Recent Audiobooks

Normally I do an annual audiobook roundup, those titles I’ve produced and/or edited (with my lovely other half Tanja!)  But it has been such a busy year to date, that I felt a quick update now would be useful (and maybe inspire you to buy one or two of these beauties):

DOCTOR WHO: SHADA – Gareth Roberts/Douglas Adams

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From the unique mind of Douglas Adams, the legendary ‘lost’ Doctor Who story completed at last by Gareth Roberts and read by Lalla Ward.

The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University – where nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. But now he needs help from the Doctor, Romana and K-9. When he left Gallifrey he took with him a few little souvenirs – most of them are harmless. But one of them is extremely dangerous.

The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey isn’t a book for Time Tots. It is one of the Artefacts, dating from the dark days of Rassilon. It must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. The sinister Skagra most definitely has the wrong hands. He wants the book. He wants to discover the truth behind Shada. And he wants the Doctor’s mind…

Based on the scripts for the original television series by the legendary Douglas Adams, Shada retells an adventure that never made it to the screen.

READ BY LALLA WARD

THE SECRET OF HAPPY EVER AFTER – Lucy Dillon

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When Anna takes over Longhampton’s bookshop, it’s her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her rowdy children and their hyperactive Dalmatian. As she unpacks boxes of childhood classics, Anna can’t shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn’t all that she’d hoped for. But as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get caught up in the magic too. Even Anna’s best friend Michelle – who categorically doesn’t believe in true love and handsome princes – isn’t immune. But when secrets from Michelle’s own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna’s home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends – and those they love – find their own happy ever afters?

READ BY JILLY BOND

OVER THE MOON: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY – David Essex

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As a young schoolboy, David Essex dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and was signed up by his beloved West Ham United. But as a teenager, he developed a passion for music, which set him on a very different path, and ultimately led to superstardom. It wasn’t, however, an easy start. Scraping a living on the edges of show business was a hard slog, and he endured many disappointments.

Then, aged 23, he went along to an audition for a new musical called Godspell and won the role (Jesus) that shot him to fame. Within a year he was starring in a smash hit film, That’ll Be the Day, and had written and recorded his first number-one single, ‘Rock On’. It was the start of Essex Mania, and a long journey of undreamt of adventure.

From Godspell to EastEnders, it’s been an amazing life. And here is David’s full incredible story – in his own words.

READ BY DAVID ESSEX

THE VOYAGES OF THE PRINCESS MATILDA – Shane Spall

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“Tim and I both understood we had done something really stupid. We had underestimated the danger involved in going out to sea. We had no radio, compass, life raft, or flares. In other words, we were a couple of idiots.”

This is the story of Shane and Timothy Spall and their Dutch barge, The Princess Matilda. After a summer on the Thames they head out to sea with only a road atlas and a vast amount of ignorance – and it is absolutely terrifying!  On their travels, memories are triggered of childhood trips to the seaside, but also of more recent times.

As Tim and Shane explore the coast from the Medway to Cornwall, eventually they start to wonder: Could they make it out of England altogether? Could Matilda make it to … Wales?!  Taking place over the course of five years, The Voyages of the Princess Matilda is a minor epic, charting a very personal, moving, and uplifting story of an everyday couple’s adventure around their much-loved homeland. The Spalls’ adventures have already been the subject of two BBC4 series.

READ BY FRANCES BARBER

WHERE HAVE I GONE? MY LIFE IN A YEAR – Pauline Quirke

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Pauline Quirke was a skinny child, a slim teenager, a curvy woman, then – according to her bathroom scales (curse them) – just plain fat. Yes, the “F” word. Tipping the scales at nearly 20 stone, with creaking knees and a dodgy ankle to boot, at the beginning of 2011 Pauline had reached a crisis point. Something had to change, and fast.

It was never going to be an easy ride, but with her trademark warmth and sense of humour, Pauline recounts the highs and lows of the roller-coaster year in which she whips herself, and her life, into shape – with a fair few tales from her celebrated forty-year acting career thrown into the bargain. She reveals all: from the strain of working long hours away from home on one of Britain’s most popular soaps to renewing her wedding vows and reuniting with her Birds of a Feather co-stars; from battling the bulge and facing the naysayers to rediscovering the joys of airline travel…without a seatbelt extension.

Honest and revealing, Where Have I Gone? is brimming with brilliantly funny anecdotes and truly moving moments. So put your feet up and join Pauline as she embarks on the most incredible year of her life.

READ BY PAULINE QUIRKE

THE BOOK OF EBENEZER LE PAGE – GB Edwards

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Ebenezer Le Page, cantankerous, opinionated and charming, is one of the most compelling literary creations of the late 20th century. Eighty years old, Ebenezer has lived his whole life on the Channel Island of Guernsey, a stony speck of a place caught between England and France yet a world away from either. Ebenezer himself is fiercely independent, but as he reaches the end of his life he is determined to tell his own story and the story of those he has known. He writes of family secrets and feuds, unforgettable friendships and friendships betrayed, love glimpsed and lost.

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a beautifully detailed chronicle of a life, but it is equally an oblique reckoning with the traumas of the 20th century, as Ebenezer recalls both the men lost to the Great War and the German Occupation of Guernsey during World War II, and looks with despair at the encroachments of commerce and tourism on his beloved island.

