“Heavy Toll” is an audio documentary which is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra, a radio station whose main aim ”is to provide speech-based entertainment.”(BBC Radio 4 Extra,2016) Overall,the station is designed ”to be a mixed speech service, offering in-depth news and current affairs and a wide range of other speech output including drama,readings,comedy, factual and magazine programmes.”(BBC Radio 4,2017) that mostly ”appeal to children.” (BBC Radio 4 Extra,2016)
As the title subtly suggests,the short documentary unveils the dramatic story of Collette and George,both railway employees,whose regular day of work turned into an unexpected nightmare by becoming witnesses to a tragic suicide of a traveler ”Tabitha took as her subject a very grim narrative, that of deaths on the railway.” (The Charles Parker Archive Trust,2017) According to the Collins English Dictionary,”If you say that something takes its toll or takes a heavy toll, you mean that it has a bad effect or causes a lot of suffering.”(Collins English Dictionary,2017) Thus the content of the documentary reflects an unfortunate situation,while it manages to raise awareness and controversial reactions towards the subject of suicide,which became more of an issue that people are willing to acknowledge.According to the Office for National Statistics,”Deaths from suicide in the UK rose slightly from 6,122 deaths in 2014 to 6,188 deaths in 2015 with a subsequent increase in the rate from 10.8 to 10.9 deaths per 100,000 population.”(ONS,2015) Moreover,considering that the victim was a male,”Suicide remains the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, representing 24% of all deaths in 2013, and for men aged 35-49, at 13% of deaths.” (The Guardian,2015)
The documentary puts emphasis on the use of actuality,which represents the ”audio material recorded on location”(BBC News,2008) in order to amplify the severity of the situation,as well as to paint a clearer picture for listeners regarding the visual experience that the interviewees have faced ”It had excellent mixing and very revealing interviews which paint a horribly vivid, very human picture of train suicides and their effect on train staff.”(The Charles Parker Archive Trust,2017) Actuality within the documentary includes the sounds of the train coming to a halt or the travelers who bought tickets for the train ride.
The thought-provoking piece produced by Tabitha Konstantine,an actual student at the University of Salford,brought her impressive achievements and recognition,more precisely Tabitha ”struck gold at the recent annual Charles Parker Radio Awards in Sheffield. Her radio piece – ‘Heavy Toll’ – beat numerous submissions from all over the UK to win Best Student Radio Feature. ”(Salford University News,2017) The judges of the radio competition were particularly impressed by Tabitha’s choice to spread this story through the eyes of two witnesses,both “well contrasted speakers ” that ”had a terrific articulacy in very different ways that were entirely complementary.”(The Charles Parker Archive Trust,2017),which made the whole piece more personal and intense to the listeners.
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