Robert Carlyle narrates landmark 10-part series What Really Happened in the Nineties?

Radio 4 explores the legacy of the 1990s in a new season of programmes

Sally Phillips reads Bridget Jones’s Diary, Jarvis Cocker reads from his debut nonfiction book, BBC Moscow Correspondent Tim Whewell examines Russia in the 1990s and We’re all Living in OK Computer Now… explores the legacy of Radiohead’s classic album.

"The 1990s were a time of fizzing creative energy. There were filmmakers, bands and writers breaking through from all different backgrounds, which gave the decade a feeling of excitement and change. And it paved the way for the world we live in now." — Robert Carlyle

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It’s the decade that gave us Britpop and Cool Britannia, but what can the 1990s tell us about who we are now?

Over the first two weeks of May, BBC Radio 4 will celebrate and investigate the 1990s, a decade that brought with it a boom in British culture and hedonism, as well as decisions and events that would change our lives forever.

At the centre of the season is a landmark ten-part series, What Really Happened in the Nineties? Narrated by Robert Carlyle, who starred in many of the decade’s best-loved films including Trainspotting, The Full Monty and Angela’s Ashes, the series will travel back in time to key moments in the 1990s that reverberate today in unexpected ways. From the internet and no-frills air travel, to the rise of Russia and the Iraq War, Carlyle takes us through some of the defining moments that have shaped the modern world.

Further highlights from the 1990s season are:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding read by Sally Phillips, who starred as Bridget’s friend Shazza in the film series, on BBC Radio 4.

We’re all Living in OK Computer Now… explores the legacy of Radiohead’s classic album, OK Computer, on BBC Radio 4.

Good Pop Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker: the former Pulp frontman reads from his nonfiction debut book, which catalogues his own story, on BBC Radio 4.

Russia’s Restless ‘90s: former BBC Moscow Correspondent Tim Whewell examines how the tumult in Russia in the 1990s forged much of the system we see today, on BBC Radio 4.

The Comedy Club, featuring a selection of iconic 1990s comedies and The Comedy Club Interviews, discussing ground-breaking comedy that first appeared on Radio 1, on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Robert Carlyle, presenter of What Really Happened in the Nineties? says: "The 1990s were a time of fizzing creative energy. There were filmmakers, bands and writers breaking through from all different backgrounds, which gave the decade a feeling of excitement and change. And it paved the way for the world we live in now.”

Richard Knight, Commissioning Editor for Factual at BBC Radio 4, says: “The 1990s saw in a great cultural and political upheaval, particularly in Britain, with a new Labour government, Britpop and the proliferation of Cool Britannia. The 1990s season, led by What Really Happened in the Nineties?, will pinpoint some of the key points we may have missed, and help us understand why so much still resonates with us now.”


Full schedule of Programmes as part of the 1990s season

Russia’s Restless ‘90s - 3 April, 8pm-9pm, BBC Radio 4

At the beginning of the 90s, communism in Russia was dying. Following the collapse of the Soviet union, in 1991 the Russian people voted in Boris Yeltsin as their president.

Under Yeltsin, the country was shaking off 70 years of state control in favour of a more capitalist and democratic approach. Private business, travel and culture was, for the first time, encouraged, and suddenly there was serious money to be made.

But while the rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer - thanks in part to Yeltsin’s “shock therapy” and the plummeting value of the rouble, and before long the country was facing civil unrest.

Tim Whewell, looks back at Russia of the 90s exploring how a country which started off so united, could end up so divided?

Producer: Lucinda Borrell for BBC Radio 4

What Really Happened in the Nineties? 2-13 May, 1.45pm-2pm, BBC Radio 4

A ten-part series presented by Robert Carlyle exploring moments we missed in the 1990s that shaped the world today.

Here we are in 2022 navigating “cancel culture”, Brexit, identity politics, war in Europe. How did we get here? Did we miss something?