READ BY ROY DOTRICE

PLANET OF THE APES – Pierre Boulle

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Greg Wise reads Pierre Boulle’s chilling, iconic novel about a nightmare world where apes rule over men. In a spaceship that can travel at the speed of light, Ulysse, a journalist, sets off from Earth for the nearest solar system. He finds there a planet which resembles his own, except that on Soror humans behave like animals and are hunted by a civilised race of primates. Captured and sent to a research facility, Ulysse must convince the apes of their mutual origins. But such revelations have always been greeted by prejudice and fear… The inspiration for several acclaimed cult films, Planet of the Apes is both a gripping, disturbing fable and a classic of science fiction.

READ BY GREG WISE

SKIOS – Michael Frayn

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On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be young and charming – not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation’s guests are soon eating out of his hand. So is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser. Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki’s old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and his sense of reality – everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science…

READ BY MARTIN JARVIS

HOLLOW EARTH – John & Carole E. Barrowman

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Twins Matt and Emily Calder have imaginations so powerful that they can make art come to life. Their powers are sought by villains intent on accessing the terrors of Hollow Earth – a place where all the devils, demons and monsters ever imagined lie trapped for all eternity. If Hollow Earth is breached, the world will be plunged into chaos. If Hollow Earth is breached… the twins are as good as dead.

READ BY JOHN BARROWMAN

WHY SPENCER PERCEVAL HAD TO DIE – Andro Linklater

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On the afternoon of May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval, the all-powerful prime minister of Great Britain, was fatally shot at short range in the lobby of Parliament by John Bellingham, a Liverpool businessman. Perceval polarized public opinion: Revered by some and hated by others for his fight against the lucrative slave trade, he domineeringly kept Britain at war against Napoléon and was driving her into war with the United States despite the huge economic drain of each, raising taxes to new heights to finance his decisions. Bellingham was not alone in blaming Perceval and his government for their ruinous policies; indeed, he claimed to have killed Perceval “as a matter of justice,” and believed he would not only be exonerated, but also applauded for his action. But he was not to enjoy relief; within a week, granted the briefest of trials that trampled his right to due process, he was hanged.

READ BY STEPHEN RASHBROOK

THE HUNT – Andrew Xia Fukuda

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Seventeen-year-old Gene struggles to survive in a society where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. When Gene is chosen to participate in the government-sponsored hunt for the remaining humans, he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow hunters whose suspicions about his true human nature are growing… A gory, gripping thriller for young adults from acclaimed author Andrew Fukuda.

READ BY TREVOR WHITE

COMING SOON

OLIVER TWIST – Charles Dickens – Read by Dominic Cooper

THE JUNGLE BOOK – Rudyard Kipling – Read by Alistair McGowan

DOCTOR WHO & THE LEISURE HIVE – David Fisher

WHEN HOOPOES GO TO HEAVEN – Gaile Parkin

MISSING PERSONS – Nicci Gerrard

DOCTOR WHO: SNAKEBITE – Scott Handcock

LIONEL ASBO: STATE OF ENGLAND – Martin Amis

PAINTER OF SILENCE – Georgina Harding

NEUROMANCER – William Gibson – Read by Jeff Harding

So as you can see, it has been a busy 6 months, and the titles are building up already for the next 6 months, with two new trilogies we are producing with SNK Publishing for Audible, and some exciting new titles for AudioGO.  Keep on supporting audiobooks and do let us know what you think of any of the titles we’ve produced.

Audiobook Round-up

I’m a lucky blighter…as an audiobook fan I just love hearing what’s new and hearing a wide variety of genres…but what makes me lucky is that I am an audiobook producer, so I get access to many more audiobooks than is probably fair 😉  So I thought, hey Neil, why not start sharing the news about audiobooks that you’ve heard, produced or know a bit about.  So that’s what I’m gonna start doing.  Come back regularly to be updated on audiobook goodness…and even get the occasional chance to win one or more of the audiobooks mentioned!

I, Claudius

Broadcast
Author : Robert Graves
Reader : Full Cast

Running Time : 6hrs 0mins

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of Robert Graves’ brilliant account of the madness and debauchery of ancient Rome, starring Tom Goodman Hill as Claudius and Derek Jacobi as Augustus.

The wickedly entertaining inside story of the lives and deaths of the Imperial dynasty from Augustus to Caligula is told by their obscure relation, Claudius.

In public, Claudius is a stammering, drooling weakling, whose reputation as an idiot keeps him safe from office and assassination. But in private, he’s as sharp as they come, and keeps a secret history of everything he discovers. Until one day, as one of the few of his family left alive, he’s acclaimed Emperor against his will. Can he save Rome from the corruption he’s grown to detest?

Featuring Derek Jacobi (who won a BAFTA for his performance as Claudius in the acclaimed 1977 BBC television production) as Augustus, and with an all-star cast, this gripping dramatisation will enthral anyone who loves the decadence of Ancient Rome.

Available now as DOWNLOAD and CD from 

 

Aurelio Zen: Blood Rain

Unabridged Reading

Author : Michael Dibdin

Reader : Michael Kitchen

Running Time : 8hrs 30mins

Michael Kitchen reads this complete, full-length ‘Aurelio Zen’ novel by bestselling author Michael Dibdin.

