BBC Radio 4: The Untold

Grace Dent, John Lanchester, Pat Barker, Laurence Grissell

Hay Festival 2019 , 

The Untold is an award-winning, observational documentary series made for Radio 4 and which has recently celebrated its 100th edition. Uniquely in its field, The Untold unravels a story in real-time, following apparently ordinary people as they face an extraordinary decision in their life. As well as compelling radio, it is also very interested in the techniques of story-telling; by using scenes, characterisation, narrative, suspense and resolution. With this series, and US podcasts like Dirty John and S*Town, there is an emerging genre of audio documentaries that draw, and apparently compliment, the structures and devices that are used by novelists.

In this special session at Hay, we are bringing the presenter of the series, Grace Dent, Radio 4 producer Laurence Grissell and excerpts from the documentaries together with the novelists John Lanchester and Pat Barker, to discuss and share their sense of the crossover between real-life audio storytelling and that used in novels. We will also reflect on the changing nature of audience’s expectations of storytellers – in the multi-part, binge consumption era – what makes for compelling story telling, in fact and fiction?