Richard King introduces his new ten-part radio series, which examines how people live and work by the sea.
For the past few months, I have been travelling across the British Isles towards its coastline. My companion on these journeys has been the wonderful radio producer Martin Williams. We both come from the docks town of Newport in South Wales and have a muted relationship with the sea that is based, like that of many people, on childhood excursions to the beach and memories of the port of our home town as being a lively, occasionally nefarious, but fascinating place.
Our trips to the seaside have been to make a ten-part radio series called Living on the Edge. It’s an attempt to draw a portrait of the coastline beyond its associations with the long holiday season, to examine how people live and work by the sea, a location that tends to result in a precarious, if resilient, year-round existence. We have met people whose work is familiar to received ideas about the coast: a Lighthouse Warden in Dumfries and Galloway, a leisure boat sailor in Fife, a RNLI crew member stationed at Portrush and a Morecombe Bay shrimper. We’ve also spoken to artists and writers who derive their inspiration and livelihood from their proximity to the shore and to individuals determined to make a difference to the quality of life of coastal communities, which experience hardships unique to their physical and social geography.
As well as looking out from the shore to cast our eyes over the horizon and breathe in the sea air, we have turned inland to take in the view, to present a small national portrait of Britain in 2023 from the edges of the country, which now more than ever, feels like an island nation.
The first episode of ‘Living on the Edge’, in which Richard meets the painter Ben Fenton in Hastings, airs on BBC Radio 4 at 9.30 tomorrow morning, and will be available here thereafter.