The roads and byways of the British Isles are home to a new generation of travellers. Alongside the traditional Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities there’s a booming sub-culture of van dwellers who prefer the open road to bricks and mortar. For some it's a lifestyle choice. They spend the summer moving from festival to festival, picking up casual jobs as they go.
They celebrate their light touch on the planet and those who can afford it take the snowbird route for the winter, heading south through Spain. For increasing numbers, however, there's less glamour in 'van life'. Rapidly rising rents force them into vehicles and a long, cold winter searching for welcoming roadside stops with toilets and taps.
Travel writer and broadcaster, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent has spent many months living out of her own battered VW van. She understands the fantasy and the practical difficulties. In the New Nomads she hears about both sides of van life and discovers new challenges on the horizon. For many travellers- traditional and new- the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of 2022 feels specifically designed to make their lives as difficult as possible.
It creates a new offence of “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle” and makes it easier for the police to remove unauthorised encampments. Fresh ideas are helping the increasing number of van dwellers.
In Bristol, brownfield areas are being turned into temporary spaces for vans and caravans. The residents are happy with these cheap and cheerful campsites but demand far outstrips supply. Unless more affordable homes are built it seems inevitable that more and more young people will have little choice but the open road.
Producer: Alasdair Cross
Troubled Water - Episode 1
Are we running out of water? Britain may be known for its rain but, as our climate changes, there are warnings we could be closer than we think to our taps running dry.
In this episode of Troubled Water, James Gallagher asks why our pipes are being pushed to the brink and what can be done about it, all from the comfort of his bathroom. Huddled in the loo, he talks to Professor Hannah Cloke, OBE, who predicts rainfall events through her work at the University of Reading, Dr Francis Hassard, from the Water Science Institute at Cranfield University, Andrew Tucker who manages water demand at Thames Water and inventor Garry Moore who shows how he's hoping to revolutionise our loos with his air-pressurised Velocity toilet.
Presenter: James Gallagher
Producer: Tom Bonnett
Sideways - Please I beg you.
When Ben Taylor receives a Facebook message from a stranger in Liberia, asking in badly spelled English for financial or business assistance, he quickly assumes it’s a scam. But instead of just ignoring the message, he decides to find out about the person behind it.
In this episode, Matthew Syed explores what happens when you let your guard down and make a leap of trust. With author and Oxford University trust fellow Rachel Botsman, philosopher Julian Baggini, Ben Taylor and Joel Mentee-Willie.
Presenter: Matthew Syed
Producer: Eliza Lomas
Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey
Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight
Theme music by Ioana Selaru
A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
Shock and War: Iraq 20 Years On - Episode 1
Why did the US want regime change in Iraq? Was it really about the threat of terrorists getting hold of weapons of mass destruction after the September 11th 2001 attacks, or was the desire much deeper? And what was the British government's reaction?
Presenter: Gordon Corera
Series Producer: John Murphy
Producers: Ellie House, Claire Bowes
Sound Designer: Eloise Whitmore, Naked Productions
Production coordinators: Janet Staples, Brenda Brown
Series Editor: Penny Murphy
A Documentary: By ChatGPT
What would a documentary made by ChatGPT sound like? This is it…well, with a bit of human help.
Tech journalist and BBC Click presenter, Lara Lewington, explores the immeasurable possibilities of sophisticated AI technology and how it will change our lives - from doing students' essays to writing films, diagnosing health conditions to customer service. Lara will be testing how well it can help make this documentary, interviewing it, asking for the research. Can it write the script?
She will be pitting her own journalistic skills against the technology everyone’s talking about - ChatGPT. Lara is our guide to stepping into this new era experiencing a giant leap forward in AI, not only by ChatGPT but from its competitors who are rapidly on its heels. She hears from experts how it is a tool that could become as ubiquitous as Google, used for enhancing human performance, not limiting it.
Lara wants to understand what learning to live with this technology means in practice. How can we skill up and learn to use it smartly, to enhance our lives and careers? But it does have its problems. Yes, it can summarise reams of material in seconds. But it does get things wrong. There are also questions about its ethics, its bias and identifying the sources of the material it generates.
Lara explores how this type of AI could transform job roles, creative output, and ways of thinking we once thought could only ever be performed by human minds.
Presenter: Lara Lewington
Producer: Fiona Walker
Executive Producer: Katherine Godfrey
Researchers: Mo Ahmed and Valeria Rocca
Sound Design and Mix: Daniel Kempson
A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.