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Lives Less Ordinary Podcast

English, Personal stories, 1 seasons, 102 episodes, 2 days 19 hours 8 minutes
About
Have you ever locked eyes with a stranger and wondered, "What’s their story?" Step into someone else’s life and expect the unexpected. Extraordinary stories from around the world.
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The Pacific odyssey of a runaway rebel

Ruth Shaw spent years on ships and islands, trying to outrun her past.She left her home in New Zealand as a young woman, driven away by a traumatic attack that would shape her life for years to come. Ruth tried to find escape on sailing ships, in Tahitian gambling dens and in the bars and kitchens of Papua New Guinea. But ultimately she had to head home, to face up to deep adolescent scars, and to find the child she’d been forced to give up years before.Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: May Cameron Editor: Munazza KhanPhoto: ‘The Bookseller at the End of the World’
26/02/202440 minutes 52 seconds
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Fugees Family: the football team who became my life

The extraordinary coach who started a football team but built something much bigger.One day when Luma Mufleh was driving home to Atlanta, Georgia, she came across a group of barefoot boys playing football in the street, using a raggedy old ball and rocks for goalposts. They reminded her of how she played at home in Jordan and she asked to join their game. The Fugees Family football team was born. Luma Mufleh has written a book about her extraordinary story, Believe in Them: One Woman's Fight for Justice for Refugee Children.Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Helen FitzhenryGet in tough: [email protected] or Whatsapp: 0044 330 678 2784
19/02/202443 minutes 13 seconds
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My dad was Britain's 'most wanted'

Without realising it, Nick Reynolds had been living his childhood on the run.Early one morning in 1968 he answered his front door, completely oblivious to the whirlwind about to be unleashed on his family. Most of Nick's early years had been spent carefree and happy on the shores of Mexico with his British parents. But all the while he had been growing up in the shadow of one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Eric Mugaju and Anna LaceyGet in touch: [email protected] or WhatsApp: 0044 330 678 2784(Photo: Nick & Bruce Reynolds. Credit: Ronnie Biggs)
12/02/202438 minutes 22 seconds
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Trapped in an icy hell: my 72 day mountain escape

After crashing high in the Andes, Nando Parrado had to go to the extreme to get out.In 1972, when the plane carrying 22 year old Uruguayan Nando Parrado and his rugby team came down deep in the Andes mountain range in South America, they were left for dead. Rescue teams called off their search after 10 days. Nando and the other survivors would spend an incredible 72 days trapped, frozen and forsaken in this icy wilderness. And in order to come out alive, they would have to do the unthinkable. Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Edgar Maddicott Editor: Laura Thomas
05/02/202441 minutes 37 seconds
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A Libyan kidnapping and the words that brought us together

Lucy Sexton was making a TV series about hostages when her father Joe was abductedLucy and her father Joe Sexton are American journalists. In 2021 Lucy was working on the TV series ‘Hostages’ when her personal and professional life collided. Joe had been abducted while on a reporting trip in Libya. What followed was a surreal week of parallels as they both tried to make sense of what was happening – Joe from a cell in Libya and Lucy from a production set in Washington. Later, they turned their experience into a joint writing project that brought them closer than ever before.Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: May Cameron Editor: Harry Graham Sound design: Joel Cox
29/01/202443 minutes 7 seconds
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Discovering my mother was a Vietnamese rock'n'roll star

A chance email led Hannah Ha to uncover her mother Tam’s forgotten musical legacy.Hannah knew her mother could sing. When she took the stage at karaoke, she always stole the show. But when a chance email revealed she had once been a recording artist called Phuong Tam in 1960s Saigon, she was stunned. Hannah embarked on a two-year hunt to track down her mother’s long-lost recordings – and her rock 'n' roll legacy.Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Zoe Gelber
22/01/202439 minutes 56 seconds
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Searching for the last man in the forest

Jair Candor tracks down remote Amazonian tribes in order to protect them from outsiders.One tribe, the Piripkura has just one member left who’s living nomadically, deep in the rainforest. It’s Jair’s mission to find him, to establish he’s alive, and to protect his land rights from those who want the forest for themselves. Jair has monitored numerous indigenous groups in Brazil over the years, and he’s faced frequent malaria, armed logging groups, and the occasional arrow fired in his direction.Presenter: Andrea Kennedy Producer: Harry Graham and Graciela Damiano Editor: Munazza Khan Voice actor: Thomas Pappon Sound design: Joe Munday
15/01/202435 minutes 27 seconds
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Hunting for icons in the underworld, part 2

Tasoula Hadjitofi tricked a notorious art smuggler to recover Cyprus' holiest relicsWhen war split Tasoula's home country of Cyprus in two in 1974 she had to leave home, never to return. Years later, while living in the Netherlands she was approached by a shady art dealer with news that shook her to the core: artefacts sacred to her Greek Orthodox faith had been stolen, hammered out from church walls and were now being sold on the black market. Tasoula then poured everything into righting this wrong and vowed to bring them back. She would have to plumb the depths of the criminal underworld and hatch an elaborate sting operation to catch the mastermind behind it all.Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Edgar Maddicott Sound Design: Joe Munday Editor: Harry Graham
08/01/202429 minutes 58 seconds
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Hunting for icons in the underworld, part 1

Tasoula Hadjitofi uncovered a shady network looting her country's most sacred relicsIn 1974 Tasoula's country, Cyprus, was torn in two by war. Distraught and unable to return home she ended up in the Netherlands where some years later a shadowy art dealer approached her with some astonishing news. Religious artefacts sacred to her faith that had adorned the churches she prayed in as a girl had been chiselled away, and were now being sold on the black market. And so began Tasoula's decade-long search for the stolen relics. But she would first have to learn from the criminals in order to catch them.Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Edgar Maddicott Sound Design: Joe Munday Editor: Harry Graham
01/01/202438 minutes 8 seconds
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Love in the time of revolution, part 2

