Features for BBC Radio


The Flower Fields (first broadcast Radio 4, October 2012).

‘Michael Bird’s lovely atmospheric piece’ (John Mount, Radio Times ‘Critic’s Choice’). ‘The Flower Fields’ was radio ‘Pick of the Day’ in the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and Independent.

A mysterious, dense network of overgrown field walls covers the south-facing coastal slopes between the Cornish village of Mousehole and Land’s End. This programme uncovers the history of these tiny fields, or quillets, and the survival of the Cornish flower-growing industry from Victorian times to today.

To listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer, click here.

Bill Harvey in his flower field – known as a meadow or quillet – near Mousehole, Cornwall. In the background, St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard Peninsula.

MB with Robert Body in the daffodil fields at Nanpusker Farm, Hayle, Cornwall.


Old skills are kept up and new opportunities seized. But, within a small geographical area, there’s a wide range of practice and produce, including the first ever on-air demonstration of how to use an eval to get rid of stroil in your kitchen garden.

Producer Julian May and narcissus with Keith Lowe at Churchtown Farm on the island of St Martins











The Wreck of the Alba (first broadcast Radio 4, July 2009).

The story of the night in January 1938 when the steamship Alba foundered on a headland at St Ives in Cornwall. The old self-taught painter and sometime mariner and scrap-dealer Alfred Wallis lived just yards away. He painted the wreck compulsively, and the programme centres on one of these paintings, now in the Tate collection.

Alfred Wallis, Wreck of the Alba (c.1938-39). Wallis’s cottage in St Ives is just out-of-frame to the bottom right of the painting.

Local people recall how townsfolk turned out in the storm to save the crew from drowning. The Alba‘s cargo of Welsh coal was on its way to Mussolini’s Italy. The programme makes connections between the wild night of the wreck and the wider history of the Appeasement era. From March 2013 visitors to the National Maritime Museum Falmouth will be able to listen to the The Wreck of the Alba in the exhibition Search and Rescue.

Lanyon’s Last Flight (first broadcast Radio 4, March 2011).

lanyon-1The story of the artist Peter Lanyon’s passion for gliding. Lanyon died in a glider accident in 1964. The programme explores the influence of gliding on his work. With contributions from Lanyon’s sons Andrew, Matthew and Martin and recordings of Lanyon himself and his friend Mark Rothko. Listen here.