After his last case, among the gentle hills and lush vineyards of Piedmont, Inspector Zen finally receives the order he has been dreading all his professional life: his next posting is to Sicily, home of the Mafia.

The gruesome discovery of an unidentified, decomposed corpse sealed in a railway wagon on a disused siding marks the beginning of Zen’s most difficult and dangerous case.

Set against the backdrop of the 3000-year-old city of Catania, in the shadow of the smouldering volcano of Etna, ‘Blood Rain’ finds Aurelio Zen at his most desperate and driven.

‘The best detective novelist around’ – Sunday Times

A complete and unabridged reading by Michael Kitchen.

Available now as DOWNLOAD and CD from 

 

South Riding

Broadcast

Author : Winifred Holtby

Reader : Full Cast

Running Time : 3hrs 45mins

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of Winifred Holtby’s classic novel of 1930s Yorkshire.

It is the summer of 1932, and Sarah Burton embarks on a new beginning as the headmistress of Kiplington High School for girls. There she encounters unenthusiastic pupils, distant staff and a run-down building, but she is determined to inspire.

When she organises her first community event, she begins to feel more at home. However, her next bright idea – taking the girls out on a snowy clifftop walk – gets her into trouble with local landowner and school governor Robert Carne.

As Sarah learns more about Carne’s troubled home life and his concern for his daughter Midge, she finds herself increasingly drawn to him. But she soon has more on her mind than romance, as she struggles to prevent bright but poor schoolgirl Lydia Holley from losing her scholarship…

Starring Sarah Lancashire, Philip Glenister and Carole Boyd, this gripping adaptation memorably evokes the lives, loves and sorrows of the inhabitants of South Riding.

Available now as DOWNLOAD and CD from 

 

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Dramatisation

Author : Agatha Christie

Reader : Full Cast

Running Time : 1hrs 30mins

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of a classic Agatha Christie mystery, starring Lyndsey Marshal, Geoffrey Whitehead and John Rowe.

Ten guests travel to an island at the invitation of someone named U.N. Owen. All are strangers, but they have two things in common: they have all been responsible for someone’s death, and none will leave the island alive.

Over the next two days and nights, each of the guests is killed off in a different manner in keeping with the nursery rhyme, ‘Ten Little Soldier Boys’. As they are picked off one by one, who could possibly be responsible?

The killers are forced to turn detective so they can find the unknown murderer, but one by one they become victims…

Billed as ‘the famous detective story without a detective’, ‘And Then There Were None’ is one of Agatha Christie’s darkest and most enduring tales.

Available now as DOWNLOAD and CD from 

 

 

The Queen Is Dead…All Hail The Queen!

Another case of ridiculous knee-jerk reaction by BBC bosses has reared its ugly head…and once again it is because of a harmless joke about the Queen (bow, scrape head along floor, hand over all personal freedoms and await the mighty one’s permission to breathe!).  Here’s the story from the BBC website today:

BBC ‘sorry’ for WM presenter Queen death joke

The BBC has apologised after a radio presenter said the Queen had died.

(c) BBC

(c) BBC

Danny Kelly who works for BBC WM in the West Midlands, played the national anthem as he made the joke during his Birmingham-based afternoon show.

A BBC spokesman said it had been a reference to an item on one of his internet pages.

Mr Kelly will not present his show for the remainder of the week and a formal apology was made at the start of Tuesday’s show at 1400 BST.

A BBC spokesman said presenter Mollie Green would take over the afternoon show until next Tuesday.

The apology on BBC WM at the start of the programme said: “Yesterday afternoon Danny Kelly made an inappropriate remark about the Queen during his radio show here on BBC WM.

“The BBC apologises unreservedly for it.

“BBC WM takes these comments very seriously and due action has been taken.”

Earlier, a spokesman said the comment had been made during a “light-hearted piece about social media friends” and that it had been corrected on-air immediately after it was made.

Danny is a superb broadcaster, contributes across the BBC’s local and national networks, and has spent many years learning his art and perfecting his craft.  Why oh why does a simple joke about the Queen being dead, which was in context, and even (outrageously) apologised for on-air at the time, in any way requiring the removal of this talented individual from his post for a week?

We live in a Parliamentary Democracy, not a Monarchial Dictatorship. Why does the BBC insist on these disgusting punishments for gags about our Queen?  Where does it say in law, or even in broadcasting regulations (or the increasingly pointless BBC Royal Charter) that her Maj is sacrosanct? I understand issues of good taste, of potentially upsetting weak-willed and lilly-livered punters, even of the fear of the Daily Fail reaction.  So yes, require the presenter to apologise where necessary, but to remove them from air?!  Such punitive action smacks of institutionalised grovelling and pandering.

So come on BBC…grow a pair and start standing up for your talent.  The Queen is fair target for comedy.  And if you don’t want to risk such humour, then stop hiring talented, comedic presenters.  Then you can be like the iPods you so fear are taking away your audience!

