The Listener (magazine)

The Listener was a weekly magazine established by the BBC in January 1929 which ceased publication in 1991. The entire digitised archive was made available for purchase online to libraries, educational and research institutions in 2011.[1]

It was first published on 16 January 1929, under the editorship of Richard S. Lambert, and was developed as a medium of record for the reproduction of broadcast talks. It also previewed major literary and musical broadcasts, reviewed new books, and printed a selected list of the more intellectual broadcasts for the coming week.

Its published aim was to be "a medium for intelligent reception of broadcast programmes by way of amplification and explanation of those features which cannot now be dealt with in the editorial columns of the Radio Times". The title reflected the fact that at the time the BBC broadcast via radio only.

(The BBC version of The Listener was preceded by another magazine with the same title which was the Journal of the Wireless League.

The first issue was published as a four-page insert in the Wireless World magazine on 24 March 1926. The Listener was described as The Journal of the Wireless League and was edited by Prof. A. M. Low. A comment from the BBC was included: "The B.B.C. welcomes The Listener. We have always before us the need for constant progress and we gladly listen to constructive criticism and help from the large body of listeners you represent. The Listener should be a milestone in the advance of British Broadcasting."

The Listener
First issue16 January 1929
Final issueJanuary 1991
CompanyBBC Magazines
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon


The Newspaper Proprietors' Association considered its launch to be "an illegitimate stretching of official activity" and, after consultation between Reith and the Prime Minister, a number of compromises were agreed to, including an upper limit of 10% original contributed material not related to broadcasting. Another compromise was a limit to the amount of advertising it could carry.[2]

It came to be seen as one of a trio of weekly magazines, the other two being The Spectator and the New Statesman, though it was distinguished from them by not being associated with a political party. The management of the other two magazines were occasionally critical of what they saw as the privileged financial position of their subsidised rival.

Above all, The Listener represented the BBC's cultural mission (strongly emphasised by John Reith). It gradually declined after 1960 as British society changed, the BBC became more plural, and other sources of information became more readily available.

The first editor, Richard S. Lambert, left in 1939 after successfully suing Sir Cecil Levita for slander over allegations that he was unfit for his job because of his credulity in believing in Gef, the talking mongoose.


Following the report of the Peacock Committee in 1986, all the BBC’s commercial activities, including The Listener, were moved into BBC Enterprises Limited. Management was now mainly answerable for the magazine’s commercial performance rather than its literary standards.

In 1987 The Listener was spun out to a new company jointly owned by the BBC and rival broadcaster ITV. Seeing The Listener’s eclecticism as a lack of focus, the new company appointed Alan Coren from Punch as editor in 1987 to try to establish a clearer identity as a humorous weekly, moving slightly away from the more intellectual and artistic aspects for which the magazine had also been known.

The attempt did not work, perhaps because the change of direction alienated subscribers who had valued the eclecticism, and the company replaced Coren with Peter Fiddick in 1989. In 1990 ITV pulled out of the joint deal, the BBC found themselves unable to support it on their own, and the last issue of The Listener was published in January 1991.[3]


In 2011 the magazines were scanned[1] for digitally preserved archiving. They are available via educational publisher Gale,[4] behind a paywall.


In its early decades The Listener attracted celebrated contributors including H. E. Bates, E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Julian Huxley, George Orwell, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, G. K. Chesterton and John Kenneth Galbraith. It also provided an important platform for new writers and poets. W. H. Auden, Edwin Muir, Christopher Isherwood, Stephen Spender, Sylvia Plath and Philip Larkin all had early works published in The Listener. Later, regular columnists included John Cole, Stephen Fry, D.A.N. Jones and Roy Hattersley. Barry Fantoni provided the magazine with cartoons and illustrations for twenty-one years.


The Listener crossword puzzle, introduced in 1930, is generally regarded as the most difficult cryptic crossword to appear in a national weekly. It survived the closure of The Listener and now appears in The Times on a Saturday, along with other puzzles and game articles on the last four pages of the "Saturday Review" section.