Pepe and Lucía: the bonfire of young love, a long separation, and rise to presidency.The guerrilla lovers finally meet and fall for each other, but their joy is shortlived, they’re soon arrested again – and this time there won’t be any escape. Uruguay’s military coup means that the couple are separated by 13 years of brutal detention. When they’re granted amnesty, they find their way back to each other, and enter the political fray, all the way up to the presidency.Presenter: Andrea Kennedy Producer: Louise Morris Dubbing by Fede di Lorenzo and Elizabeth RhodesClips courtesy of Euro News, RDTV, France 24 and SBS.
25/12/202336 minutes 3 seconds
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Love in the time of revolution, part 1

Pepe and Lucía: the guerrilla lovers who became the leaders of UruguayWhen they were younger, José Pepe Mujica and Lucía Topolansky separately joined a left-wing insurgency set on overthrowing the country's government. They wouldn't meet for years but they were on the same mission. Each went underground, cutting ties to friends and family while their group, the Tupamaros, carried out bank heists to fund the uprising. The law soon caught up with them both, but neither were prepared to stay behind bars for long.    Presenter: Andrea Kennedy Producer: Louise Morris
18/12/202336 minutes 35 seconds
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An author, his cellmate, and a new beginning

When award-winning author Alex Wheatle was sentenced to nine months in prison at the age of 18, he thought his life was over. Alex had been born in London to Jamaican parents, but grew up in care in the notorious Shirley Oaks children’s home. As a teenager, he was convicted of assaulting a police officer during the Brixton Riots. He felt totally alone and without hope. But as the door slammed on Alex’s prison cell, he met a book-loving man called Simeon who opened his eyes to the importance of his own history – and encouraged him to use his past to write a new and hopeful future. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Hetal Bapodra and Anna Lacey
11/12/202341 minutes 37 seconds
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Scams and poetry in Moscow’s underbelly

Eric Ngalle is now a poet and academic in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, but it's his experiences as a people-trafficked teenager that inspire much of his work. When he was 17, he found himself broke and alone in Moscow, freezing cold and unable to speak a word of Russian. To survive, he relied on charity, girlfriends, and a brief stripping career. None of this was enough to buy him a ticket home to Cameroon, so he got involved in a high-risk scam, which targeted some very dangerous people. If you’ve been affected by anything you heard in this interview, support is available through the BBC Action Line website or via Befrienders Worldwide.Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Harry GrahamGet in touch: WhatsApp +44 330 678 2707
04/12/202337 minutes 30 seconds
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Introducing Amazing Sport Stories

Sport but not as you know it. A brand new sports storytelling podcast.Imagine being stranded in the “death zone” on one of the world’s highest mountains. How about running 200 miles in a dark tunnel? We’ve been searching the world for the most amazing sport stories. Other podcasts bring you the scores and team news. This one tells the stories you’ll wish you’d known about and now probably won’t forget. You don’t need to be obsessed with sport to find yourself immersed in our mini-seasons and short stories. Search for Amazing Sport Stories wherever you get your BBC podcasts. Or find it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xtvs1/episodes/downloads
30/11/20233 minutes 23 seconds
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Unmasking my best friend

Reality TV producer Johnathan Walton found himself in a plot he couldn't have dreamt up. It all started when a woman helped him when he was locked out of his building's swimming pool. She was magnetic and full of fun and soon they became inseparable. But things weren't quite as rosy as they seemed. Four years into their friendship Johnathan started pulling at the edges of her story, it all began to unravel and he'd have to start playing detective in a bid to bring her down. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Edgar Maddicott Editor: Munazza Khan
27/11/202337 minutes 22 seconds
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Becoming Gamal, part 2: Behind the badge

Gamal Turawa has lived many lives - but never fitted in. First as a black British boy adopted into a white family, then hoodwinked by his father and eventually begging on the streets of Lagos - he was always on the margins. As an adult he joined London's Metropolitan Police, but instead of finding a home there, his differences were used to tear him down and humilate him. When Gamal finally hit rock bottom he decided to stop hiding and stand out. Details of organisations offering information and support on a wide range of issues are available at www.bbc.co.uk/actionline Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: Charlie Towler and Harry Graham Editor: Laura Thomas
20/11/202327 minutes 46 seconds
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Becoming Gamal, part 1: Magic and misadventure

Gamal Turawa has lived many lives - but never fitted in As the first openly gay black officer in London's Metropolitan Police, he struggled to find his way while reckoning with his past. Adopted into a white family as a baby, Gamal was hoodwinked by his father as a boy and ended up living as a teenage beggar on the streets of Lagos, until a chance encounter saw him find work as a magician's assistant, hyping up crowds across West Africa. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: Charlie Towler and Harry Graham Editor: Laura Thomas
13/11/202330 minutes 47 seconds
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The fisherman and the 'spy whale'

Joar Hesten's mission to save a whale rumoured to have escaped from the Russian navy. Norwegian Joar Hesten was fishing for cod in the Arctic when he came across a beluga whale wearing a harness. He helped to free the animal, but when he took a closer look at the harness he saw that it was labelled ‘Equipment of St Petersburg’. Theories started swirling that this whale had once belonged to the Russian military, and it was nicknamed Hvaldimir, the 'Russian spy whale'. As Hvaldimir's fame grew, Joar became determined to protect him from human contact. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Saskia Edwards Photo: Joar with Hvaldimir Credit: Aleksander Nordahl, DN/D2
06/11/202340 minutes 51 seconds
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Brazil's loneliest fan and his footballing fairytale

Tiago Rech went viral when he was the only supporter in the stands at his club's game. In 2012 Tiago Rech was the only fan at a big away match for his beloved football team Santa Cruz FC. When they scored, his timid, lone celebration was caught by TV cameras and went viral. All this attention earned him a role with the club, where full of ideas and enthusiasm, he made his way to the very top, to his dream job of club President. But there would be a sting in this fairytale. Produced and presented by Andrea Kennedy Editor: Munazza Khan Clips courtesy of Federação Gaúcha de Futebol and Canal Duda Garbi.
30/10/202338 minutes 16 seconds
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Love, Loss and 'Project 22'

