The Week in Radio: Ordinary Jo Rowling shines in an extraordinary takeover on Woman's Hour

"I do need to walk the dog," remarked JK Rowling, the first guest editor of Woman's Hour in its 68-year history. "And I don't do that in stilettos."

Well, there's another bubble burst, I thought. JK Rowling – or Jo, as she is known – not only walks her own dog, I'm guessing she makes her own bed, butters her own toast and loads her own dishwasher, too. Call yourself a celebrity? Someone get the Kardashians on the phone.

There was a serious intent in asking the author to take part in the week-long Woman's Hour Takeover on Radio 4, and that was to give voice to one of the most successful women of our time while highlighting the causes that she cared about. But her participation also went some way towards demystifying Brand Rowling, revealing the lofty-sounding JK to be plain old Jo, a woman who, as it happens, doesn't spend her days enthroned in a walled castle in jewel-encrusted ball gowns and supping on caviar and truffles, but who goes out, has meetings, pops to M&S and walks her dog. She was, it turned out, an ordinary mortal with the same fears, insecurities and sadnesses as the rest of us.

Thus there was an item on multiple sclerosis, the illness that killed Rowling's mother, and its prevalence among Scottish women. There was also a devastating piece on the scores of children living in care across the world, many of whom have living parents who are unable to look after them. The solution wasn't just money, however. "You can change lives just by writing letters," Rowling revealed. This was good news for those who might feel powerless in the face of the writer and her zillions.

Rowling was a coup for Woman's Hour, but just as significant was the programme's willingness to shake things up. I've always liked it when a long-running show breaks with its format. In the same way that Today's end-of-year guest editor slots offer new perspectives, Woman's Hour's decision to bring in new voices had the effect of blowing away the cobwebs on a BBC institution that has, in the past, suffered from a lack of adventure.

On day two of the takeover, the Olympic athlete Dame Kelly Holmes showed enormous warmth as she explored themes of confidence, determination and motivation. Holmes was clear about the benefits of ambition and deftly dismissed notions of what she might have lost by pursuing it. But I wonder if I was alone in detecting a hint of melancholy in her assertion that, "Without a goal or direction, I don't feel I'm living my life."

The novelist and tech-enthusiast Naomi Alderman, who one suspects would make a fine drinking companion, wasn't scared to start a scrap on air. In the event everyone behaved beautifully on her Wednesday takeover, though sparks flew on Twitter following her debate about feminism's discrimination against transgender women.

It appears there are those at the radical end of feminism who wish to exclude transgender women from the debate on the somewhat laughable basis of having once enjoyed male privilege. The journalist and transgender campaigner Paris Lees was moving in her description of an unprivileged childhood spent scared to go to school and even more scared to go home and face her father, while Alderman reflected on an issue that is, she says, "deeply divisive and painful". These are not discussions that one often comes across on Radio 4, a network not exactly famed for its diversity. So all hail Alderman and Woman's Hour. More of this, please.

Twitter.com/FionaSturges

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss