5 days in the life of ... Martha Kearney

A member of the new-look Radio 4 team goes inside Holloway Prison
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Indy Lifestyle Online
MONDAY: The morning that James Boyle, the head of Radio 4, announced the changes to the network, and a lot of us presenters were gathered on the steps of All Souls, opposite Broadcasting House, for press photographs. I'm to present Woman's Hour on the days that Jenni Murray is not in the chair, so the photographers wanted to take pictures of me and Jenni together, and she was saying, "Not too close, not too close!", in case it looked too soppy. Then we went inside BH to the Council Chamber, the holy of holies, for the press conference. There are big portraits of former director- generals on the walls, including Alasdair Milne in a kilt. I was told the story of the time when Woman's Hour was feeling the need to assert itself, and someone from the programme stuck badges on the portraits saying "I'm a Woman's Hour man". It made me think, at least I'm joining a programme with spirit. Then a car took me for our first day's filming for Newsnight in Holloway Prison, so that was a bit of a contrast.

TUESDAY: We're looking at the impact of the big rise in the population in women's prisons, and whether many of the women should even be there. It took a long time to negotiate access. It's disruptive having a film crew in, and there hasn't been one for two years. You have to have a prison officer with you all the time, plus a press officer from the Prison Service, and often the deputy governor is with us, too. It's a lot of effort for them. We've brought an all-woman crew. Filming interviews we felt there might be situations in which that would be helpful.

It was my younger brother Peter's birthday today. He came up from his home in Bury St Edmunds and, with my parents and my partner, Chris, we all had a meal out in Covent Garden.

WEDNESDAY: In a women's prison there's a much greater sense of shame than in a man's - many of the prisoners have told their children that they've had to go away for work, or that they are on holiday. So they have to remain anonymous for interviews, and we film them from behind. We're concentrating on women who've committed relatively minor offences. We talk to one who had evaded a pounds 14 taxi fare. Her bail is pounds 400. She can't raise it and her child's been taken into care. Should she be there? Then there is Celia; she's known as Budgie because all she does is sit on her radiator all day. Her family live in Kent, and they find it difficult to visit her. She got quite distressed. The grinding misery of it all is terrible.

This evening I'd been invited to a party at the Irish embassy, but I was so tired when I got home that I fell asleep and didn't wake up until 9pm. So I missed it.

THURSDAY: We had a classic TV moment when we arrived in the prison sewing room and a prisoner said to us, "You should have been filming here yesterday". They'd been sewing the sash for the winner of the prison beauty contest.

Tonight a woman from House Beautiful magazine came round to interview me. I didn't think I was a celeb or that my home - in Fulham - was exactly beautiful. I kept apologising for the carpet, and saying things like we had always intended to re-enamel the bath.

FRIDAY: Spent the day back at Television Centre going through what we'd shot. You always think about the things you've missed, but then you might find you've got something good without realising it. We had a piece of film of a woman on the phone to her young daughter, and she was saying, "If I don't phone tomorrow it's because I can't afford a phone card".

Martha Kearney's report on Holloway Prison is due to go out on 'Newsnight', BBC2, 10.30pm, Tuesday. 'Woman's Hour' is on Radio 4 at 10.30am, Monday- Friday, for two more weeks. From 6 April it moves to 10am, with an additional Saturday edition at 4pm.

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