Fleur Pierets and Julian Boom wanted to wed in every country that allowed gay marriage. After falling in love at first sight, the artist couple planned to make a statement to the world. So in 2017, they embarked on ‘Project 22’ - a performance art piece in which they would marry in all 22 countries where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. But four weddings later, their trip would be tragically cut short. Fleur has written a memoir about her experience, called Julian. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producers: Olivia Lynch-Kelly and Zoe Gelber Editor: Munazza Khan
22/10/202341 minutes 13 seconds
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38 days: a family adrift in the Pacific

The Robertsons’ boat was attacked by killer whales and started to sink fast Douglas was 16 years old when his parents sold the family farm in England and took him and his three siblings on a sailing trip around the world. It was the adventure of a lifetime. But in 1972 while en route to New Zealand, their yacht was hit by a pod of orcas and they started to sink fast. Weeks from safety and with no way to send for help, Douglas and his family would have to try and find a way to survive. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: May Cameron Editor: Andrea Kennedy
15/10/202346 minutes 42 seconds
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"My friends were arrested, or simply disappeared"

Tahir Izgil is one of the most highly respected living Uyghur poets. Tahir was born near Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, and from an early age he was immersed in the poetry of his culture. When the Chinese state clamped down on the Uyghur community, he lived under constant threat of arrest, and says he couldn’t even perform his poems. So he decided to try and escape his homeland. Tahir has a memoir out about his experiences called Waiting to Be Arrested at Night, translated by Joshua Freeman. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Andrea Kennedy
08/10/202335 minutes 50 seconds
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Bringing home the prime minister’s gold tooth

Juliana Lumumba had to fight to reclaim the remains of her father, Patrice Lumumba. He'd been the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo and an anti-colonial hero. He was assassinated in 1961 when Juliana was five years old, and no trace of his body was found. So when it emerged 60 years later that one of his gold teeth was in Belgium, Juliana yearned to bring it home. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Rob Wilson Editor: Munazza Khan
01/10/202338 minutes 7 seconds
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The Godmother of Beirut's nightlife

Under the boot of the Syrian army, Nicole Moudaber brought raves to Lebanon. After sampling the delights of dance music whilst studying abroad in the nineties, Nicole made it her goal to bring this new sound to a divided and conservative society. She faced opposition from her family and the regime, but when scandal hit she decided to turn the tables...herself. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Edgar Maddicott and Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan (Photo: Nicole Moudaber. Credit: Stuart Tracte)
24/09/202338 minutes 30 seconds
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Dancing in the womb

A mother, a son, and the discovery of a shared dream. Latifa Khamessi and her son Mohamed Toukabri from Tunisia were inseparable until aged 15 when he left for Europe to study dance. It was gut-wrenching to be apart, but an opportunity he couldn't turn down. It wasn't until years later that Mohamed discovered his mother had had the same dream as a girl, but had been forbidden from pursuing it. Separated by a sea and oceans of time Mohamed then hatched a plan to reunite with his mother, now in her sixties, and unite their dreams. The Power (of) the Fragile was performed at The Shubbak Festival in London. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Helen Fitzhenry Editor: Rebecca Vincent Voice over by Mounira Chaieb
17/09/202344 minutes 9 seconds
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The invisible child who now shines at Eurovision, part 2

From the page to the stage: William turns childhood fantasies into reality. In London, William Lee Adams is feeling disillusioned with his job, when a Romanian singer on a horse appears on his computer screen and he's inspired to start writing about the Eurovision Song Contest. Wiwibloggs is born, and grows to be the world's most-followed independent blog and video channel about Eurovision. In the process, he gets to visit some of the far-flung places he escaped to as a child in the US reading encyclopaedias. William has written a memoir called Wild Dances: My Queer and Curious Journey to Eurovision. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Rob Wilson
10/09/202343 minutes 51 seconds
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The invisible child who now shines at Eurovision, part 1

A bond between brothers, a coming-out story, and an international song contest. William Lee Adams is one of the leading voices covering the Eurovision Song Contest, criss-crossing the continent to interview stars and live-stream shows. But as a child growing up in small-town America, he was made to feel invisible; encouraged to suppress his Vietnamese heritage and questions about his sexuality. He found solace in caring for his brother, John, who had severe physical disabilities due to a brain condition. Even so, he needed an escape route. William has written a memoir called Wild Dances: My Queer and Curious Journey to Eurovision. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Rob Wilson
03/09/202344 minutes 1 second
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Miracle on the ocean floor

Harrison Okene spent three days trapped in an air pocket in a sunken ship. Harrison was the ship's cook, and he'd been in the bathroom when the tugboat he worked on had suddenly capsized in bad weather. The vessel sank 30 metres to the seabed, upside down, and Harrison was trapped inside. Days passed, and up on the surface a mission was launched to recover the bodies of the tugboat's crew. Divers descended, but they never expected to find anyone alive. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan Sound design: Joel Cox
27/08/202340 minutes 59 seconds
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Indiana Jones: The kids who remade a blockbuster

In 1982, two Mississippi boys recreated a $22m film, shot-for-shot, on their pocket money. Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala were aged 10 and 11. Their mission would take them seven years to complete, and it would push their friendship to the edge. There’d be amateur stunts, fires, visits to the emergency ward, production shut down by angry parents and many fallouts. It would swallow them whole. But decades later a lost tape would be unearthed, bringing Eric and Chris back together for their final scene and face-to-face with one of their heroes. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Edgar Maddicott Editor: Munazza Khan
20/08/202340 minutes 6 seconds
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The woman who fell from the sky, part 2

How a jump changed daring parachutist Tony Osornio's life forever. Tony was Mexico's best precision skydiver and the first woman to join her country's army. She says she "belonged to the skies", and became a member of an elite team of performance skydivers called the Crazy Birds. She was prepared to sacrifice everything for her love of parachuting - until a jump went badly wrong. If you need support relating to any of the issues we've covered in this interview, you can find more information on the BBC Action line website or at Befrienders.org Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Louise Morris
13/08/202338 minutes 45 seconds
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The woman who fell from the sky

