TV and radio

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Pick of the week: Royal Festival Hall: a people's place, BBC2, Saturday, May 12, 7.10-7.50pm.

Fifty years ago, London's South Bank was the site for the Festival of Britain with, at its centre, the Royal Festival Hall. Unlike the structures around it - the Skylon, the Dome of Discovery - the Festival Hall was permanent. The architects were a high-minded lot, dedicated to creating a great public concert hall and a space for everyone to enjoy.

A Radio 4 programme this evening (Stronger Than Sirens, 8pm), complements this film with an account of concert-going during the Second World War. An architecture student born before the war photographed the building going up, a novelty, she says for someone more used to seeing them come down.

The gap between Hungerford Bridge and Waterloo Bridge dictated the shape of the structure, an ingenious box within a box, that continues to serve the public well.

Arena, And the Winner is . . .

BBC2, Sunday, May 13 11.20pm-12.29am.

"I don't think there's anything that there's not an award for," says Wayde Sanders at the Las Vegas convention of the Awards and Recognition Association. But who gives them? Who gets them? Who makes them? And why?

The BBC's flagship arts documentary series explores the cultural significance of awards, with much-valued contributions from Dr Theodore Zeldin and Glenda Jackson. Producer-director Amir Amirani surely deserves a gong for his film.

Best on rado: Discovery, Machines Like Us, BBC World Service, Fridays, 8.05pm (rpt Saturdays 2.05am, Mondays 3.05pm, Tuesdays 10.05am).

A four-part investigation of smart machines, starting with metals that "learn" to revert to a particular shape when heated. (It's all done with molecules.) Eventually, we may have shape-shifting buildings and aircraft wings that flap. But what do we mean by "intelligent" machines and how do we relate to them? The final programme in the series takes a critical look at Alan Turing's test of a thinking computer: "If a machine can't be told apart from a human in a conversation over a teletype, that's good enough." Or is it?

A Small Gathering of Three Million, Radio 4, Monday, May 14, 8-9pm

Mary Price's documentary follows a group of Muslims from Bristol as they set off for the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Schools spotlight: Words and Pictures Plus, BBC2, Monday, May 14, 9.15-9.30am

The new term is under way but, being summer, there's little yet in the way of new programming. Here is a repeat English series for primary schools, this week concentrating on the spelling of long vowels. Paul and his animated friend, Jim, introduce children to a variety of spellings and help them decide which to use.

Robin Buss

Full educational programme schedules can be found online at co.ukprogrammessummer 2001.cfm

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