Solvers are invited to send in their solutions, with each of three randomly drawn correct solutions winning a prize of a book provided by the sponsors, Chambers. An annual list of statistics is also compiled for regular solvers to compare their performances. In most years only a handful of solvers are able to complete and submit all 52 puzzles correctly. The leading solver each year is awarded the Solver Silver Salver, and the all-correct solvers vote for the best puzzle of the year — the setter of which is awarded the Ascot Gold Cup.[5]


Arts and literary editors included J. R. Ackerley 1935–1959, and Anthony Thwaite. Assistant Editors included Janet Adam Smith 1930–1935.


  1. ^ a b Kiss, Jemima (31 March 2011). "BBC Launches Online Archive of The Listener Magazine". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2011. [...] all 3,197 issues are to be made available online as part of a major new digitisation project. Initially due to be opened to universities, schools, libraries and research institutions, BBC Worldwide has spent 18 months collaborating with digital archive specialists Cengage Learning to scan and index [...]
  2. ^ The London Mercury, Vol. XIX No. 112
  3. ^ "Timeline". Magforum. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  4. ^ "The Listener Historical Archive". Gale. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Listener Crossword Awards". Retrieved 2 October 2012.

External links

After Dark (TV series)

After Dark was a British late-night live discussion programme broadcast on Channel 4 television between 1987 and 1997, and on the BBC in 2003. Roly Keating of the BBC described it as "one of the great television talk formats of all time" and the Daily Mail as "the most intelligent, thought-provoking and interesting programme ever to have been on television". In 2010 the television trade magazine Broadcast wrote "After Dark defined the first 10 years of Channel 4, just as Big Brother did for the second" and in 2018 the programme was cited in an editorial in The Times as an example of high-quality television.

Broadcast live and with no scheduled end time, the series, inspired by an Austrian programme called Club 2, was considered to be a groundbreaking reinvention of the discussion programme format. The programme was hosted by a variety of presenters, and each episode had around half a dozen guests, often including a member of the public. Guests would be selected to provoke lively discussion; subject matter included "the treatment of children, of the mentally ill, of prisoners, and about class, cash and racial and sexual difference", as well as "matters of exceptional sensitivity to the then Thatcher government, such as state secrecy or the Troubles in Northern Ireland"; "places further afield...– Chile, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Nicaragua, South Africa and Russia – featured regularly" and "less apparently solemn subjects – sport, fashion, gambling, pop music – were in the mix from the start". Memorable conversations included footballer Garth Crooks disputing the future of the game with politician Sir Rhodes Boyson; MP Teresa Gorman walking out of a discussion about unemployment with Billy Bragg; and Oliver Reed drunkenly kissing Kate Millett during a programme that asked "Do Men Have To Be Violent?"The show ended in 1991 but a number of one-off specials and a BBC revival followed, before the programme finally came to an end in 2003. In 2004 After Dark was characterised as "legendary" by the Open University and in 2014 as "the most uncensorable programme in the history of British television". In 2016 The Herald wrote that "Unlike reality television live feeds today, After Dark was essential viewing, with some very serious talk enlivened even more by unexpected events." In 2017 the Journal of British Cinema and Television called it "an excitingly different and politically adventurous kind of programme".

Amelia Batistich

Amelia Batistich (née Barbarich, 11 March 1915 – 21 August 2004) was a New Zealand fiction writer of Croatian descent.

Anna Jackson

Anna Jackson (born 1967) is a New Zealand poet, fiction and non-fiction writer and an academic who grew up in Auckland and now lives in Wellington. Her writing has appeared in journals and anthologies, and she has published several collections of poetry. She has received a number of awards for her work, including a 1999 Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary, the 2001 Waikato University Writer in Residence, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in 2015, and in 2016 she was selected for the Residency Programme at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in 2017.Her poems were first published in the collection AUP New Poets 1 (AUP, 1999) and she has since published a number of collections of poetry, as well as writing and co-editing works of literary criticism, essays, short stories and book reviews for publications in New Zealand and overseas. Much of her poetry explores the ideas of family and childhood.She has an MA from the University of Auckland and a DPhil from Oxford University. She is currently an Associate Professor in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

Antony Hopkins

Antony Hopkins CBE (21 March 1921 - 6 May 2014) was a Welsh composer, pianist and conductor, as well as a writer and radio broadcaster. He was widely known for his books of musical analysis and for his radio programmes Talking About Music, broadcast by the BBC from 1954 for approaching 40 years, first on the Third Programme, later Radio 3, and then on Radio 4.

