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Pick of the week. A Stitch in Time: Lace. BBC Radio 4. Sunday, March 7. 2.30-3pm

Anna Pavord recently turned the humble tulip into a celebrity, unearthing a plant biography so bizarre that it has become a bestseller. It seems strange to imagine there was a time when a flower could wield huge economic influence.

In much the same vein, Radio 4's A Stitch in Time: Lace looks at a frilly subject and discovers that, in the 17th century, people would cut throats in order to capture a fine cravat.

Kaffe Fasset, no stranger to needles himself, investigates the history of lace-making and discovers how Britain banned "Euro" lace in an attempt to protect the home market. The result? Smuggling and all sorts of shenanigans as the dedicated followers of fashion tried desperately to conceal illicit wares.

Pat Perriman, the keeper of lace at Allhallows Museum in Honiton, also talks of the 1,500-hour slog required to create the cuffs and cravat for Bernard Wetherell's ceremonial garb as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Her handiwork can now be seen gracing his successor, Betty Boothroyd.

There is unusual material here for teachers of both history and craft and design.


Marita Conlon-McKenna is Ireland's best-selling children's author. Her first novel, Under the Hawthorn Tree, about the Irish potato famine has now been dramatised by Channel 4 and RTE for Middle English.

It is the tale of three children who are left to fend for themselves as the famine wreaks havoc in their community. They set out on a quest to find their great aunts and, hopefully, ensure their own survival. Do they make it? That would be telling, but this production is haunting and atmospheric, even down to rotten teeth and scraggy clothes. A grand tale in the telling. Study guide pound;4.95, book pound;3.99 (pound;3.49 for sets of 20 or more) and video of the series pound;14.99, all from C4 Schools, 01926 436444.

Middle English: Under the Hawthorn Tree Channel 4 Thursdays, 10-10.20am


Self-determination is something that most of us take for granted, our freedom to choose a course of action without interference. All well and good until fate throws a spanner in the works, then individual liberty tends to run into bureaucratic barriers.

Channel 4's award-winning documentary series on disability, Access all Areas, continues to highlight individual cases of disenfranchisement. Of particular interest is the programme "What's so special about David", which follows the case of a boy with Down's syndrome. His mum has been slugging it out with the local authority to get him taught at his local school rather than a special one. "It is David's basic right," she says. The local authority disagrees.

Access all Areas Channel 4. From Saturday, nightly. Times vary.

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