Tony Osornio would go to dangerous extremes to keep skydiving. She was born into a conservative family, and decided to marry the first man who asked in order to escape the restrictions of home. Her husband was a Mexican military officer with access to the planes used by elite paratroopers. With his help, Tony would sneak on board too, parachute strapped to her back. In love with jumping, she decided she needed to join the Mexican army herself, something no woman had done before. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Louise Morris
06/08/202340 minutes 57 seconds
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Bradford 12: The Asian youth who took on the racists, part 2

By 1981, Pakistani-born immigrant Tariq Mehmood had endured years of violent racism in Britain. When he heard that gangs of white skinheads – with a history of attacking Asians – were coming to his home in Bradford, Tariq and his neighbours took desperate measures to defend their community. Underpinning their actions was the principle, “self-defence is no offence.” Tariq would end up being arrested, charged with conspiracy to make explosives, and facing life imprisonment. What followed was the landmark legal case of the Bradford 12. Hand on the Sun, the novel that Tariq wrote in prison over 40 years ago, has been re-released with a new update. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: Maryam Maruf and Lina Chang Editor: Munazza Khan
30/07/202340 minutes 41 seconds
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Bradford 12: The Asian youth who took on the racists, part 1

As a Pakistani immigrant teenager in 1970s Britain, Tariq Mehmood endured homelessness and years of violent racism. He found shelter and wisdom in a library, and the strength to stand up to the racists. He co-founded the Asian Youth Movement, and their slogan “self-defence is no offence,” would galvanise an entire generation. But it’s a rationale that would see Tariq in court – facing life in prison – in the groundbreaking case of the Bradford 12. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: Maryam Maruf and Lina Chang Editor: Munazza Khan
23/07/202341 minutes 14 seconds
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I save chimpanzees and they've saved me

Stany Nyandwi's rescued chimpanzees helped him through war and loneliness. As a young boy Stany made money selling sugarcane and worked as a 'houseboy' for families in Burundi's capital city Bujumbura. But later, a job with rescued chimpanzees became about more than just money. When ethnic conflict in Burundi escalated into civil war, Stany fled to safety with the chimps who, with histories of their own, gave him companionship and a ticket to a future without war. Stany is a chimp specialist and his behaviour should not be copied or emulated in any way. He has co-written a book called The Chimpanzee Whisperer: A Life of Love and Loss, Compassion and Conservation. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: May Cameron Editor: Andrea Kennedy
16/07/202339 minutes 53 seconds
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Who is this kneeling man?

My search for the truth about my father and Martin Luther King’s assassination. Leta McCollough Seletzky grew up knowing that her father was the ‘kneeling man’, photographed tending to the head wound of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr just moments after he was shot in April 1968. As a teenager she stumbled across an alarming detail about why her father was there on that infamous day; it plunged her into the world of conspiracy theories and family secrets. It would take her many years to dig out his true story. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Rebecca Vincent
09/07/202354 minutes 24 seconds
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How I survived a pirate hijack

Marine engineer Chirag Bahri was trapped for eight gruelling months on a chemical tanker. Chirag loved his job working in the engine rooms of huge commercial ships. But in May 2010, while sailing through the Gulf of Aden, a group of pirates boarded the ship and held the crew to ransom off the coast of Somalia. Over the next eight months the pirates became increasingly violent, torturing the crew when their demands were not met. Despite the desperate conditions, Chirag still had his work to do. The ship was running out of fuel, and starting to malfunction. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Rebecca Vincent Editor: Munazza Khan
02/07/202341 minutes 49 seconds
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Love, war, and the cutting room floor

Mariam and Mohammed are Yemeni filmmakers who turned the lens on their own relationship. Mariam Al-Dhubhani and Mohammed Al-Jaberi's love story started in friendship, and it didn't take long before they fell for each other. Not even living in different continents – or a civil war – could get in their way. But when a heartbreaking loss shook the foundation of their relationship for the first time, it was a video camera that helped them find their way back to one another. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Gaia Caramazza Editor: Munazza Khan
25/06/202341 minutes 35 seconds
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Love, war, and the cutting room floor

Mariam and Mohammed are Yemeni filmmakers who turned the lens on their own relationship. Mariam Al-Dhubhani and Mohammed Al-Jaberi's love story started in friendship, and it didn't take long before they fell for each other. Not even living in different continents – or a civil war – could get in their way. But when a heartbreaking loss shook the foundation of their relationship for the first time, it was a video camera that helped them find their way back to one another. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Gaia Caramazza Editor: Munazza Khan
25/06/202341 minutes 35 seconds
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He was almost a mass shooter – an act of kindness stopped him

Aaron Stark now works to raise awareness around why mass attacks happen. Aaron had a chaotic and violent childhood, and by the time he was a teenager he was homeless, angry and traumatised. At his lowest point, he began to plan an appaling act of violence in a bid to punish the world around him. He wanted to get hold of a gun, but before he could, his best friend Mike changed the course of his life with a small, simple act of kindness. This episode includes themes of suicide, self harm and drug use. If you need support relating to any of the issues we've covered in this interview, you can find more information on the BBC Action line website or at Befrienders.org Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Harry Graham and Emily Naylor Editor: Munazza Khan
18/06/202342 minutes 13 seconds
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Teenage dreams on the Indian Ocean

At the age of 13 Laura Dekker fought for her right to sail solo around the world. Laura comes from a family of sailing enthusiasts, and her father taught her the ropes early. By 11 years old she was sailing unaided for weeks at a time, and at 13 she felt ready to tackle her biggest challenge yet. Her parents supported her decision, but the Dutch authorities had concerns; was it responsible to allow a child to circumnavigate the world alone? Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: May Cameron
11/06/202340 minutes 5 seconds
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'Don't anger the monster', part 2

Rowena Chiu was kept silent for 20 years by former film boss Harvey Weinstein. Rowena thought that speaking up about her alleged sexual assault by Weinstein would end up with him in court. But instead she was pressured into signing an NDA so severe that she could tell no one, at times even fearing for her safety. Keeping this secret sent Rowena to a very dark place. But decades later the #MeToo movement set her free. This episode contains references to suicide. The news archive is from NBC and ABC Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Rebecca Vincent
04/06/202333 minutes 18 seconds
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'Don't anger the monster', part 1