Blackeyes (TV series)

Blackeyes is a BBC television miniseries first broadcast in 1989, written and directed by Dennis Potter based on his own novel of the same name.

Broadcast as four 50-minute episodes, first screened weekly from 29 November 1989 to 20 December 1989 on Britain's BBC2 channel, Blackeyes starred Gina Bellman as the title character, an attractive model, with Michael Gough in a key role as her uncle. It was described in the press TV listings as "a quirky, dark and sexually charged drama". Potter described the series' theme as the objectification of "young and attractive women as consumer goods in a way that brutalizes both sexes".

Burton Silver

Burton Silver (born 1945) is a New Zealand cartoonist, parodist, and writer, known for his comic strip Bogor and the best-selling book Why Cats Paint. He lives in South Wairarapa, New Zealand.

Cleo Sylvestre

Cleo Sylvestre (born 19 April 1945) is an English actress in film, stage and television.

George Rodger

George Rodger (19 March 1908 – 24 July 1995) was a British photojournalist noted for his work in Africa and for photographing the mass deaths at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of the Second World War.


Listener may refer to:

In media, arts, and entertainmentThe Listener (magazine), a defunct British magazine

New Zealand Listener, a New Zealand magazine

Listener (band), a spoken word project from Siloam Springs, Arkansas

The Listener (TV series), a Canadian TV series

Ashema the Listener, a Marvel Comics characterIn computing

An object in a computer program called an event listener; see Observer patternIn otherA prisoner in a UK jail specially trained by Samaritans to provide emotional support to other prisoners

Montagu Slater

Charles Montagu Slater (23 September 1902 – 19 December 1956) was an English poet, novelist, playwright, journalist, critic and librettist.

One of five children, Slater was born in the small mining port of Millom, Cumberland facing Lancashire across the estuary of Duddon sands. His father Seth Slater, a Wesleyan lay preacher, was a tailor and ran the town's post office. Both Montagu and his closest sister Rosa won scholarships to Universities from the local school, a remarkable achievement for the era. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford and she University College London. Upon graduation he became a reporter for the Liverpool Post where he became increasingly involved with Wobbly, Co-op and Labour politics, in one spectacular journalistic duty crossing the Atlantic aboard the R.101 airship. At Millom and Liverpool MS wrote verse which he valued, often linking northern port-life to classical legend and philosophy. Much survives although little has yet been published. An activist, he joined the Communist Party in 1927, leaving Liverpool to join the Morning Post in London in 1928. In 1934 he gave up most of his journalism to found the Left Review, becoming its editor while publishing literary criticism, plays, poems, short stories, and film scripts, often using the pseudonym `Ajax’.

Always interested in theatre Slater wrote introductions to editions of the melodramas about two infamous murder cases, the Red Barn murder of Maria Marten and the excesses of Sweeney Todd, the barber, in 1928 and 1933. In this period he also worked with Benjamin Britten, who composed some incidental music for three of his plays. These included `Easter 1916’, a play covering the 1913 lock-out and the 1916 Rising, staged by the Unity Theatre, London in 1935. In 1935, he wrote an uncredited script for `Coal Face’, a short documentary film, and the following year his pamphlet, `Stay down miner’, was published.

In 1937 the left wing Unity Theatre produced a highly successful play “Busmen” based on the strike which chronicled the struggle for speed up and pay cuts to its defeat in 1937, written by Herbert Hodge a London taxi driver and Montagu Slater, with Alan Bush providing the music. It utilised a “living newspaper form” with cinematic cutting, developed with the Federal Theatre project in the USA. Other plays of this period include "David" and "Touch and Go".