Sick And Tired Of It All (Mini-Blogging)

So, lots of things have been bugging me of late, but instead of writing full-blown blog entries for each one, I’ve decided to emulate Oh! My Goddess and create Mini-Blogs (like Mini Goddesses – sorry non-anime fans, but it makes sense to anime freaks!).  Short, sharp, sweet comments on those things that have irked me.  You may agree or disagree, comment or ignore some, all or none of them…but here they come:

PETROL PRICES

So, we are now at £1.16.9p per litre for unleaded petrol.  WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON?!?!  Much like the energy companies who hike gas & electricity prices but rarely cut them back again, the petrol companies claim that the prices go up because of fluctuations in oil prices.  These prices are from approx. 6 months ago.  But hang on…oil prices have been consistently dropping for over 6 months now.  Put that to them and they claim it is the tax increases, the VAT, the fuel surcharge, etc…  Yeah, fine, I get that because bankers screwed up, and we all went on a massive spending spree for a decade, that we now need more tax to pay off the debts…BUT…the baseline cost for oil has DECREASED, so the per litre cost SHOULD ALSO DECREASE.  But does it?  NO!  I am resigned to spending £50 at Sainsbury just to get their poxy 5p per litre off voucher!  Listen up petrol firms….STOP PROFITEERING YOU AMORAL THIEVING SCUM!  We are almost at £1.20 per litre…a revolution will soon follow and personally, alongside MPs, BBC management and chuggers, I think the petrol bosses will be first against the wall!

BBC CUTS THE FRIDAY PLAY ON R4

So…after many years of budget cut after budget cut after spending freeze after cost squeeze after budget cut, Radio 4 now announce that they are ‘decommissioning’ the Friday Play slot.  WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON?!?!  I realise people love to attack the BBC as being over-large, lacking in quality and spending too much on fripperies…but please, the FRIDAY PLAY?  This is a bastion of hard-edged, socially and culturally important drama.  These plays fit no-where else on the BBC radio networks.  To cut the entire slot because yet again the network is being told to cut budgets?  I am sorry but I pay my licence fee for the BBC to MAKE PROGRAMMES AND BROADCAST THEM!  The massive cost of the rebuilding of BBC Broadcasting House in London (£1.56bn!) has proven that the BBC has no idea what its purpose is.  It is NOT there to invest in buildings and rebuildings and rerebuildings…damn it, BBC BH had only just been rebuilt before they ripped it down and started again!  And it is running way over time and over budget, meaning yet more is being spent on rent at Bush House and other locations for those departments that were supposed to move in to the new BH!!  And then they waste another £5m or so commissioning artwork for the new space when they could have BORROWED art from other public institutions and become a gallery space.  That £5m could have paid for many many radio dramas and features.  The cancellation of the Friday play is CULTURAL VANDALISM by people who should be protecting the BBC’s role of INVESTING IN UK PRODUCERS, WRITERS and ACTORS.  I am sickened and disgusted by this move, and the constant budget cutting from programme making.  BBC News could easily save millions by streamlining its outside broadcasting and reporting processes.  BBC TV could save millions by holding a moratorium on dramas/series based on cops/doctors/murders for one month.  Millions more could be saved by cutting back on the spend on flashy but pointless opening credit sequences (e.g. the F1 opening – 30-60secs of meaningless faff…we know we are watching F1, and there is no competition for coverage so why the OTT animated flashy opening?!), etc…  Maybe it is time for some resignations at the BBC…possibly at Radio 4, but certainly at upper management level.  They are failing in their core purpose!

PARENTS DRIVING KIDS TO/FROM SCHOOL

Ok…just what is it about parents and their kids in cars going to and from school?!  I am not a parent, but even if I were, I WOULD NOT drive them to and from school.  A caveat – this is about people living in towns/villages/cities – I understand countryside life can require different means due to the lack of public transport or distances involved. I just had to break my rule of not being on the road at 3pm as I had to do some business across town.  Driving back through the 3pm school-run (3pm!  When did schools close so damn early?) I almost had 5 crashes because of moronic parents collecting their dear little tykes.  2 near-misses were outside a school where the idiotic parents couldn’t park or pull out properly, or using indicators, or being patient!  The other 3 were in traffic, at roundabouts and at a junction…all three involved parents not paying attention to the road, looking everywhere but where they are driving, and generally adopting the attitude that they are their darling mini-me’s were the most important and valuable people on the road.  Well…SOD YOU ALL!!  I am sick of it.  The roads are so much nicer at half-term and holidays…why…BECAUSE YOU C***S AREN’T ON THE ROAD!  If I were in charge for a day I would make it ILLEGAL for parents to drive kids to/from school within towns.  Let them walk, ride a bike or take the bus.  In return I would invest in decent school bus services and street patrols.  Enough is enough…your kids need the exercise, it is good for them to mix and mingle while walking or taking the bus, they learn good life skills, you get another hour a day away from them to be doing something more useful to society such as working or inventing or writing or, well, anything but adding yet more pollution and congestion to the world.

SINGLE LIFE

OK, so I am no longer single, but I was for more than 7 years, and as we head in to yet another farce of an election, WHY ARE SINGLE PEOPLE NOT BEING TARGETED?! According to the ONS there is approx 7 million single people (12% of the population!) but in every political speech, paper, debate and news item all we hear about are HARD WORKING FAMILIES, blah blah blah.  Child tax credits, marriage tax allowance, this tax break, that tax break…we want YOU to be married!  The world MUST BE MADE BETTER for married people and those with children!  Well…I agree, I think the world should be made better for everyone who puts in a day’s work and pays their way.  BUT why does no-one think about single people?  They have ONE INCOME, and yet are taxed more than any other group!  The ONLY tax break for singletons is the Council Tax Single Person Allowance…this gives you a 25% discount on your CTax.  Sounds good, eh?  But think about it…if you are in a couple, with two incomes, sharing all your costs, then each person is only paying 50% of the CTax.  Therefore, a single person is paying 75% where one half of a couple is paying just 50%…the singleton pays 50% more than one half of a couple!!!  And single working people use less local and national social resources, yet pay the same in tax.  No party or politician stands up during the recession and says WE MUST LOOK AFTER THE HARD WORKING SINGLE PERSON.  Why the f**k not?!  Single people pay more for holidays, more for travel and more for general services as they cannot apply for any of the FAMILY DISCOUNTS!  Well, I am sick and tired of it…come on you 7 million singletons, make your voices heard!  Either that or 3.5 million move in with the other 3.5 million and claim a few benefits!

