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Letters: why we are fighting to save Radio 4’s The Film Programme

·7 min read

It seems that BBC Radio 4 has taken the decision to cancel The Film Programme after 17 uninterrupted years on air. A year-round, weekly, half-hour show dedicated to film in all its forms ought to be considered an absolutely necessary part of Radio 4’s arts coverage.

The Film Programme has always been an exemplary blend of coverage of current cinema and the film canon and an active champion of independent film. Interested in all roles in film – on screen and off – from the mainstream to more challenging or obscure work that would otherwise be completely ignored by broadcasters.

Originally presented by Francine Stock and now by Antonia Quirke, its variety and scope reflect a depth of understanding achieved only through a commitment to specialisation. A show that has continually evolved as film has evolved, it would doubtless have continued to do so. To axe such a long-standing and much-loved programme represents an unacceptable diminution of the BBC’s dedication to the continuing story of film, whatever programming is intended to replace it. It is, in our opinion, short-term thinking and a mistake. The Film Programme should be celebrated, not cancelled.
Carol Morley, director; Martin Scorsese, director; Ken Loach, director; Christopher Nolan, director; Amma Asante, director; Bruce Robinson, director; Emma Thompson, screenwriter and actor; Liam Neeson, actor; Deepa Mehta, director; David Oyelowo, director and actor; Benedict Cumberbatch, actor; David Puttnam, producer; Steve McQueen, director; Walter Murch, editor; Angela Allen, script coordinator; Thelma Schoonmaker, editor; Kleber Mendonca Filho, director; Joanna Hogg, director; Michael Winterbottom, director; Rosamund Pike, actor; Greg Wise, actor; Kristin Scott Thomas, actor; Emma Thomas, producer; Tracey Seaward, producer; Joe Wright, director; David Hare, screenwriter; Patrick Kennedy, actor; Ian McEwan, screenwriter; Mark Cousins, director; Daniel Landin BSC, cinematographer; Katherine Waterstone, actor; Mark Gatiss, actor; Bola Agbaje, screenwriter; Andrea Arnold, director; Kevin Loader, producer; Asif Kapadia, director; Eva Green, actor; Tony Grisoni, screenwriter; Dexter Fletcher, director; Clio Barnard, director; Roger Michell, director; Nainita Desai, composer; Daniel Mays, actor; Maria Djurkovic, production designer; Cairo Cannon, producer; Terence Davies, director; Rebecca Lenkiewicz, screenwriter; Paul Laverty, screenwriter; Rebecca O’Brien, producer; Seamus McGarvey BSC, cinematographer; Desiree Akhavan, director; Dame Joan Plowright, actor; Francis Lee, director; Stephen Frears, director; Maxine Peake, actor; John Boorman, director; Aneil Karia, director; Hadley Freeman, columnist; Richard E Grant, actor; Hong Khaou, director; Ronan Bennett, screenwriter; James Watkins, director; Tom Hollander, actor; David Edgar, screenwriter; Lesley Manville, actor; Peter Mullan, director and actor; Andrew Kotting, director; David Thewlis, actor; Juliet Stevenson, actor; Jake Polonsky BSC, cinematographer; Moira Buffini, screenwriter; Clint Mansell, composer; Tom Courtenay, actor; Nasheed Qamar Faruqi, director; Mark Jenkin, director; Sean Barton, editor; Amanda Posey, producer; Finola Dwyer, producer; Ian Christie, film scholar; Richard Eyre, director; Shola Amoo, director; Paul Fegan, director; Suzie Davies, production designer; William Boyd, writer; Lucy Walker, director; Neil Brand, composer; Lizzie Francke, executive producer; Clare Binns, joint managing director, Picturehouse cinemas; Mark Strong, actor; David Thomson, film critic; Aleem Khan, director; Alison Owen, producer; Toby Jones, actor; Gillian Anderson, actor; David Arnold, composer; Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, directors; Tracey Scoffield, executive producer; Emily Mortimer, screenwriter; Sarah Gavron, director; Bukky Bakray, actor; Theresa Ikoko, screenwriter; Dominic West, actor; Chris Menges BSC, cinematographer

Start healthy habits early

We commend Henry Dimbleby’s efforts to tackle the nation’s health crisis. However, we were sad to see that this strategy failed to deliver a clear provision for the early years. With one in five children entering school overweight, the recommendations need to focus more on prevention at the age when obesity is most likely to develop.

