News

Since the Second World War, when the BBC provided news and comfort for a nation in great peril, it has played a central role in British life and culture. That is why any proposals for radical change at the Corporation, or any sign that its standards might be slipping, deeply disturb its loyal admirers.

Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester<br/>The Crash of the Elysium, MediaCity UK, Salford<br/>Biophilia, Campfield Market Hall, Manchester

Damon Albarn's opera makes an ambitious attempt to resurrect the spirit of a once important Elizabethan courtier

The Week in Radio: Outlook for adultery in Birmingham excellent

News that the Shipping Forecast has been turned into a choral work for performance in Portsmouth Cathedral comes as no surprise. It is surely one of the great classics of radio. The incantatory rhythm, at once familiar and mysterious, as incomprehensible as Old English, as consoling as a Latin creed, has long inspired poets. Its heart-stopping phrases, "falling slowly", "precipitation within sight", seem to have no connection to our humdrum inland weather, where rain is either "useful" or "unfortunate" and whose forecasters are cheery or apologetic by turns as if personally accountable for the heavens. The Shipping Forecast's storms are never anthropomorphised. Its gales suggest distant peril, from which we can feel safe. Given that scarcely a week passes without the BBC holding some kind of listener survey, it's surely only a matter of time before we're asked our favourite radio programme and I'd guess the Shipping Forecast would be up there for many.

Minor British Institutions: National treasures

Our National Treasures are instantly identifiable but difficult of definition. They are mostly rather old, but there's more to it: Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley have been NTs for years, while David Beckham was finally ushered in at the Royal Wedding.

Sir David Attenborough: CGI confuses fact and fiction

Sir David Attenborough has warned that advances in computer graphics mean viewers can no longer tell what is real and what has been artificially generated in science documentaries.

First Night: The Tree Of Life, Cannes International Film Festival

Malick pursues his vision in a lyrical, baffling tour de force

Butterfly effect: Why Britain is suddenly all of a flutter

Three sodden summers brought many butterflies to the brink of extinction. But now Britain's most endangered species are making a comeback thanks to 2010's Indian summer and conservation efforts.

Pay attention, 007: Daniel Craig moves into Sir David Attenborough's territory

It will be hard to fill the mighty planet-traversing shoes of Sir David Attenborough, Britain's greatest broadcasting naturalist.

Charles Nevin: The sweet smell of success

Start the week: The Odor-Eaters National Rotten Sneakers Contest was won this year by a nine-year-old from Utah

It's a right carry on ... up the jungle

Explorer Benedict Allen reveals that nature documentaries are as tricksy as any other kind of filming, and we collude in the deceit

It's Your Round, Radio 4, Thursday<br/>David Attenborough's Life Stories, Radio 4, Friday

A Radio 4 panel show? Your rehab is almost complete, Mr Deayton

Last Night's TV: Madagascar/BBC2<br />A History of Ancient Britain/BBC2

It's a little early to say whether Outcasts is going to be a hit or a space turkey. If it's the latter then nobody's going to have to worry too much about exoplanet locations for science-fiction series, since it will have effectively scorched the Earth for at least the next five years. If it works, though, there's going to be something of a rush on for vistas on this planet that look like they're on another. Might I suggest an early provisional booking for Madagascar, a wondrously unfamiliar landscape that comes helpfully accessorised with an otherworldly ecology. More than 80 per cent of the species are found nowhere else on Earth, which helps to maintain the frisson of alienation, and what's more many of the animals even sound like they've been invented by a science-fiction writer. Anyone for the tenrec, a kind of elongated hedgehog that produces a litter of up to 32 tiny (and spiny) little tenrecs? And if that doesn't take your fancy what about the fossa, a giant tree-climbing mongoose with a pair of vampire fangs? Or the sifaka, a white lemur that gallops sideways through the undergrowth?

Mad about Madagascar

David Attenborough loves its exuberant wildlife, but this island in the Indian ocean has much more besides lemurs to offer, reveals Kate Eshelby

Twin-swapping raises odds on panda survival

A Chinese breeding centre has developed a remarkable technique that fools the mother, meaning many more animals survive

Open Jaw: Time to take a hard line on ski helmets

Where readers write back

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Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
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Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

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Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

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A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
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Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
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KidZania: It's a small world

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