ZYNGA

Oh Zynga, I love your games on Facebook, and I for one know that I don’t have to click on the adverts that fund the games…therefore I have no problem about your business model.  I thank you for the fun.  I disagree totally with the accusations that you produce parasitic-gaming, because I am intelligent enough NOT TO CLICK ON THE F*****G ADVERTS!  Jeez..all these morons harping on about Zynga and their ‘evil’ intentions, their ‘snooping’ practices, the ‘intrusive’ advertising which leads you astray…JUST DON’T CLICK ON THE DAMN ADVERTS YOU OUTRAGEOUSLY STUPID BASTARDS!  The games are free to use so Zynga has to make money from elsewhere…like facebook, they take the chance to target you via advertising…but they AREN’T FORCING YOU TO BUY ANYTHING.  If you click on an advert then it is your responsibility not Zynga’s. Please please please stop bitching about this…either play the games or don’t play the games…it is your choice! HOWEVER, I will take Zynga to task over one thing…why don’t you reply to the perfectly reasonable error complaints of you many millions of users?  We love Farmville and Cafeworld, but there are flaws and bugs, and we take the time to report them to you, and discuss them on the Zynga forums…BUT YOU NEVER REPLY!  This is dragging your name through the mud and is doing you no favours.  please just pay someone to be the official voice of your organisation on the boards.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

So…the website for the UK post office says its Special Delivery service stops at 5pm each evening…but the branches say it is 4pm, or 4.30pm or 5.30pm.  WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!  I rely on SD to get my audiobook masters to the BBC, but I can never tell what time the cutoff for pickup is!  So for safety I stick with 4pm, but it really can’t be that hard can it?  And if a branch has to have a time different to the website advertised time, PLEASE PUT UP A F*****G SIGN!

UPDATE – Oh, and Special Delivery is meant to GUARANTEE delivery next day…so why has my delivery that went out yesterday NOT arrived today?  Oh…I have to call you and ask?  Oh, it was delayed in transit and will be dleivered tomorrow? Oh, the business is shut tomorrow so it will be Monday? Oh, so you can’t call me and tell me these things and leave it for me to be told by the recipient that it hasn’t arrived? Oh, so the service you provide has failed EPICALLY and yet now my client won’t receive the parcel in time for their deadline?  Hmmmm…thanks a f*****g lot…FAIL!

The BIG PAIR Podcast – Ep 3 – Nobody Puts Baby In The Muller Corner!

There’s a whole new episode of THE BIG PAIR PODCAST now available for you fine folks to take a gander at.

http://bigpairpodcast.mypodcast.com/2009/09/The_BIG_Pair_Podcast_Ep_3_Nobody_Puts_Baby_In_The_Muller_Corner-240145.html

Click to jump to the podcast site

Click to jump to the podcast site

In this ep:

*An exclusive chat with Dr Who audio director/producer KATE THOMAS
*NEW Jingles!
*Some Tom Baker treats
*More comedy skits
*A rant about scifi literature & awards
*EXCLUSIVE first listen of HP Lovecraft short horror story
*More Real People
*More Cabinet of Curiosities
*LONGER running time!
*Part one of surreal audio reading “Roughcheese Came Riding”
*More more more, how do you like it?!

It’s getting longer too! Thanks to Agent manny’s intervention and a jam incident (don’t ask!) the episode is just shy of an hour long…so you get MORE for your MONEY (except you’ve not paid anything…so it’s an even BETTER deal!!)

Have a listen, send some thoughts, feedback, whatever…and please help spread the news and big up the subscriptions.

Next episode I hope to have more from the mighty Paul Kent, a special famous guest, and a whole load more toot…PLUS, chapter 2 of “THe Wonderful Wizard of Oz” read by the gorgeous Sarah Douglas.

Woot!

N 🙂

“So…just WHAT is it you do?”

That's me, in my natural environment...a radio studio...between Tom and Richard!

That's me, in my natural environment...a radio studio...between Tom and Richard!

Isn’t social networking strange?  Since the early days of message boards, then forums, then yahoo groups, the move to MySpace, then the big jump to Facebook, and on to the paradigm shifting experience that is Twitter…I have found myself in the rather wonderful position of having a goodly number of people I now consider good friends, but whom I have never met, and who don’t come via my working life.  They know me as Neil, or as HokusBloke, or as the fellow who does the silly poetry, or the FICTS chap, or the man behind the Robert Rankin audio/radio series…or a hundred other ways.  And on average, about once a week I get asked “So…just WHAT is it you do?”.  In order to try and be helpful, I thought I would give you a very brief description of what I do for a living, and then give you some examples.

