The Choice, Radio 4, Tuesday
Outlook, World Service, Monday

Make the most of terrific interviews like these – they'll soon be gone

So farewell then On the Ropes, Between Ourselves, The Choice and Taking a Stand: you will soon be things of the past, ex-programmes, relegated to reruns on Radio 4 Extra, ousted to make way for a Tuesday-morning science strand, the first victims of Gwyneth Williams' need to make her mark as the newish Controller of Radio 4.

Well, the science strand had better be good, because there have been some terrific interviews in those four programmes down the years from, respectively, John Humphrys, Olivia O'Leary, Michael Buerk and Fergal Keane.

The valedictory series of The Choice kicked off with an interview that was up there with the best of that show's output. Mikey Walsh was born into a family of Romany bare-knuckle fighters, and he was expected to continue the tradition. His father began his training when he was not quite five (cue outraged gasp from the excellent Buerk); he'd have to put his arms behind his head while his father punched him to test his pain threshold, "to see how far he could go until I cried" (at which point he'd give Mikey a proper hiding).

Even now, a successful author, with Gypsy Boy a best-seller and its sequel imminent, he sounds sweet and vulnerable. He was clearly a bitter disappointment to his father who put him, at the age of seven, in the ring with an 11-year-old Irish traveller, who was told "to beat the crap out of me".

Mikey's account of gypsy life was simultaneously distressing and riveting, told with love despite the hardships and, basically, abuse. As he got older and realised he was gay – a big gypsy no-no – he dreamed of escape, and at 15 he ran away: "It was almost a live-or-die decision." The only way was up: begging at first, then work in a burger bar, learning to read and write, three years' drama training at Guildhall, and finally his memoir.

Quite soon into the programme you could hear Mikey fighting the waterworks, and he stayed like that. The tears finally came when he recounted a call to his mother: she passed the phone to his dad, who said, "I've got something to tell you: you're more of a fighting man than any of them, and I'm proud of you." The tears weren't just Mikey's, I have to say.

There was absolutely no blubbing during the telling of another extraordinary tale of adversity, on Outlook, the vehicle for another fine interviewer, Matthew Bannister. He spoke to the New York Times photographer Joao Silva, who was in Afghanistan seven months ago – and stepped on a landmine.

"I knew the legs were gone – I've seen enough mangled flesh in my time to make an assessment," said Silva. So what did he do on his stretcher? Carried on taking pictures, of course. Wouldn't you? He spoke to Bannister by phone from his hospital bed, though he has started negotiating the stairs on his prostheses – "It's certainly not graceful, I can tell you" – and you got the feeling that his resolutely matter-of-fact tone wasn't mere bravado. "No point in looking back," he said: "It's a done deal ... unfortunately there's no rewind button – you just bulldoze your way through." I suspect he'd get on well with Mikey Walsh.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935