Slater was also involved in staging large pageants, including one in 1938 at Wembley Stadium. For this, he wrote a scenario with André van Gyseghem for composer Alan Bush's ‘Pageant of Co-operation.’He was one of a group of Communist intellectuals who came together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1948 with a pageant held at the Royal Albert Hall on 30th March 1948. Music and arrangements by composers including Rutland Boughton, Christian Darnton, Inglis Gundry, Phillip Cardew, Malcolm Arnold, Aubrey Bowman, and Bernard Stevens. Alan Bush arranged music for the Finale comprising The Red Flag and The Internationale. The whole thing was scripted by Slater.In 1942 Slater was selected by Benjamin Britten as librettist for his opera Peter Grimes, which was based on "Letter XXII: Peter Grimes" in George Crabbe's poem The Borough. For the libretto, Slater eschewed the traditional five-stress line form of English rhyming or blank verse in favour of a more modern and conversational four stress line with rhyming couplets. He argued that contemporary listeners were accustomed to assonance and consonantal rhyme but it could also be argued that this form of 'rough' rhyme was common in early English drama and that Slater was restoring it to the stage, rather than inventing something new. Slater's original libretto, which he published himself (to the annoyance of Britten and Peter Pears, who had made a number of amendments to it before the opera was staged), is cast in three acts. It omits the repetitions necessary in the actual opera. Anthony Burgess, writing in The Listener (magazine) in 1964, stated: “The excellence of Peter Grimes has a great deal to do with Montagu Slater's libretto, the only libretto I know that can be read in its own right as a dramatic poem.” He also wrote the libretti for `Yerma’, composed by Denis Aplvor.

Slater was involved, with Britten and W. H. Auden, in many of the John Grierson documentaries, such as Coal Face (1935). In 1936 he published the account Stay Down, Miner, about a strike at the Nine Mile Point Colliery; Stay Down, Miner was performed as a play by Left Theatre Ltd., with music composed by Britten, in the same year. In 1944 he published the novel Once a Jolly Swagman (1944), about motorcycle racing, which was filmed in 1949.He wrote the scripts for several films, including The Brave Don't Cry (1952), about a mining disaster.Britten dedicated his Temporal Variations for oboe and piano to Slater, and his Ballad of Heroes to Slater and his wife Enid.

He died in London. His literary papers and correspondence are held at the University of Nottingham.

Published works

Maria Marten & Sweeney Todd: Two Classic Melodramas London : Gerald Howe, 1928.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street ... A traditional acting version, edited, with an introduction, (Barnstormer Plays. no. 2.) London : Gerald Howe, 1928.

The Second City London : Wishart & Co, 1931.

Haunting Europe London : Wishart & Co, 1934.

Easter : 1916 (a play) London : Lawrence & Wishart, 1936.

Stay Down Miner. An account of a strike at Nine Mile Point Colliery London : Martin Lawrence, 1936.

New Way Wins, a play from Stay Down Miner London:Lawrence and Wishart, 1937.

Barnstormer Plays. Edited with an introduction to each play John Lane The Bodley Head 1943.

Once a Jolly Swagman (a novel) London : John Lane, 1944.

Peter Grimes and other poems London : John Lane, 1946

Peter Grimes: Essays by B. Britten, E.M. Forster, M. Slater, E. Sackville-West. Designs by K. Green (Sadler's Wells Opera Books No.3) London : John Lane, 1946.

Century for George (a play) London: John Lane, 1946.

Who rides a tiger. A novel London : Bodley Head, 1947.

‘Communist Manifesto Centenary Pageant’, to a script by Montagu Slater, with music for military band and chorus; MSS British Mus. 411-413. Alan Bush Collection. Vols lxxxvi-lxxxviii, 1948.

The inhabitants London : Bodley Head, 1948.

The Centenary Poe. Tales, Poems, Criticism... London : Bodley Head, 1949.

Theatre Today with Arnold Rattenbury London : Saturn Press, 1948.

Englishman With Swords London: The Bodley Head 1949.

Round the world in eighty days: A stage spectacle (Barnstormer plays series-no.5) London: John Lane, 1951.

Caste: a traditional acting version London : John Lane, the Bodley Head, 1951.

Cure of Minds London : Williams & Norgate, 1952.

New Poems: a PEN anthology : edited by C. Dyment, R. Fuller, M. Slater London: Michael Joseph, 1952.

The Trial of Jomo Kenyatta London: Secker & Warburg, 1955.

'Yerma’, opera, (libretto, Montagu Slater, revised by the composer, based on the play by Federico Garcia Lorca), op. 28; 1955-1958. Four volumes. Pivor Manuscripts (Series II). Vols. VII-X. British MS 64826-64829 : 1955-1958.