So…I am a radio blokey.  What’s that? In my case I am the owner and MD of an independent radio production company based in the South East of the UK.  Independent radio production…does that mean adverts?  No.  You’ve no doubt noticed that large numbers of TV programmes are made by independent production companies, like Endemol, Zeppotron, RDF, etc…  Well, the BBC has an obligation to have 25% of its TV output made by such non-BBC companies.  In radio, there is no such requirement, but the BBC still offers up around 10% of its radio output for independent radio production companies to bid for.  Throughout the year companies like mine, Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd, develop ideas and talent and take them to the various national and regional BBC radio networks in the hope we will be hired to make the programmes we propose.

Ladbroke Productions is the oldest such company in the UK, launched in June 1975.  It was also the first company to be hired by the BBC to independently produce a radio series (BBC World Service back in 1990).  I worked at the company from 1999, starting as an engineer and audio producer, gradually working my way up to being the Creative Director and Executive Producer by 2008.  Then, in Sept 2008 I was given the chance to buy the company and take it away from the parent firm.  Of course, I took the opportunity, even though it was a massive risk.  There is no guaranteed work for radio indies, and the budgets are miniscule!  But I had dreamed of owning and running my own radio/audio production company and here was the chance.

So, it is a year on, and even though the year has been a tough one, I am earning a salary, paying the partners and freelancers and we may even make a small profit!  But most importantly we are making more radio and audio programming than ever before.

So what do I do? Apart from the business side of running a small business of course, I come up with ideas for radio programmes, I work with others to develop ideas, seek out and work with new talent (presenters, broadcasters, writers, journalists, composers, etc…), I work with my 2 partners to then write up and pitch these proposals to the BBC, I handle all the budgeting and contractual stuff, handle all the copyrights and so on…but I also produce my fair share of the programmes.  Producing and directing radio is very different from TV and film…for a start most radio programmes are made by a producer, a presenter and, well, that’s it!  The radio producer is also the researcher, the writer, the runner, the sound engineer, etc…  This is why most of us do it, because the end product is very much our own!  So I produce documentaries and features, I also direct dramas and readings (and write them!), I adapt other people work for radio and audio release, and then I also do a job called Executive Producing.  This is like keeping an eye over another producer’s shoulder.  I don’t tell them what to do or how to do it, but keep an eye out for technical or legal issues, check that the programme is made to the mammoth BBC guidelines and isn’t going to fall foul of the increasingly paranoid compliance procedures.  I do this for Ladbroke programmes, as well as for several other companies.  And finally, because I started out as a sound engineer, I also mix and master pretty much all the programmes we make, and offer this service to other clients.  When you see me tweet about editing, this is usually what I mean…I am tidying up and putting together someone else’s raw audio, to make a beautifully crafted radio programme out of the parts!

So, I do all this for my own company, Ladbroke Productions…as well as for other independent radio producers.  Between us we work on programmes for BBC Radios 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Live, 6 Music, 7, 1 Xtra, Asian Network, BBC Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

But a man cannot live on one client alone.  So this first year has seen me working to build up some commercial clients.  The first, and biggest has been BBC Audiobooks.  Yes, the BBC again, but they are commercial and not a part of the licence-fee funded BBC.  BBCA are the people behind the Doctor Who audiobooks we all know and love.  It has been a massive joy for me this year to be taken on board as a producer of Doctor Who universe productions…a childhood dream!  I also produce non-scifi audiobooks for them, such as Margaret Atwood and PD James.

So that’s me in a short sweet nutshell.  I love radio, I love audio…these are the two most important mediums we have and I am unashamed of backing them to the hilt.  You’ll be hearing a lot more about new audio projects as the year progresses…there are some exciting new things just about to happen, which I hope you will support me with.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the BBC radio programmes Ladbroke Productions have produced since Oct 2008 and up to the end of 2009, I hope you’ll see that we do a massive range of things, bring value and quality to the BBC audience, and most importantly, you keep listening (or start!) to the radio.  Oh, and if you would like to hear any of the programmes, we do sell them at very reasonable rates 🙂

BBC RADIO 2

  • The Judy Garland Trail – 6×30 mins – Presented by Michael Freedland – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Nat King Cole: From Jazz To Rock’n’Roll – 4×30 mins – Presented by Clarke Peters – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Race With The Devil: Gene Vincent Story – 1×60 mins – Presented by Roger Daltrey – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • The King of Motown: Berry Gordy Story – 1×60 mins – Presented by Marshall Chess – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Feelin’ Love: Donna Summer Story – 1×60 mins – Presented by Paul Gambaccini – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Blonde On Blonde: Marilyn Monroe – 1×60 mins – Presented by Mariella Frostrup (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Hollywood Charmers – 4×30 mins – Presented by Michael York – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • I’ll Still Love You Tomorrow-Carole King Story – 3×30 mins – Presented by Pete Waterman – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • The Elvis Trail – 6x30mins – Presented by Michael Freedland – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Development Hell – 1×60 mins – Presented by Adam & Joe – Produced by Neil Rosser & Neil Gardner (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • My Word Is My Bond – 6×15 mins – Read by Sir Roger Moore – Produced & Directed by Neil Gardner (Exec – Neil Rosser)