Rowena Chiu on surviving the Hollywood sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. Rowena was just 24 when she became an assistant to Weinstein at his film company. She knew he was a difficult boss, but nothing prepared her for what happened one night in Venice in 1998. She says he told her he ‘liked Chinese girls’, and sexually assaulted her in his hotel room. It was the start of a story she never wanted to be part of. The news archive is from CBS. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Rebecca Vincent
28/05/202336 minutes 23 seconds
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Sugar sandwiches and smarts: a poor kid's fairytale ending

Raised by addicts, Dr Katriona O'Sullivan defied the odds to become a university lecturer. Her parents were addicted to heroin, she was neglected and not fed. But for the care she received from two influential teachers and the occasional stroke of luck, life may have gone in a very different direction. Katriona's written a book about her life called Poor. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Edgar Maddicott
21/05/202339 minutes 9 seconds
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Lola the bare-knuckle drag queen

Martial arts kept him out of jail, but drag artistry made him whole. Diego Garijo was bullied for his femininity as a child, so as he grew up he toughened up his image. He was in trouble with the law, until he found his focus as a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. But when Diego’s career came to a brutal halt, creating a drag persona, Lola, gave him a new lease of life. Presenter: Andrea Kennedy Producer: Louise Morris Sound design: Joel Cox Editor: Munazza Khan
14/05/202351 minutes 56 seconds
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I was there the night Emmett Till was taken

Wheeler Parker is Emmett Till's cousin and the last surviving witness to his abduction. Emmett's brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 sparked a wave of protest in America. The 14-year-old African American was lynched for whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who recently died aged 88. Reverend Wheeler Parker was Emmett's cousin and was in the next room to him when he was kidnapped. The horrific events of that night have shaped Wheeler's life. We spoke to him before the news of Donham's death. Wheeler has written a book alongside lawyer and journalist Christopher Benson called: A Few Days Full of Trouble. We spoke to them before the death of Carolyn Bryant Donham. This programme contains some distressing scenes. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Deiniol Buxton and Troy Holmes Editor: Munazza Khan
07/05/202341 minutes 19 seconds
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Tanzania’s hip-hop politician

Joseph Mbilinyi pioneered Swahili rap and then turned to politics, but ended up in jail. In the 1990s he'd become one of Tanzania's biggest stars under the stage name Sugu. He'd released albums, toured the country and abroad, and helped create a new genre called Bongo Flava. He's known for hard-hitting, often political, lyrics. In 2010 he took that message to parliament when he was elected as an opposition MP. But he ended up being jailed after speaking out against the president of the time. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Rob Wilson Editor: Munazza Khan
30/04/202340 minutes 49 seconds
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'Brother. do. you. love. me.' The SMS that changed our lives

Brothers Manni and Reuben Coe, and the text that prompted a lockdown rescue mission. Manni was living in Spain when he received this troubling text from his younger brother Reuben. Reuben has Down's syndrome, and had become isolated and non-verbal while living in a care home in the UK during the Covid pandemic. Manni decided to stage a rescue — a 'bro-nap' — and together they embarked on a loving journey of brotherhood and recovery. Manni and Reuben have written a book called Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: May Cameron
23/04/202340 minutes 10 seconds
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'Prison Break' and my escape from Manus Island

Tricks from a hit TV show held the key to Jaivet Ealom’s audacious dash for freedom. As a student in his native Myanmar, Jaivet Ealom became obsessed with the hit US TV show Prison Break. He watched it on a loop, but never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d be in a similar position to its main character. When he found himself locked up in Australia's notorious Manus Regional Processing Centre with no end in sight, could he outdo fiction and find a way out? Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Edgar Maddicott
16/04/202349 minutes 5 seconds
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The spy who wanted to bring down apartheid: Part 2

ANC spy Sue Dobson infiltrated the South African government. Then her cover was blown. After training, Sue had got a job within the government's propaganda unit, and she was feeding back good intelligence to her ANC handlers. Then she got a phone call. The security services were after her, and she was a long way from safety. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Deiniol Buxton Sound design: Joel Cox
09/04/202341 minutes 46 seconds
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The spy who wanted to bring down apartheid, part 1

Sue Dobson was a white South African who risked her life as an ANC secret agent Sue was a student when she was first recruited as a spy for the African National Congress liberation movement in the 1980s, and she knew that if she was caught she'd face prison, torture or death. Sue's mission would require her to infiltrate the pro-apartheid media establishment, but first she needed to learn spycraft and weapons handling. Her training would take place in Soviet Russia. Presenter: India Rakusen Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Deiniol Buxton Sound design: Joel Cox
02/04/202340 minutes 47 seconds
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Bringing the Muppets to Moscow

Natasha Lance Rogoff’s daunting task of making Sesame Street in post-Soviet Russia. In the early 90s, American journalist Natasha Lance Rogoff was covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – until the Muppets came calling, and she was tasked with bringing Sesame Street to Moscow. After decades of communism a new Russia was emerging, but could it embrace a US TV show? Creating Ulitsa Sezam was a daunting challenge for Natasha. She would have to overcome a huge culture clash and, along the way, face mobsters with shark tanks, bankruptcy, and the kidnapping of Elmo. Natasha has written a book called Muppets in Moscow: The unexpected crazy true story of making Sesame Street in Russia. Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Maryam Maruf Editor: Munazza Khan
26/03/202341 minutes 23 seconds
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Introducing: Love, Janessa

All episodes of our catfishing podcast are now available. You meet someone online. It turns out many others think they have fallen for the same person. It’s the story of the scammers and the unwitting face of a digital con. With host, Hannah Ajala. Search for Love, Janessa wherever you get your podcasts.
24/03/20232 minutes 55 seconds
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My life in seven swimming pools

Amjed Tantesh is determined to teach kids in Gaza to swim no matter how many pools he has to build. Finding freedom in the water as a child, Amjed wanted to train the next generation of Gazans for Olympic swimming glory – not easy when he had to keep abandoning his pools. Yet through relentlessly rebuilding and restarting, over decades of war, Amjed’s swimming initiative found its true purpose. This episode contains upsetting moments involving children. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Louise Morris Interpreter: Youssef Taha
20/03/202345 minutes 20 seconds
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The Ukrainian opera singer nearly silenced by a bullet

