As we approach the most unpredictable General Election in decades, Adrian Chiles talks to an often forgotten group - the habitual non-voter. Around 18 million people didn’t cast their ballot in the last election, so what’s keeping them from the polls?
The majority of people who don’t vote are from two groups, low income households and the young – groups often most affected by policy. Some fear being on the electoral roll and aren’t even registered, many others are registered but just don’t feel well enough informed.
“I don’t know about politics so I’m expecting leaders to show us the way but they don’t.”
“I don’t really understand any of it. I have a lack of confidence in my intelligence.”
It was not always this way. Between 1922 and 1997, voter turnout remained above 70% with a peak of nearly 84% in 1950 to return Clement Attlee to power. But in 2001, turnout slumped to 59% and has not recovered to the 70% mark since.
With over a third of the population not casting their vote in General Elections, some claim the results do not therefore represent genuine public opinion. Some call for electoral reform and changes in how we register, others argue polling day could be made more accessible. Local authorities encourage people to register but it’s down to political parties to improve political engagement, and very few of the people Adrian has spoken to for this documentary have been on the receiving end of any campaigns. With limited resources, the parties concentrate on the marginal constituencies they can win, not the areas with low turnout – as one pollster told us, "They don’t vote so they don’t matter. My clients who are interested in democracy are interested in voters, not non-voters."
In The Unheard Third, their voices do matter. As one political watcher told us, “In this election they are an x factor. They are hard to predict. They could be a disruptive force and should not be underestimated.”
Produced by Henrietta Harrison
Presented by Adrian Chiles
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4
Altamont: The Death of the Hippie Dream
Georgia Bergman, who was Mick Jagger’s personal assistant in 1969, returns to the scene of one of rock’s most notorious concerts. She gives an insider’s perspective on the cultural impact of the event, detailing why it happened, what went wrong and how the concert marked the end of the 60s hippie dream.
Georgia is joined by others who worked with the Rolling Stones at the Altamont concert on December 6, 1969 - including their Business Manager Ron Schneider, the Tour Manager Sam Cutler, Production Designer Chip Monck, film maker Albert Maysles, photographer Eamon McCabe and journalist Michael Lydon.
A Ten Alps production for BBC Radio 4
Exhaustion: A History
Are we really more exhausted today than we have ever been before? Writer and broadcaster Philip Ball sets out on a journey to discover a forgotten history of listlessness, burn-out and fatigue.
The story he uncovers reveals modern concerns with being tired out, that can feel unique to our time, have in fact been shared by many previous generations that also claimed to be ages of exhaustion.
From Ancient Greek bodily concerns with imbalances in the four humours, to spiritual failings of desert dwelling monks of early Christianity. From celestial bodies of Renaissance thinking, to the moralistic sexual messages of the 18th and 19th century Vampires. What does exhaustion show us about our preoccupations of the past?
As we arrive at the industrial revolution and the rhythms of contemporary life start to change, it’s the exhaustion of the outside world that comes into play. Yet the age old prejudices of class, sex and race continue in its interpretations.
Today, listlessness and burnout still serve as a bridge to our wider anxieties. But are brand new stakes in the history of exhaustion entering the fray? Our depleted world, sapped of its resources, desperately seeks new sources of energy. Is civilisation and our planet now jeopardised by exhaustion too?
Presented by Philip Ball
Producer: David Waters
A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4
Sally Marlow talks to some of the men and women who have self-harmed, and the experts who treat them, to find out what is driving so many people to self-harm.
Clinical guidelines define self-harm as any act of self-poisoning or self-injury carried out by a person irrespective of their motivation. However, research reveals a worrying association between self-harm and the risk of suicide.
While rates of self-harm are particularly high among teenage girls, the true picture is far more nuanced. Rates have gone up in all age groups and both genders and, more recently, in groups such as middle-aged men.
So what is driving so many people to hurt themselves, and what can be done to help them? The media is quick to point the finger at social media, but Sally discovers that the reasons behind this question are as varied and complex as the people who do it.
Producer: Beth Eastwood
Designing a World for Everyone
In 1979, Pattie Moore, a 26-year-old designer in New York was so was so incensed by the way her colleagues ignored the needs of the elderly that she embarked on a daring piece of social research. Disguised as an 85-year-old woman, she took to the streets of America, travelling to over 100 cities, to discover the realities of being old. Her disguise not only looked the part but also simulated the infirmities of old age - prosthetics reduced her hearing, vision and the ability to move with ease. She bound her fingers and wore gloves to simulate arthritis.
In this programme, Jeremy Myerson, the Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art, follows Pattie’s story as she relives memories in New York where her radical experiment began. Pattie retraces her steps to significant places such as Harlem, where she was brutally attacked, and the bench in Central Park where she was romanced by an elderly widower. She talks to senior New Yorkers today about their lives in the city.
Pattie’s experiment was a milestone in development of universal design - the idea that products and environments should be designed so they can be used by as many people as possible regardless of age or disability. Her mission since has been to champion the needs of those less able and to design with empathy. We hear from a veteran who has benefitted from one of her rehabilitation simulation environments and look to the future of design for conditions such as autism.
Today, Pattie is an internationally renowned gerontologist and designer. In October Pattie received the prestigious Design Mind Award at the 2019 National Design Awards in New York.
Producer: Sara Parker
Executive Producer: Emma Walker
A Rosa Production for BBC Radio 4