BBC RADIO 3

  • The Essay-Henry:King of Kings – 5×15 mins – Written & Presented by Various – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • The Hidden Composers – 1×44 mins – Presented by Lowri Blake – Produced by Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Theatre & Conflict – 1×44 mins – Presented by  TBC – Produced by Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)

BBC RADIO 4

  • That’s No Job For An Asian! – 1×30 mins – Presented by Yasmeen Khan – Produced by Yasmeen Khan & Neil Gardner (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • Afternoon Play-On Ego – 1×44 mins – Written & Directed by Mick Gordon (Exec – Neil Gardner & Richard Bannerman)
  • The Deighton File – 1×30 mins – Presented by Patrick Humphries – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Twin Sisters, Two Faiths – 1×38 mins – Presented by Anna Scott-Brown – Produced by Adam Fowler & Anna Scott-Brown (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Who’s My Half-Brother? Where’s My Half-Sister? – 1×30 mins – Presented by Kati Whitaker – Produced by Kati Whitaker & Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Three Rivers – 3×30 mins – Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli – Produced by Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Inside the Bermuda Triangle-The Mysteries Solved – 10×15 mins + 2×60 mins – Presented by Tom Mangold – Produced by Adam Fowler (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Blondin of Niagara Falls & Ealing – 1×30 mins – Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli – Produced by Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Protected By Faith – 1×30 mins – Presented by John Waite – Produced by Neil Gardner (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • Tea & Biscuits – 5×15 mins – Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli – Produced by Richard Bannerman & Tamsyn Challenger (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Scott of Slimbridge – 1×60 mins + 1×42 mins – Presented by Frank Gardner – Produced by Merilyn Harris (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • Coast 2100 – 2×30 mins – Presented by TBC
  • Friday Play-Deep Cut – Directed by Mick Gordon (Exec – Melanie Harris)
  • Home Grown – 1×30 mins – Presented by Yasmeen Khan – Produced by Yasmeen Khan & Neil Gardner (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • In Search of A Shtetl – 1×30 mins – Presented by Michael Freedland and Jonathan Freedland – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Mataphor For Healing – 1×30 mins – Presented by Dr Phil Hammond – Produced by Jane Feinmann & Richard Bannerman (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Football Fights Back – 1×30 mins – Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli – Produced by Adam Fowler (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Afternoon Play-Grace – 1×44 mins – Written & Directed by Mick Gordon (Exec – Neil Gardner & Richard Bannerman)
  • Afternoon Play-Mayflies – 1×44 mins – Directed by Neil Gardner (Exec – Dirk Maggs)
  • Afternoon Play-Cry Babies – 1×44 mins – Directed by Neil Gardner (Exec – Dirk Maggs)
  • A Failure To Provide? – 1×30 mins – Presented by Yasmeen Khan – Produced by Yasmeen Khan & Neil Gardner (Exec – Richard Bannerman)
  • Afternoon Play-Cancer Tales – Directed by Merilyn Harris (Exec – Richard Bannerman)

BBC RADIO 7

  • The Brightonomicon – 13×30 mins – Written & Directed by Neil Gardner (based on the novel by Robert Rankin)

BBC WORLD SERVICE

  • The Mind’s Tibet – 1×26 mins – Presented by TBC – Produced by Neil Rosser (Exec – Neil Gardner)
  • Twin Sisters, Two Faiths – 1×26 mins – Presented by Anna Scott-Brown – Produced by Adam Fowler & Anna Scott-Brown (Exec – Neil Gardner)

BBC AUDIOBOOKS

  • Doctor Who & The Dalek Invasion of Earth – 4xCDs – Read by William Russell – Produced by Neil Gardner
  • Doctor Who: Hornets’ Nest – 5xCDs – Starring Tom Baker – Edited & Sound Design by Neil Gardner
  • Sarah Jane Adventures: The White Wolf – Starring Elizabeth Sladen – Produced by Neil Gardner
  • Sarah Jane Adventures: The Shadow People – Starring Elizabeth Sladen – Produced by Neil Gardner
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – Read by Lorelei King – Produced by Neil Gardner
  • Talking About Detective Fiction by PD James – Read by Diana Bishop – Produced by Neil Gardner

If you’d like to hear excerpts or learn more about Ladbroke Production please check out our website – http://www.ladbrokeradio.com and if you are on Facebook, do seek us out and become a fan 🙂

Happy Independents Day!

Click to visit the RIG website

Click to visit the RIG website

July 4th, and in the US of A everyone is going barmy mad loppy stylee for the anniversary of their country’s independence from British rule, from the yoke of oppression, freedom from outdated ways of thinking and ridiculous rules…ah yes, 4th july, hoorah and huzzah!

Here in the UK, I am proclaiming it Independents Day, the day when the hard-working, much maligned, often under-rated and woefully disregarded independent radio producers are supported by the general public, those in authority, and indeed, everyone else.  “Supported, Neil?” Yes, supported.  “But supported in what?” Well, let me tell you…

In the UK, the BBC is funded by the License Fee, a pay-it-or-we’ll-put-you-in-jail stealth tax that allows the Corporation to live alomst, but not entirely, outside of the usual rules of a competitive market.  This money, paid by the UK public, is expected to pay for the BBC to discover, develop, produce and broadcast/distribute the best TV, radio and new media programming possible, while servicing niche and minority audiences, supporting the UK’s creative industries and NOT baltantly chasing ratings in an eefort to ‘out-do’ its commercial rivals.