Sergiy Ivanchuk dreamed of stardom, before he was shot in the chest by Russian soldiers. He was a volunteer helping refugees escape Eastern Ukraine during the early days of the 2022 invasion, when his car was attacked. He was hit in the legs, hand and back, and he was lucky to survive a punctured lung. When Sergiy woke up in hospital, he could barely talk, let alone sing, but he refused to give up his ambitions of being a world famous baritone. Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Andrea Kennedy Sound design: Joel Cox
13/03/202339 minutes 45 seconds
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I didn’t know I was part of an experiment

When Greenlander Helene Thiesen was just seven, two Danish men came to take her away. In 1951, Greenland native Helene Thiesen was just seven years old when two Danish men knocked at the family home. That moment would shape the rest of her life. These men, acting at the invitation of the Danish colonial government were rounding up the brightest Inuit children and sending them to live in Denmark to be re-educated as model Danish citizens or ‘little Danes’. Helene suffered terribly from being separated from her mother and siblings and it would take her many decades to discover the horrible truth behind it all: she was part of an experiment. Of the 22 children that were taken, Helene is now one of the few survivors. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Edgar Maddicott Translator: Alette Rye Scales Voice: Julia Holden
06/03/202336 minutes 49 seconds
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Eyes on the prize: Pakistan’s first trans film star

Rejected by family and society, trans actor Alina Khan was forced to spend time on the streets of her native Lahore as a child. Through dance, she found an escape and a living, but also encountered prejudice. Facing down loneliness, poverty and danger, she carved her own principled path to big screen fame. Now she’s won praise for her performance as Biba, a fiery and ambitious trans woman, in international award-winning new film Joyland. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Laura Thomas
27/02/202335 minutes 37 seconds
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Becoming Blair 'the Flair': a boxer on the run, part 2

In the ring, Blair finds calm amidst the chaos of his life. Back in the US Blair Cobbs falls again on hard times; homeless in Philadelphia his boxing dream seems out of reach. But a string of lucky breaks may just tip the balance. Blair’s brazen alter-ego who’s kept him alive thus far now has a name – Blair ‘the Flair’ – and some recognition in the ring. But could ‘the Flair’ take him all the way to the top of the boxing world? Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Louise Morris
20/02/202332 minutes 42 seconds
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Becoming Blair 'the Flair': a boxer on the run, part 1

From Beverly Hills to hiding from the law with his dad, Blair’s seen it all. To help him get through the tough times – and there’d be quite a few of those – Blair created a separate persona. This was the fearless alter ego he could rely on to swoop in and save the day. The Peter Pan to his Lost Boy. And Blair was certainly lost now - would he make it back out of Mexico alive? Clips: Clueless/ Amy Heckerling/ Paramount Pictures Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Louise Morris
13/02/202340 minutes 12 seconds
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The mystery of the tartan twins

A baby left in a car, another in a telephone box. It would take decades to find out why. When he was just a baby, David McBride made headline news in Northern Ireland. He had been discovered in the front seat of a stranger’s car, with no trace of who had left him there or why. David was a foundling, and as he grew up he started to want answers. Then, a chance encounter led him to Helen Ward. She was also a foundling, and she was on a very similar mission. Presenter: Andrea Kennedy Producer: Maryam Maruf Editor: Munazza Khan
06/02/202342 minutes
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Breaking my addiction to war

Fergal Keane's work as a war correspondent was destroying him, but he couldn't stop. It was his job as a BBC journalist to help the audience make sense of the madness of war, but he knew there was another more troubling reason he was drawn to these violent situations. They gave him something he couldn't get anywhere else in the same way. A massive rush of adrenaline and a huge dose of validation. Fergal knew this compulsive tendency wasn't healthy, but he couldn't stay away from the frontlines. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: May Cameron and Harry Graham Sound Design: Joel Cox Editor: Munazza Khan
30/01/202343 minutes 40 seconds
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The fearless former nun fighting for India's seamstresses

From convent to marriage to factory floor, Thivya Rakini will stand up for herself, and you. From an early age she's fought for what's right. As a child living in Tamil Nadu, she stopped eating so her parents would send her to the school of her choice. She left behind life in a convent, then a marriage, and went on to defy expectations as a working single mother. She’s now the leader of a union advocating for seamstresses making fast fashion for international chain stores and has negotiated an historic deal. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: June Christie
23/01/202341 minutes 53 seconds
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Learning to live with the voices in my head

Debra Lampshire started hearing voices aged five. Comforting at first, they soon took control.The voices became so visceral and intense that Debra had to spend 18 years in a psychiatric hospital. Then, a chance friendship with a car mechanic gave her the tools to restore her life, but she’d have to learn to coexist with the voices that once tormented her. If you need support relating to any of the issues we've covered in this interview, you can find more information on the BBC Action line website or at Befrienders.org Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Louise Morris
16/01/202347 minutes 23 seconds
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Rebel gunmen in Ugandan skies

Pilot Firoz Khimji witnessed his country's wars from above. Then conflict came for him. For most of his life, Uganda had been unstable, but he'd been able to train as a commercial pilot despite the violence. When qualified, Firoz took a job with Ugandan Airlines. This was the 1980s, and he had to routinely fly between territories controlled by different armed groups. War was ever-present, but Firoz would always emerge unscathed, until a routine flight went badly wrong. Presenter: Asya Fouks Producer: Eric Mugaju and Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan
09/01/202339 minutes 19 seconds
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Coming out as India’s first gay prince

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil risked everything when he faced his parents and society He was next in line to a centuries-old royal dynasty in the Indian state of Gujarat - and grew up in the 1970s in a gilded cage. His family's desire to keep his blue blood away from what they called ‘commoners’ meant that, growing up, he missed out on formative experiences like making friends. After a failed marriage to a princess, Manvendra finally shed his royal cocoon and was determined to break out and explore the world, and his sexuality. With the help of his new friend Ashok, a gay rights activist, the prince began a process of self-acceptance that would be put to the ultimate test. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Edgar Maddicott Editor: Munazza Khan
02/01/202339 minutes 9 seconds
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The secrets of a slave ship in an Alabama swamp

