Joan Bakewell has assembled a bunch of her contemporaries to look back over the past 50 years and assess the impact of public events on their private lives. It turns out to be a telling piece of social history, starting with the Second World War. The unanimous view seems to be that the Blitz was tremendous fun: "Fearfully exciting; one couldn't complain," in the words of one survivor. When it was all over, A S Byatt recalls asking her mother what the BBC would find to put on the news. From now on, her mother assured her, it would be all cricket and that sort of thing.
It wasn't. For a start, Labour won the post-war election, an event that the headmaster at Neal Ascherson's private school had warned would lead to an invasion by boys from the adjacent state primary, eager to ransack the classrooms of the privileged. Instead of this violent revolution we had the national health service, then the Angry Young Men (including Alan Sillitoe, who protests that they never were angry, just successful, affluent playwrights), rock 'n' roll and Suez.
The point of a series like this is to show the impact of events on individuals. It does so effectively, in Beryl Bainbridge's reactions to the first newsreels from Belsen or Anthony Howard's recollections of Suez - when a trusting public learned that a British government could lie. For anyone studying British society in the mid-20th century, these memories and the attitudes they reveal will be an illumination.
My Generation <> BBC2 from June 4, 8-8.50pm
The "Animated Shakespeares" are well established in many schools as an aid to studying the plays; all eight of them are being shown again in two blocks overnight on June 7 and 8.
The "Animated Epics", designed for a slightly older age group (12 to 16), fit less obviously into the curriculum. However, Beowulf, Moby-Dick and the two-part Canterbury Tales are all superbly animated (often by the same Russian teams who did the Shakespeare films) and bound to inspire some interest in the original works. They could form the starting point for an exploration of linguistic change over time as well as giving students a painless introduction to key works in the literary canon.
The Animated Epics
BBC2 Tuesday, June 6, 2-4am
best of the rest
BBC Radio 4 is embarking on a remarkable series of documentary dramas based on the lives of children in different parts of the world, developed from audio diaries kept by the children themselves.
The first episode, "Child of the Border", written by Gill Adams, begins on the frontiers of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea with the harrowing story of a 13-year-old who has lost her parents and been raped. She now lives in a refugee camp, home to 20,000 people, where most of her time is spent fetching water from one of six wells. Later plays will dramatise the lives of children in Finland, Brazil, Korea and Britain.
Child of Our Time
BBC Radio 4 Monday, June 5, 2.15-3pm