better about it now that they can add a pair of football boots as well.

The idea of the game of football giving hope to people is a noble one, as most Manchester City supporters will know. One of their biggest fans is Curly Watts, the actor from Coronation Street who plays Kevin Kennedy in real life. Dream Teams (Radio 5, Monday) gave him 20 minutes to go into raptures about the great days at Maine Road (which he remembers from his childhood). "Football at Man City defies logic," he admitted at one point during the programme. "You never know what the Blues are going to do next." Meanwhile, the presenter Jim White quietly taunted him by simply not mentioning Manchester United.

Berry Gordy's Motown (Radio 2, Wednesday) told another sort of success story. The record company Gordy founded in 1959 had a quality control department similar to the ones he'd known while working in the car-assembly plants of Detroit. A deft touch indeed, especially when the man he put in charge of quality was Norman Whitfield, producer of The Velvelettes' "Needle in a Haystack". Such foresight set Berry Gordy way ahead of the field in the early Sixties, and with acts like The Temptations, The Supremes and the Four Tops, there was little that could go wrong.

Except when the bigger labels tried to lure away the talent. Tamla Motown preferred to invest in research and development, rather than offer big advances for its artists, with the result that occasionally they would be tempted away. The first to defect was Mary Wells, best remembered for her performance of "My Guy". A rival company offered her half a million dollars, and she quickly jumped ship.

Less tempting was the offer made to Aaron Smith, navigator of the merchant ship Harrington. In 1822 he was abducted by pirates and forced to join their operations off the Cuban coast. Descendants: The Atrocities of the Pirates (Radio 4, Saturday) was a grim account of life on board ship in the 19th century. If you disobeyed your captain the punishment was harsh; you could be flogged, then roped by the ankles and pulled underneath the keel of the vessel. Very nasty, and that was just in the Royal Navy. If the pirates got you, it was much worse.