Robert Carlyle, who played Begbie in the 1990s hit Trainspotting, is here to show us that we did. That the world we live in was shaped by that forgotten decade.

From Hong Kong to Moscow, Cool Britannia to budget flights, we travel back in time to key moments in the 1990s that reverberate today in unexpected ways.

Episode one: Cool Britannia

As ministers promote the Levelling Up agenda, redistributing investment from London and the South East to the North and the Midlands, we return to the capital in the 1990s when 'Swinging London' started to become a symbol of unequal Britain.

Cultural and economic forces converged as London reinvented itself. Britpop, Young British Artists, designers, gastropups and coffee culture all propelled the capital into what Vanity Fair called Cool Britannia.

Robert guides us through this tumultuous decade: a time when competing visions about what the cities and the country should become were unleashed.

Producer Neil McCarthy

Sound Designer Phil Channell

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding - 2-13 May, 10.45pm-11pm, BBC Radio 4

Helen Fielding's iconic 1996 novel of life as a single thirty-something woman in London.

"Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Cannot quite believe I am once again starting the year in a single bed in my parents’ house."

Bridget Jones begins the new year full of resolutions. She pledges in her diary to drink less, smoke less, lose weight, find a new job, stay away from unsuitable men and learn to programme the VCR. But her resolve is tested by the horrors of attending dinner parties with the "smug marrieds", the confusing behaviour of her charming rogue of a boss Daniel Cleaver, and her increasingly embarrassing encounters with human rights lawyer Mark Darcy.

Bridget Jones's Diary started life as a weekly column in the pages of The Independent in 1995, when Fielding worked on the news desk. Her column chronicled the life and antics of fictional Bridget Jones as a thirty-something single woman in London trying to make sense of life and love. It was first published as a novel in 1996,has gone on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide and has been adapted into a series of films.

Read by Sally Phillips

Abridged by Sara Davies

Produced by Mair Bosworth and Mary Ward-Lowery

We’re All Living in OK Computer Now… - 7 May, 8pm-9pm, BBC Radio 4

It's 25 years after the release of Radiohead’s breakthrough album. Admirers from literature, music, science and politics examine the album’s prophetic qualities. Did OK Computer actually shape and predict the future?

In June 1997, an also-ran band in the Britpop wars put out a third LP. Moving clear of their musical peers, who were engaged in 60s nostalgia, this was a sonically and psychologically sophisticated record. Released in the first days of the New Labour government, it subverted the era's idealism and “things can only get better”, and lit a flare at the dawn of a new age of postmodern anxiety.

Recently, OK Computer was voted the “ultimate 90s album” on BBC Radio 2. But this was more than just a 90s album. Much more.

OK Computer is rock music as science fiction. An album version of George Orwell or JG Ballard. Each song yields a vivid premonition of life as it is lived now, a quarter of a century on. It speaks directly to the major events of our time, from Trump to the climate emergency, big data and surveillance.

Booker-nominated author and Radiohead superman Sarah Hall speaks to contributors including:

Lauren Beukes, sci-fi author.

Daphne A Brooks, academic.

Grant Gee, film director and Radiohead collaborator.

John Harris, journalist.

Steve Hyden, music critic.

Musa Okwonga, musician and broadcaster.

Dr Adam Rutherford, scientist.

Conor O'Brien, Villagers musician

A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4

Good Pop Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker - 9-13 May, 9.45pm-10pm, BBC Radio 4

In Good Pop, Bad Pop Jarvis Cocker delves into the contents of his loft and considers each item before deciding whether to keep or cob (throw away) and in doing so explores the origins of his creativity and what exactly makes good pop work and why bad pop fails. This inventory takes the form of a coming of age memoir revisiting Sheffield in the1980s against the backdrop of the miners strikes and rising unemployment. With the aid of a collection of 1980s pop objects and a gallery of interesting shirts, Jarvis charts the early days of the band, PULP,from the humiliation of a concert in the school hall at lunchtime, to an invitation to record a session for John Peel. This period of his life, living in a disused factory while trying to get the band off the ground, comes to a sudden end after a disastrous stunt to impress a girl changes his life … And his attitude to music making.

