In 2017 Jay-Z phoned Hannah… three times… and she missed the calls because she was surrounded by fifty of her music students on a coach back from Leeds.
For a decade, Hannah had been making soul music – juggling being head of music at the University of Winchester, fronting a soul band and being a mum to Leo. Her little known nine piece band, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, had recently released an album.
It turned out Jay-Z had stumbled on a song from her album, Late Nights and Heartbreak, and had written his public apology to Beyoncé for cheating on her around Hannah’s voice.
After fourteen years at the University of Winchester, Hannah decided to quit her job to pursue music full time. Offers to play around the world started to fly in, and the press suddenly took an interest in what they were doing – yet Hannah quickly realised this was no fairy tale.
The track was one of the few songs from the album which the band hadn’t actually authored. Their friend Kanan had written it.
Two years ago, in the episode Jay-Z and Me, we followed Kanan as the revelation turned his world upside down – the song went platinum selling over a million copies, he was nominated for a Grammy, and the royalties began to roll in.
But for Hannah, as a sampled voice – not a feature, and not a songwriter, this was no cash cow. The story was only just beginning. After putting everything on the line for her music career, can the band make it work? And what does it mean for the most important things in her life - her son Leo and her husband Dave?
Produced by Polly Weston.
Hazel loves her job. She is very good at. But there is pressure on her to leave.
An impressive career has led Hazel to a perfect job at The University of Chichester: it’s stimulating, she loves the students and she is widely respected.
With no age discrimination, Hazel could continue forever. And she would like to. Work is her very identity and the idea of pootling around the garden and joining a choir fills her with horror. But Hazel suspects friends, family and colleagues think it is time to go.
“The expectation seems to be, from a lot of people, that I will give it all up, that my right job is to look after the grandchildren a bit, do a bit of painting and care for Phil, but that isn’t me, it isn’t me at all.”
When her husband, Phil, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the pressure escalates but Hazel doesn't see her future as just his carer.
“The joy of Phil’s and my relationship is that we’ve always been independent of each other. I don’t want to rush off and leave him, but I don’t want the burden of having the life sucked out of both of us.”
She feels judged for thinking this, for not abandoning her career to look after Phil, but if she were a man, would expectations be different?
Hazel has always been a clear-headed decision maker. She knew within 10 minutes of meeting her husband she should marry him. She even wants to write her PhD on decision-making. But this choice is proving impossible to make. What should she and what will she decide?
Producer: Sarah Bowen
The Drag Queen and the Dictionary
Lacey is a drag queen. Her drag persona is Lacey-Lou, a pink, over the top, ultra fem with lots of feathers, pearls and lace. Lacey is also a woman and although she's been doing drag for seven years, she's been dogged by critics who screen-shot the dictionary definition to prove that drag is for men only. So Lacey approaches the Oxford English Dictionary in an attempt to get the dictionary definition changed, to remove its gender specificity and to give her detractors one less thing to throw at her and the many other female, trans and non-binary queens. But will she succeed?
Producer: Sara Conkey
NewStorytellers 5. A Young Sel in a Small Town
Selina Medford grew up in Port Talbot, South Wales, where people of West Indian heritage were in a minority. Now she takes her daughter back to relive her experiences. Touring around the town, they delve into the good, the bad and the ugly struggles that Selina and her family faced growing up during the 1960s. On the way, her daughter Sian, who was born and raised in Birmingham, begins to understand her mother’s experience and how the multi-cultural world she grew up in, and often took for granted, was denied to her mother.
A Young Sel in a Small Town paints a retrospective picture that highlights the musical and cultural life of the time, navigating through Selina’s early years of growing up in a harsh household with her Jamaican father, step mother and four other siblings - yet trying to fit in with the everyday European white world around her. A trip down memory lane, meeting old friends and faces in a collage of sounds and music, bringing back hard memories and hope for the future.
New Storytellers presents the work of radio and audio producers new to BBC Radio 4 and this first series features the five winners of this year's Charles Parker Prize for the Best Student Radio Feature. A Young Sel in a Small Town won the top award, the Gold Charles Parker Prize, for its producer Sian Medford in Parker's centenary year. Sian has just graduated from the University of West London and the Judges thought her colourfully creative feature was “such a lovely simple idea. An important piece of social history mixed with modern reaction as the family reunites – a rich, dynamic production, with its rich sense of hard lives lived to the full – a really worthy Gold Charles Parker winner.”
Producer: Sian Medford A Soundscape production for BBC Radio 4
NewStorytellers 4. My Life After Grenfell
Three survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire - Alison Moses, Emma O’Connor and Antonio Roncolato - recount the hardships they have endured since that fateful night in June 2017.
Starting with memories of the disaster, the survivors then describe what has happened to them since - from being re-housed in temporary accommodation to their feelings about the immediate and long-term political responses to the fire. How do you cope with losing friends and family and still living in the charred shadow of Grenfell Tower itself?
New Storytellers presents the work of radio and audio producers new to BBC Radio 4 and this first series features the five winners of this year's Charles Parker Prize for the Best Student Radio Feature. The award is presented every year in memory of pioneering radio producer Charles Parker who produced the famous series of Radio Ballads with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.
My Life After Grenfell was produced by Rhys Gunter who has just graduated from the University of Westminster. The Charles Parker Award judges said, “although Grenfell is a well-known story, this chilling retelling of the fire and its aftermath brings a new authentic perspective – a very high-level achievement.”
Producer: Rhys Gunter A Soundscape production for BBC Radio 4