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What Point Prison? debate gets underway in Nottingham's historic Galleries of Justice

Made in Manchester has recruited Stephen Sackur to host special debate, asking What Point Prison?, for BBC Radio 4.

The debate was recorded in the courtroom of the Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham and involves a panel including Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, former prisons ombudsman for Northern Ireland Pauline McCabe and ex Lib Dem prisons minister Simon Hughes.

Incisive but fair: Stephen Sackur presents prisons debate

Also contributing – the former inspector of prisons in England and Wales, Nick Herbert, economist Vicky Pryce, Birmingham-based criminologist James Treadwell and Patsie Mckie from Mothers Against Violence in Manchester.

Producer Ashley Byrne says: ‘Stephen Sackur is the perfect host for a powerful debate in which we hear some stark testimony from an audience including victim’s families and former inmates. Some of the stories are very moving and the arguments for and against prison and its benefits are made passionately on all sides.’

What Point Prison? looks at whether prison is working as well as examining the plethora of alternatives that could be considered – from boot camps to restorative justice.

Ashley adds: “Prison numbers are huge. If you combine England and Wales with Scotland and Northern Ireland around 93,000 people are incarcerated across the UK which is the biggest number in Western Europe. It’s a good time to be looking at what prison is all about.”

Among the testimonies – Ray and Vi Donovan from London who forgave their son’s three killers through restorative justice.

Radio 4’s criminal justice season also includes a series called Rethinking The Clink presented by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Both the series and the debate are now available via the BBC iplayer radio. Listen to the debate here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07pj2pk

Historian and broadcaster Helen Castor Picture by Chris Gibbions

Made in Manchester has recruited historian Helen Castor to present a 5-part series about the History of the Midlands.

The series titled England: Made in the Middle will air on BBC Radio 4 from 1.45pm next Monday.

Helen Castor, herself a Midlander, will argue that England has largely been shaped historically by the people and places of its Middle counties – Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, the West Midlands, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.

Producer Robert Shore says ‘The Midlands is often overlooked when we think about the history of England yet it’s where some of our major figures have hailed from most notably William Shakespeare but also Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Johnson and of course, we now know Richard III was not only born in the Midlands but died here too.’

The series looks at the early days of the Midlands and how the ancient Kingdom of Mercia (with its capital in Tamworth) would influence the England we know today. It also examines the the region’s role in creating modern British democracy, the West Midlands’ role in leading the Industrial Revolution and the East Midlands literary prowess through writers like DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe.

The series also looks at accents and dialect and what makes a Nottingham or Leicester accent particularly distinctive.

MIM Creative Director Ashley Byrne says: ‘Apart from Robin Hood, many people know very little about the history of the Midlands because as a country we tend to focus on the North or South and ignore the bit in the middle. I’m very pleased that with the help of such a respected historian like Helen Castor, who grew up in Leamington Spa, we’ve been able to finally explore it through these programmes.’

England: Made in the Middle is presented by Dr Helen Castor and airs at 1.45pm every day next week (May 23-27th) on BBC Radio 4.

Bringing to life some of the readings – celebrated character actor Christopher Strauli (Only When I Laugh, Raffles, Edward VII, Rising Damp, the film) as well as Jon Thrower, Matt Nation, Alex Oliviere and Lisa Thrower.

Actor Christopher Strauli

This series follows a successful run of programmes by Made in Manchester for Radio 4 recently which included 1916: A Letter from Ireland which was made to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

England: Made in the Middle can be heard via the BBC iplayer for 30 days after broadcast.

Made in Manchester has produced a one-off documentary for BBC Radio 4 about a unique collection of letters brought together in Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
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Made in Manchester will tonight remember the Hollywood film star James Dean 60 years after his untimely death at the age of just 24.
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Made in Manchester has been commissioned to make a documentary investigating whether an ethical code of conduct could be introduced for the making of adult films online and DVD.
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