Life’s rich tapestry

By the dawn of the 1930s, ra­dio was bring­ing the en­tire world to lis­ten­ers’ liv­ing rooms

BBC History Magazine - - Radio Times -

“I am just an or­di­nary house­wife with lit­tle time for read­ing at my dis­posal, but I do look for­ward to a quiet hour or so… As I thread my nee­dle, I may hear that I am to visit an African vil­lage, look at flow­ers or in­sects with that ‘in­ner eye’, or sing my­self breath­less in Sir Wal­ford’s ‘cross-coun­try run’.” Th­ese words – taken from a let­ter to the Ra­dio Times’ weekly Se­lec­tions from the Edi­tor’s Post Bag – cap­ture per­fectly ra­dio’s power to fire lis­ten­ers’ imag­i­na­tions, as this still rel­a­tively new form of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion en­tered the 1930s.

Se­lec­tions from the Edi­tor’s Post Bag pre­sented the whole gamut of read­ers’ views – the only qual­i­fi­ca­tion was that they ad­hered to prin­ci­ples of good taste and free speech. One edi­tor named it a “Mar­ble Arch cor­ner in print”.

Not all cor­re­spon­dence was com­pli­men­tary. One irate lieu­tenant-colonel listed “glar­ing mis­takes” in the 1933 mil­i­tary ra­dio play The Fan­tas­tic Bat­tle.

De­spite such quib­bles, by the 1930s more and more lis­ten­ers were praising ra­dio’s ed­u­ca­tional value – es­pe­cially when it was aimed at chil­dren. Pro­grammes cov­er­ing not only mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture and science, but also prac­ti­cal and imag­i­na­tive ma­te­rial, did much to pre­pare pupils for life af­ter school, as well as broaden their hori­zons.

Win­dow onto a new world: a fam­ily tunes into a ra­dio broad­cast, c1930

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