In order to deliver on this, BBC TV has split the production of its programming between its in-house staff production teams, and the large and vibrant independent production sector, made up of companies such as Rag Doll, Zeppotron, Endemol, RDF, etc…  Here’s the way the ‘quota’ of production is split:

  • BBC TV In-House – 50% of all output
  • TV Indies – 25% of all output
  • In-House & Indies – compete for remaining 25% of all output

Seems like a fair and equitable way of doing things, eh?  It has certainly pushed the in-house BBC teams to be more creative and forward-thinking, and has allowed TV indies to grow and flourish, build successful businesses and employ a host of talented individuals across the UK.

“So it’s the same with BBC Radio then, Neil?” Ah, well, sadly not.  BBC TV is required BY LAW, under the Communications Act and the BBC’s Royal Charter to share out it’s TV commissioning as set out above. But BBC Radio (or Audio & Music as they prefer to be called) have no such requirement on them.  Politicians have been to scared, or shy, or pathetic, or useless, or ‘bought-off’ or apathetic to engage in any such move.

The BBC has been using radio indies for around 15 years now, and have made available a VOLUNTARY ‘quota’ of 10% of ‘eligible’ hours to the sector.  This figure has not changed in all that time…it remains voluntary, it remains inviolable.  The BBC claim it is a floor, not a ceiling, but rarely does the % go higher.  And in fact, statistics show that in real terms, and real % of spend, the BBC are actually only allowing radio indies a mere 4-7% of output.

“Hang on, Neil, that doesn’t make sense…surely that’s not fair?” Well, the radio indie sector certainly doesn’t think it is fair.  But please don’t ask us why the BBC, the Government and those in power refuse to improve the situation, because we have yet to hear a coherent and intelligible argument.  Here’s some of the BBC’s claims:

  • Radio indies don’t have the capacity to produce more – actually, we are struggling with what we have as it is too little, with minute and ever-falling budgets.  As commercial businesses, the more work we get the bigger we grow.  Unlike in-house units who have an upper limit on capacity, we will increase staffing and resources once we have the work.
  • Radio indies only sell to the BBC – actually we sell to commercial radio networks, foreign radio stations, international public service broadcasters, publicly funded content users, corporate clients and many others.  We may only sell 1 hour Archive Hour documentaries to Radio 4, but our skills, services, talents and staff are much desired across the audio production sector.
  • The BBC needs to protect its in-house production base – from what exactly?  We are not coming to rape and pilage.  The unions and management all agree that in-house producers are over-worked and stressed, many doing the job of 3 or 4 producers. Increase the indies’ quota from 10% to 25% and reduce the stress on the in-house producers.  There need be no redundancies or sackings…that will only happen because the BBC management would use any such change as an opportunity to cut costs yet again!  And where would those in-house producers go for work…to the indie sector!
  • Indies cost more than in-house – actually, we cost less, and the head of BBC Audio & Music said so in a public statement.  In-house units have staff producers, editors, BA’s, assistants, and many others on salary, all supposedly being paid from the programme budgets.  But with programme budgets dropping year on year, but staff salaries being increased in line with inflation, just how are these units able to afford the costs on the budgets? Radio indies use less staff, more freelancers, spread the costs more effectively and make better and wider use of talent from across the UK.  And we also find in-house units hiring freelance producers and directors…hang about, that means you don’t have the ability in-house to deliver your quota with your staff?!  Surely then there is a rationale for offering more to the indies, who would hire the same freelancers anyway?
  • The BBC is a meritocracy – really? So when radio indies get rejection notes that say “We are sorry but while we would have loved to commission this idea, the round was extremely over-subscribed and so there were no slots left in which to place it.  Please re-submit next round” we should believe that merit is a resounding ethos at the Corporation?  When we hear that in-house teams get a 2nd chance to pitch ideas because they failed in the main round to fill their quota, we should feel that it is a fair and level playing field?

Well, as you see, this is an issue that should be fairly simple to fix.  The BBC just need to put radio indies on a equitable footing as TV indies.  No biggie.  But the BBC won’t budge, they refuse to move and they are putting the continued growth and prosperity of the sector, with our 2000 or so employees and access to UK talent at risk.

So please, if you think it is time that radio indies in the UK got a fair deal from the BBC, write to the following people are express your disappointment and anger at the way we have been treated.  It is YOUR money after all, and all we want is a fair chance to bring our award-winning, innovative, creative and unique programme ideas to the airwaves.  We want a level playing field..we aren’t asking for a free-ride, but a fair crack at winning a little more work.  Here’s who to write to:

  • TIM DAVIE – Director, BBC AUDIO & MUSIC, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, W1A 1AA
  • Or drop a line to your MP and ask them to raise a question in the House, or speak directly to the Secretary of State, or the DCMS.

Thanks for your support, and I hope you keep on enjoying the BBC, its radio programmes (in house or indie produced) and radio in general…radio is a fantastic medium and those of us who make it love it and want to see it flourish.

N.B. I am the Chair of the Radio Independents Group, the trade body that represents the independent radio & audio producers of the UK, and we have been lobbying for almost 5 years now for changes to be made to indie commissioning at the BBC.  Currently we are also calling on the Government to put in place a mandatory 25% quota on ALL publicly funded media creation to be produced by indies.  Please check out the Radio Independents Group website for more about us and our sector.

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