Journalist Ben Raines went in search of a sunken ship with a dark history. A phone call out of the blue had set him on his hunt for the Clotilda, an American vessel that had illegally transported enslaved West African people to the US. On arrival it had been burnt, and hidden deep in the Alabama swamp. The story of the ship and its passengers had been kept alive by generations of people descended from those who had been enslaved. But these inherited histories were shrouded in secrecy, fear, and silence - seldom spoken of outside that community. So, when Ben dived into the swamp to find the Clotilda, it was more than a shipwreck that bubbled to the surface. Emily Webb speaks to Ben Raines and descendant Garry Lumbers about their intertwining stories. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Emily Webb and Olivia Lynch-Kelly Editor: Munazza Khan
26/12/202240 minutes 41 seconds
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Searching for my sister, the "keeper of memories"

Nakuset blocked out painful memories of being removed from her indigenous Canadian family Nakuset only goes by one name and it means "The Sun" in her indigenous Canadian culture. Born into an abusive household, her early days were difficult and it wasn't long before she and her sister Sonya were taken into care by social services. This was the 1970s, and there was a widespread policy of taking indigenous children and putting them up for adoption with white families, removing them from their culture in the process. Nakuset was adopted, her sister wasn't. It was a painful process for Nakuset, but her eventual reunion with Sonya as an adult helped her get in touch with her heritage. The two sisters became close, but sadly their respective childhood experiences had left them scarred, and the reunion didn't have a fairy-tale ending. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Harry Graham Editor Munazza Khan If you've been affected by any of the issues relating to mental health in this programme, hel
19/12/202223 minutes 31 seconds
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Guns, guards, snarling dogs: a child migrant’s story

Javier Zamora travelled alone from El Salvador to the US when he was just nine years old. He had been living with relatives after his parents migrated to the US, but longed to be in his mother’s arms. His parents hired a ‘coyote’, or people smuggler, to bring him across the borders, but the trip went wrong. Javier was abandoned by the coyote, and found himself reliant on strangers for survival as he journeyed for two months by bus, boat, and on foot, nearly dying in the Sonoran Desert. Javier is now a poet in the US, whose work explores the trauma of that experience, and what it means to be an undocumented migrant. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Rebecca Vincent
12/12/202256 minutes 11 seconds
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The Palestinian tapes, part 2

In 2020, Mo’min Swaitat unearthed a treasure trove of lost Palestinian music in an abandoned building. Out of thousands of dusty cassettes there was one that caught his eye: a bright yellow tape, completely unmarked except for a handwritten label that said ‘Intifada.’ Mo’min loved the music and a series of clues led him to Hanan Awwad, an elderly Palestinian woman living in occupied East Jerusalem. In this episode, Hanan tells the story of how her brother Riad made the Intifada tape. There was disco, protest and poetry, but the consequences would be dangerous. Through an underground network of music lovers, Riad’s songs would survive and eventually end up with Mo’min. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Maryam Maruf Editor: Munazza Khan Sound design: Joel Cox Mix: Giles Aspen With thanks to Diana Alghoul for translation support
05/12/202234 minutes 33 seconds
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The Palestinian tapes, part 1

Mo’min Swaitat unearthed a vast trove of forgotten Palestinian music. Not only did it hold long-lost recordings of his own Bedouin family, but also a mysterious yellow cassette of protest songs set to an electro-disco beat. Mo’min became captivated by the yellow tape. It would open up a world of underground music from one of the most turbulent times in Palestinian history, the first Intifada. But could he track down who’d made it? Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Maryam Maruf Editor: Munazza Khan Sound design: Joel Cox Mix: Giles Aspen With thanks to Diana Alghoul for translation support
28/11/202233 minutes 23 seconds
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I hit puberty, then burned down my family home

At 18 Nikki Owen set fire to the family home – and she didn’t know why. Nikki awaited trial in solitary confinement, but her father searched for answers in medical science, and started working on a ground-breaking legal defence to get her out. If you've been affected by any of subjects in this programme you can find support and additional information below: BBC Action Line: https://www.bbc.co.uk/actionline/ Befrienders Worldwide: https://www.befrienders.org/ The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders: https://iapmd.org/ National Association for Premenstrual Syndromes https://www.pms.org.uk Presenter: Emily Webb Producer:  Tom Harding Assinder
21/11/202242 minutes 18 seconds
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He knocked on my door and said: 'I believe you'

How the friendship of a stranger helped Betsy Sailor when she needed it most. Betsy was living alone at university in the late 1970s when a man broke into her apartment and raped her at knifepoint. He was later caught, and it turned out he was a student, and a player on the successful Penn State football team. Taking him to court was a daunting task but then a fellow football player, Irv Pankey, stepped up and told Betsy he was on her side and would look after her. Their remarkable friendship changed the course of Betsy’s life. Film clip: Betsy and Irv/ Nicole Noren/ ESPN Films Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Rebecca Vincent
14/11/202248 minutes 27 seconds
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My father’s hidden crimes

Analía’s father was accused of being a government torturer — he said it was a lie. A phone call turned Analía Kalinec’s comfortable life upside down. Her father was accused of crimes committed during the Argentine dictatorship twenty years previously, when around 30,000 people were disappeared by security forces. He denied it, but Analía decided to investigate. Her findings would change her view of the father she had loved. Analía has written a book called Llevaré su Nombre (I Carry Your Name). Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Louise Morris Interpreter: Salomé Paulo
07/11/202235 minutes 34 seconds
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The child spy and her secret agent parents

Sue-Ellen Doherty was trained by her parents to spy for Australia during the Cold War. For Sue-Ellen Kusher, nee Doherty, growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane was far from normal. Both her parents worked for the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, and in the early days of their marriage, they brought up their three children to be part of the family business. It was the 1950s, and Russian and Chinese communists were regarded as enemies. Sue-Ellen spoke to us in 2021. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Katy Takatsuki Editor: Munazza Khan
31/10/202240 minutes 10 seconds
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A fake billionaire in North Korea, part 2