Mr Bleaney

"Mr Bleaney" is a poem by British poet Philip Larkin, written in May 1955. It was first published in The Listener on 8 September 1955 and later included in Larkin's 1964 anthology The Whitsun Weddings.

The speaker in the poem is renting a room and compares his situation to that of its previous occupant, a Mr Bleaney.

Larkin had previously used the surname Bleaney in his first novel Jill in 1946, where Bleaney is named as a classmate of the hero, John Kemp, at "Huddlesford Grammar School", somewhere in Lancashire. But the reader is not told his Christian name or indeed anything else about him. There is nothing to indicate that this is the same Bleaney who eventually occupies the room described in Larkin's poem.

Nashville Skyline

Nashville Skyline is the ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 9, 1969, by Columbia Records as LP record, reel to reel tape and audio cassette.

Building on the rustic style he experimented with on John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline displayed a complete immersion into country music. Along with the more basic lyrical themes, simple songwriting structures, and charming domestic feel, it introduced audiences to a radically new singing voice from Dylan, who had temporarily quit smoking—a soft, affected country croon.

The result received a generally positive reaction from critics, and was a commercial success. Reaching  No.  3 in the U.S., the album also scored Dylan his fourth UK No. 1 album.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English writer George Orwell published in June 1949. The novel is set in the year 1984 when most of the world population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda.

In the novel, Great Britain ("Airstrip One") has become a province of a superstate named Oceania. Oceania is ruled by the "Party", who employ the "Thought Police" to persecute individualism and independent thinking. The Party's leader is Big Brother, who enjoys an intense cult of personality but may not even exist. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a rank-and-file Party member. Smith is an outwardly diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. Smith rebels by entering a forbidden relationship with fellow employee Julia.

As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common usage since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which connotes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editors' list, and 6 on the readers' list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

Paul Bailey (British writer)

Paul Bailey (born 16 February 1937) is a British novelist and critic, as well as a biographer of Cynthia Payne and Quentin Crisp.

The Scoop and Behind the Screen

The Scoop and Behind the Screen are both collaborative detective serials written by members of the Detection Club which were broadcast weekly by their authors on the BBC National Programme in 1930 and 1931 with the scripts then being published in The Listener within a week after broadcast. The two serials were first published in book form in the UK by Victor Gollancz Ltd in 1983 and in the US by Harper & Row in 1984. The UK edition retailed at £6.95.

Julian Symons, then President of the club (1983), explains in his introduction: "...The present volume... was written to provide funds so that club premises might be acquired. Other books with the same purpose, also the product of several hands, were The Floating Admiral (1931), ... Ask a Policeman (1933), ... and ... Verdict of Thirteen. ..."

The Sunlight on the Garden

The Sunlight on the Garden is a 24-line poem by Louis MacNeice. It was written in late 1936 and was entitled Song at its first appearance in print, in The Listener magazine, January 1937. It was first published in book form as the third poem in MacNeice's poetry collection The Earth Compels (1938). The poem explores themes of time and loss, along with anxiety about the darkening political situation in Europe following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It is one of the best known and most anthologized of MacNeice's short poems. George Macbeth describes it as "one of MacNeice's saddest and most beautiful lyrics".


In Māori mythology, Uenuku or Kahukura is the god of rainbows. He is particularly special to the Tainui and Ngai Tahu Māori.

Kahukura, after whom the rock, Te Tihi o Kahukura or Castle Rock on the Banks Peninsula in Canterbury is named was also known as Uenuku in the North Island. He was the spirit guardian invoked by tribal tohunga and appealed to for advice and omens in times of war. Each hapū had an image of Kahukura, often a small carved wooden figure, which was kept in a tapu place.A literal translation of Kahukura is a red garment and the rainbow is the celestial embodiment of Kahukura in our skies.

Wild About Harry (novel)

Wild About Harry is the first novel by British writer Paul Pickering. It was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1985 and Collins in 1986. The book was published in America by Atheneum Books in 1985. Pickering researched the novel in Paraguay when he was sent to look for the Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele by Sir James Goldsmith’s NOW! magazine.

Witi Ihimaera

Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler (born 7 February 1944), generally known as Witi Ihimaera , is a New Zealand author. He was the first published Māori novelist.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.