Since Ireland's independence, the Catholic Church has played a preeminent role in defining morality south of the border. However in recent decades, its position as moral arbiter has come under attack. Congregation sizes have fallen dramatically, and constitutional referenda have legalised contraception, divorce and gay marriage despite the vehement opposition of the Catholic Church. As Ireland goes to the polls to vote this time on abortion, William Crawley asks could this signal further decline in the Catholic Church's authority in society and its relationship with the State. Producer: Neil Morrow.
Over the sound of ripping wax-strips, nail drills, clippers and trimmers, Toyah Willcox invites us to eavesdrop on usually private conversations taking place in hair and beauty salons across the UK.
We drop in on appointments at Totally Polished in Blackpool, The Topiary Salon in Basingstoke, Smith Hair Studio in Edmonton and Not Another Salon in London's East End.
From holidays and bingo wins to hospital appointments and bereavements, customers relish the opportunity to swap stories, gossip and enjoy an hour's escape from the stresses of daily life. Beauticians and hairdressers are trusted confidantes, privy to shocking secrets, but they also provide an independent ear and a comforting shoulder to cry on.
For Toyah's friend and hairdresser to the stars, Keith Wainwright MBE, a trip to the salon is also an important source of physical and social contact in an increasingly online world.
According to industry reports, women and men of all ages and means are spending increasing amounts of time, and money, at hair and beauty salons in the UK. British consumers spent an estimated 1.89 billion pounds on salon services in the last quarter of 2017. We find out why.
Producer: Victoria Ferran
Executive Producer: Susan Marling
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.
Is Eating Plants Wrong?
Are plants rather cleverer than once thought? Scientists from around the world are claiming that plants cannot just sense, but communicate, learn and remember. In an experiment in Australia, plants appeared to learn to associate a sound with a food source, just as Pavlov's dogs linked the sound of a bell with dinner. In Israel they've found that plants communicated a message from one to another, and that the information was then used to survive drought. In British Columbia and the UK researchers have shown that trees pass information and nutrients to each other through an underground fungal network. This even happens more with closely related trees or seedlings than with strangers. And in California it turns out that sagebrush shrubs have "regional dialects"! Botanist James Wong explores these findings and asks whether, if plants can do all these things, and if, as one scientist says, they are a "who" and not a "what", then is it wrong to eat them?
Producer Arlene Gregorius
Prof. Richard Karban
Dr Monica Galiano
Prof. Ariel Novoplansky
Prof Suzanne Simard
Dr Brian Pickles
Prof Michael Marder.
To Rhyme and Chime for a Chair
Join the gravelly-voiced Welsh poet Twm Morys as he takes a sonorous journey into a world of sound-harmony and chiming consonants, to explore the ancient craft of Cynghanedd.
Over many centuries, the people of Wales developed a unique set of poetic patterns. Unlike most English language forms, these focus on the sounds produced within a line and the echoes left after, rather than solely on the words themselves. The most famous of these forms is Cynghanedd, a unique sound-arrangement within one line, using stress, alliteration, and rhyme according to very strict rules. Used in Welsh-language poetry since the sixth century, it's a form which is famously brought to life every year at the National Eisteddfod music and poetry festival where one lucky bard is awarded with a Chair for writing the best piece of Cynghanedd.
But it's not just a craft for scholars and bardic masters. This patterning of consonants, rhyme, and stress is practised by people from all walks of life - in village halls across the country and even in a weekly competition on the national Welsh language radio station, BBC Radio Cymru. It's thought that there are more practitioners now than at any time in the past.
The rules of Cynghanedd, though suited especially to Welsh because of the language's unique use of consonant mutations, can equally be applied to any language under the sun - even to Tolkien's made-up ones. In English, "Do not go gentle into that good night" is a perfect example of Cynghanedd. It's a form enjoyed by many English-language poets from Ange Mlinko to Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Also known as "consonantal rhyme", Cynghanedd have more in common with music than traditional poetry and, like a piece of music, it is made up of more than just one note. Indeed, the word itself translates as "harmony"- something to be heard rather than written.
Contributors include Mererid Hopwood, Eurig Salisbury, Dylan Foster Evans, T James Jones, Ceri Wyn Jones, Professor Guillaume Thierry, Aneirin Karadog and Osian Rhys Jones.
A Terrier production for BBC Radio 4
Photograph: Iolo Penri.
American Art: From the Outside In
Art collector and broadcaster Alvin Hall, examines how the dynamic work of African-American self-taught artists is gaining recognition from American institutions today - and how much more needs to be done to address this neglected canon.
Having to fight both the barriers of race and of operating outside the art world, self-taught African-American artists are still not always afforded as much recognition as their formally trained peers.
Groundbreaking exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is seeking to change this, positioning self-taught and outsider artists alongside one another and making reference to how self-taught artists inspired their formally trained peers. Alvin visits the exhibition and speaks to its curator, Lynne Cooke.
He explores the legacy of several key 20th century self-taught African-American artists and tells their life stories. Maxwell Anderson, the Director of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, explains the ongoing process of integrating their vast collection of African-American vernacular art from the South into museums' collections.
Alvin probes the difficulties around the term "self-taught" and its problematic alternatives "primitive" and "naïve". He considers how limiting categorising such a diverse range of art can be. Have so-called Outsiders become part of the mainstream?
Alvin also meets self-taught black artists working today. Have they noticed a shift in interest and representation? Informally trained artist Kevin Sampson, questions whether, in today's hyper-connected society, there is such a thing as "self-taught" anymore.
Writer and presenter: Alvin Hall
Additonal research: Alvin Hall and Louise Morris
Producers: Louise Morris and Andrew McGibbon
A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.