Jarvis Cocker grew up in Sheffield in the 1960s and 70s, founding the band Pulp with his friends while he still was at City School despite not being able to play an instrument. The band went on to perform regularly in local venues in the 1980s until eventually they found fame in the 1990s with the success of the single Common People which made their name and the albums His 'n' Hers (1994) and Different Class (1995).

Written and read by Jarvis Cocker

Abridged by Isobel Creed and Jill Waters

Produced by Jill Waters

The Waters Company for BBC Radio 4

Comedy Club: 90s - 7-13 May, 10.55pm–11.30pm (Sun 11pm-12am), BBC Radio 4 Extra

To tie-with BBC Radio 4’s season exploring the impact of the 90s, Radio 4 Extra kicks off a week of some of the BBC’s funniest radio shows from the decade. Each night at 23.00, Comedy Club host Jon Holmes goes retro to remind us how each series came about and to assess their comedic influence and legacy, as many later moved to TV.

Aha! Cheesy chat show host Alan Partridge is up first with guests including – BBC TV Commissioning Director Tony Hayers and Lord Morgan of Glossop - an 84 yr old maverick who once told a radical feminist to 'shut up and shave'. Steve Coogan stars in Knowing Me Knowing You from 1993.

On Sunday, it’s Alan Parker's 59 Minutes of Truth 9 (1/6) with Simon Munnery as the ‘urban warrior'. On Monday, it’s all the news as it happens, if it happens. Chris Morris hosts the savagely satirical award-winning comedy, On The Hour (S1, 2/6) from 1991. On Tuesday, it’s Lee and Herring's Fist of Fun (6/6) Radio 1’s cult comedy from 1993 starring Stewart Lee and Richard Herring.

On Wednesday, Hugh Dennis, Steve Punt, Robert Newman and David Baddiel face the pernicious evil of shampoo and conditioner in The Mary Whitehouse Experience (S4, 2/6) from 1990. Thursday sees hungry Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Nitin Sawhney, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia going for an 'English' in the gold award-winning Goodness Gracious Me (S1, 1/6) from 1996.

Finally on Friday, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton star in On the Town With The League Of Gentlemen (1/6) The dark comedy about the 'local people' of Spent from 1997.

Producer: Laura Grimshaw

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra

The Comedy Club Interviews, 7-13 May, 10.55-11pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra

Simon Munnery, Richard Herring, and the former controller of Radio 1 Matthew Bannister discuss ground-breaking comedy that aired on Radio 1 in the 1990s, including Chris Morris’s Blue Jam, Lee & Herring, The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Armando Iannucci.

Producer: Laura Grimshaw

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra

Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island - 2-6 May, 2pm-2.15pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra

Recalling tea with tinned biscuits, American comic writer Bill Bryson takes a sentimental journey around Britain.

Five readings abridged and performed by Kerry Shale.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1996.

Fever Pitch - 9-13 May, 2pm-2.15pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra

The author reads his autobiographical account of an obsessive relationship with Arsenal Football Club.

It is 1968 - an important year: his parents have split up, at one point his mother, sister and himself are homeless, he gets a severe attack of jaundice and starts at grammar school.

His Dad took him to Highbury and there was no looking back.

'I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically' - but does football ruin men and their relationships? Probably...

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in August 1993.

The Real Comedy Controllers: The Things That Made Us Laugh - 11 May, 11am-12pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra

Alternative Comedy...and Beyond - The Mary Whitehouse Experience.

The Real Comedy Controllers: The Things That Made Us Laugh - 18 May, 11am–12pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra

Alternative Comedy...and Beyond – Goodness Gracious Me, On The Hour.

Source BBC Radio 4

April 15, 2022 4:54am ET by BBC Radio 4  

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