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Images from Saturday Night, Sunday Morning which was set in Nottingham and is the subject of part 4 of the In Praise of the Midlands Essay series

The Midlands is getting a boost this month with a special series on the BBC.

Made in Manchester is making the programmes which will air across five nights on Radio 3.

‘This is England’s forgotten region,’ says MIM Creative Director Ashley Byrne ‘there’s a wealth of history, heritage, culture that has sprung from this area but it rarely, if ever, gets talked about in the binary media battle between North and South.’

Midlander Robert Shore, who hails from Mansfield – scene of many a clash during the miners’ strike of the 80s – is producing the series, which consists of five essays mostly written and delivered by proud Midlanders.

The programmes are being broadcast to coincide with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare – himself a Midlander!

Ashley Byrne says: ‘Few people associate Shakespeare with the Midlands but as listeners will discover his Midlands roots shaped his creativity.’

‘But the Midlands is more than Shakespeare and more than Birmingham too. In these Essays we hear about Nottinghamshire’s rebellious traditions as we celebrate the work of Alan Sillitoe and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. And where exactly does a county like Northamptonshire sit? Miranda star Katherine Jakeways examines how she’s only just realised she is from the Midlands!’

Ashley adds: ‘We hope this series gets people thinking a bit more about a huge region which has been central to England and the UK’s success over the years.’

‘Across the five nights,’ says Robert Shore, ‘the Essayists sketch in a broad history of the Midlands – from the groundbreaking work of the Ice Age artists at Creswell Crags to the world-reconfiguring innovations of the Lunar Society. But they also offer personal reflections on growing up in the Midlands, evoking the sights and impressions of their early years that told them what it meant and means to be a Midlander.’

The Essay: In Praise of the Midlands was ordered by Radio 3 Commissioning Editor Matthew Dodd and will TX on the network from 22.45-23.00 each night from 21st April through to 25th April with the programme celebrating Shakespeare The Midlander airing on Wednesday 23rd April.

Programme details

Monday: Geoff Dyer looks at ‘D H Lawrence and the Men of the Midlands’.
Tuesday: Henry Hitchings considers Erasmus Darwin – ‘The Leonardo da Vinci of the Midlands’.
Wednesday: On the Bard’s 450th anniversary, Dominic Dromgoole looks at ‘Shakespeare The Midlander’.
Thursday – James Walker sets out in praise of Alan Sillitoe, ‘Bard of Nottingham’.
Friday – Writer Katherine Jakeways on Adrian Mole, ‘Poet of the Midlands’, and how she’s only recently become aware of her Midlands heritage.

Meanwhile Katherine Jakeways’ acclaimed Midlands Radio 4 sitcom, ‘North by Northamptonshire’, will be repeated on 4Extra the same week.

The national flag of Haiti - scene of violence in 2004 as the President is toppled from office

Made in Manchester’s latest production for the BBC World Service was for the network’s Witness strand which remembers key global events through the eyes of individual testimony.

MIM has made several of these short documentaries for the station and the latest looked back at the violent coup that toppled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti 10 years ago.

Witness is an award winning series on the BBC World Service

Ira Kurzban, Aristide’s long time attorney spoke to MIM’s Ashley Byrne for the piece and talks candidly about how the President was swept from power on February 29th 2004 amid violence clashes on the streets of the capital Port Au Prince. Aristide was flown to the Central African Republic before finally finding exile in Jamaica and later South Africa.

Ashley Byrne says: ‘Witness is a great series and when you speak to these people who lived through such major events you really feel the history. Aristide’s fall from power is often seen through the eyes of the US so to hear the voice of someone so close to him instead, it shone a different light on matters. Obviously there are often different sides to all stories and we leave it to the listener to make their own mind up about events.’

MIM has also been commissioned to make two forthcoming Sporting Witness programmes for the BBC World Service. These are expected to air in the summer.

You can hear MIM’s Witness about the Haiti Coup here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01sl4fv

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