Robin Buss's pick of the week
BBC2, Thursday, January 20, 4-6am
Eight 15-minute programmes on young people in the Spanish-speaking world, with interviews, film and music dealing with such favourite oral topics as greetings, the family and pets, home and school, free time and the neighbourhood. A useful reminder that Spanish is spoken beyond the Iberian Peninsula. Designed for 11 to 14-year-olds.
BBC Primary History: The Aztecs
BBC2, Fridays, January 14 and 21, 11.10-11.30am
If it's not the Victorians, it must be the Aztecs...Unless the national curriculum finally tires of ritual human sacrifice, this unappealing nation will remain a fixed topic in primary-school history. The first of these two programmes looks at the archaeological remains in Mexico City and considers the Aztecs' "complex religious practices and beliefs" (for example, that the sun would not rise without regular tributes of human blood); the second part is about the Spanish conquistadors (who were, if that is possible, even less attractive than those they conquered). Next month: the Victorians.
Arrows of Desire
C4, January 14, 10.45-11.50am
This superb anthology of English poetry is being repeated this term, starting with programmes one and two today and continuing on various days, at various times, until March 18. Each programme focuses on four poems, in different styles (today we get Blake, Carroll, Cummings and Tennyson).
Readings of the poems are accompanied by comments from modern poets, documents and criticism, to give a rounded view of the work. Programmes notes are available online.
Dance Workshop: Roman Invaders
BBC Radio 4, Fridays, January14-February 11, 4.20-4.40am
This five-part unit in a well-established series for nine to 11-year-olds, based on the dance objectives of the PE curriculum, helps pupils to put dance sequences together, literally step by step. This unit explores different facets of the Roman invasion of Britain, including games and pastimes, the invasion itself, and walls and bridges (and now, let's try that all together, with the musicI).
BBC2, Mondays, January 17-31, 7pm
This excellent five-part series, telling stories connected with the great English cathedrals, began a couple of Mondays ago with Canterbury, then Lincoln. This week's episode is about Edwardian, rather than medieval engineering. Early in the last century, Dean William Furneaux discovered that his cathedral at Winchester was showing disturbing signs of structural decay. Surveyors reported that the whole edifice was in danger of collapse and Furneaux pioneered a new kind of fund-raising with a nationwide public appeal for the pound;20,000 that the repairs were estimated to cost (that estimate, needless to say, had to be multiplied by more than five to reach the final figure). When architects explored the foundations, they discovered that the medieval builders had rested the entire structure on a wooden raft over the peat bog underneath. The rest of the story, including a deep-sea diver, a family of owls, a grouting machine and medieval plague victims, is told in the film. The cathedral survived, but only thanks to Dr Furneaux's efforts and those of the deep-sea diver, William Walker, who is commemorated by a statue in the Cathedral close.
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