It’s important that children are introduced to healthy food, especially fruit and vegetables, as early as possible, a critical time for them to start developing their tastes. We should be looking at ways to implement and track these processes so good habits are in place before the first day of school.

The strategy rightly identified that the education sector has a pivotal role, but parents and carers are critical too. There needs to be a sustained focus on nutritional education and we need to make certain foods more accessible. We need to increase fruit and vegetable intake for a healthy society, but also a healthier planet. If we continue to rely solely on the government we won’t get there fast enough. We need industries and retailers to collaborate and put early years prevention at the heart of tackling the obesity and climate crisis.
Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen

A life less lonely

As a widow, I can attest to the impact of loneliness and Covid has exacerbated this (“All the lonely people: coping with the gap where friends used to be”, Focus). I’m gregarious, active and work part-time, but I discovered pre-Covid that widows are often marginalised by couples who were friends when I was part of a couple.

Despite the world opening up again, I am, like many others, nervous about busy places and travel. Pre-Covid, it was very obvious that society can be very isolating for people on their own; now it seems even more so. I am fortunate to have some very caring family members and friends on whom I know I can call, but there are many others who do not. Loneliness is a significant contributor to the UK’s soaring mental health crisis. If you know someone who lives alone, reach out to them; a friendly smile or a short chat could brighten their day.
Sharman Finlay
Portrush, County Antrim

South Africa’s dilemma

Your optimistic leading article on South Africa in the midst of murder and mayhem is welcome (“After the violence and despair, the ‘rainbow nation’ can rise again”).

Governance missions I took to South Africa in 1990, 1994 and 1996, when prospects were much brighter, already had the seeds of troubles.

The growth of black businesses would slowly ameliorate conditions but continued massive inequalities and appalling living conditions for many bred disillusion with the ANC government.

Also, a liberation movement is not a basis for a party to govern effectively. The ANC has acknowledged the problem but elections have always inhibited the development of ideological parties. The consequences continue to be apparent.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

Increased taxation is vital

All those who oppose Boris Johnson’s shambolic government should agree with Phillip Inman (“Keir, it’s time we had a frank discussion about tax”, Business).

We might hope that the pains and losses brought by the pandemic have prompted many to re-evaluate the priorities in their lives.

Whether rich or poor, the pillars of a successful and healthy life, from cradle to grave, are a first-rate education and training programme, a well-funded NHS and a healthy adult social care system. Accumulation of material wealth pales by comparison. Once this is accepted, a ringfenced revenue stream, secured with a surcharge on property sales or from “something more modest”, is likely to be more palatable to the electorate.
Gary Murrell
Braunston, Northamptonshire

Flare backfires on England

It was depressing to read that Ed Cumming considers the crass behaviour of some England football supporters acceptable because it apparently has “a part in our rich history” and is a “noble tradition” (“Our flare players deserve a break”, Focus). Thanks to such selfishness and nihilism it is now unlikely that England will host the 2030 World Cup finals.
Ian G Dare
Matlock, Derbyshire

No knee for Nigel

What wonderful news! I have just read that Nigel Farage has said he would not be taking the knee “for anyone” (“GB News seeks saviour in Nigel Farage to stop plunge in ratings”, News). So that rules him out of ever receiving a knighthood!

Gary Bennett
Exeter

In the dog house

Please do not print my letter if you have redressed the balance this week by filling almost the entire magazine with self-catering venues, hotels, guest houses, restaurants, pubs and, especially, beaches and swimming pools where dogs are not welcome (“The Ruff Guide”, Magazine).
Melanie White
Marazion, Cornwall

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