Jim is deep undercover in North Korea — but will he find proof of illegal weapons deals... He'd been sent to the isolated country by a documentary film-maker called Mads Brugger, to pose as a fake investor interested in arms. Jim, Mads and the team had spent years infiltrating a North Korean network in Europe, but now they were on North Korean turf the risks were bigger than ever. Jim is treated like a king, but no weapons deals emerge, until suddenly he's driven out of town and taken down into a mysterious basement. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan Sound design: Joel Cox
23/10/202234 minutes
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A fake billionaire in North Korea, part 1

Jim Latrache-Qvortrup posed as a weapons dealer to expose a North Korean criminal network. Jim was an unusual secret agent. He'd grown up poor in Denmark, and had gone on to become a drug dealer to the rich and famous in Copenhagen. After years in prison, he was reformed but bored. Then, a filmmaker called Mads Brügger approached him, and asked him to take part in a high-stakes sting in North Korea. Mads needed someone to pretend to be a dodgy billionaire investor interested in a sanctions-breaking weapons deal. It was a perilous mission, failure would mean prison or death. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan
16/10/202232 minutes 55 seconds
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Opiyo’s law: Never let fear rule your life

In September 2020, Nicholas Opiyo awoke to a commotion in his flat. There had been a robbery and all his personal electronics had been stolen. He says he tracked his devices to a shocking and impenetrable location: the headquarters of Uganda’s military intelligence. He believes he was targeted because of his work. The Ugandan authorities chose not to respond to these allegations. Opiyo, as he prefers to be known, survived civil war to become one of Uganda’s top human rights lawyers. He’s taken on huge cases, including successfully overturning the country’s anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2014. He’s received awards for his efforts but also hostility. The break-in at his home was ominous. Months later, Opiyo would be arrested – on false charges – and he'd need to make a life-changing choice. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Maryam Maruf (Photo: Nicholas Opiyo. Credit: Courtesy of Nicholas Opiyo)
09/10/20221 hour 3 minutes 30 seconds
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Hip hop, lies and the ultimate prize, part 2

Silibil N’ Brains found fame as fake American rappers - but how long can you live a lie? A record deal with Sony, celebrity parties and touring with his heroes, life looked good for Gavin Bain, one half of the duo. But with fame came visibility, the pressure mounted and they could no longer outrun the truth. Gavin's written a book about his undercover life called Straight Outta Scotland and is making music with his new band Hopeless Heroic. If you need support relating to any of the issues we've covered in this interview, you can find more information on the BBC Action line website or at Befrienders.org. Clip: MTV TRL/ the MTV Entertainment Group Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Louise Morris
02/10/202247 minutes 4 seconds
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Hip hop, lies and the ultimate prize, part 1

The Scottish rappers who fooled the music industry. Gavin Bain was one half of Silibil N’ Brains, a Californian rap duo on the cusp of greatness. But there was a problem - the story of these hip hop stars was fake. Gavin’s never even been to America. Film clips: The Mask/Chuck Russell/  New Line Cinema and Dark Horse Entertainment. The Secret of My Success/Herbert Ross/Rastar Beetlejuice/Tim Burton/The Geffen Company Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Louise Morris
25/09/202249 minutes 39 seconds
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I was the voice of Bambi – and kept it secret for years

Donnie Dunagan was a Disney child star in the 1930s before becoming a US Marine. He was born in 1934 and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, in the midst of the Great Depression. After winning a talent show aged four he was scouted and whisked to Hollywood where he starred in several movies – including a role as the voice of Walt Disney’s iconic animated deer Bambi in 1942. But the Second World War would put a halt to his movie career, and Donnie eventually became a US Marine – never telling anyone about his Hollywood history until he was publicly unmasked in 2004. On the 80th anniversary of Bambi's release, he shares his story. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Zoe Gelber
18/09/202229 minutes 21 seconds
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Black, Korean, stateless: a Slickyboy’s American dream, part 2

Growing up as the son of a sex worker and a Black US soldier in South Korea in the 70s, Milton Washington was seen as an outcast, and "not Korean." He couldn't even get a birth certificate. Still, he was loved and protected by his mum, the two of them against the world. She told him his dad was in America, a land of flying cars and ice cream mountains — and that was where Milton wanted to be, too. Milton's story continues. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Laura Thomas
11/09/202229 minutes 45 seconds
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Black, Korean, stateless: A Slickyboy’s American dream, part 1

Growing up as the son of a sex worker and a black US soldier in South Korea in the '70s, Milton Washington was seen as an outcast, and "not Korean". He couldn't even get a birth certificate. Still, he was loved and protected by his mum, the two of them against the world. She told him his dad was in America, a land of flying cars and ice cream mountains - and that was where Milton wanted to be, too. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Laura Thomas
04/09/202240 minutes 21 seconds
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I see my son in the Northern Lights

Chasing the aurora helps Hugo grieve. By day Hugo Sanchez works in a school, but by night he hunts glowing light displays across the freezing Canadian wilderness. Capturing the aurora is more than just a hobby for Hugo. He took up photography after his son Emilio was born with complex disabilities. When Emilio died at ten years old Hugo found solace and hope in the dancing night sky. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Louise Morris
28/08/202239 minutes 5 seconds
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The brain tumour that taught me how to live

How extreme kayaker Scott Lindgren's illness forced him to face his past. Scott’s hard, uncompromising attitude had made him one of the world’s top expedition kayakers in a sport that’s claimed the lives of many friends. But bottling up a harsh childhood and drinking for a release can only work for so long. When Scott became ill he faced a reckoning – be the tough guy and lose everything you love, or learn to embrace being vulnerable. Archive is from a film about Scott's life called The River Runner directed by Rush Sturges for River Roots productions. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Louise Morris
21/08/202245 minutes 31 seconds
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The family that went to war with a military dictatorship

Hafsat Abiola Costello's dad was nearly Nigeria's president - but he had powerful enemies His name was Moshood Abiola, also known as MKO, and he was one of Africa's richest men before turning to politics. He was the presumed winner of a 1993 Presidential election, but the incumbent military regime annulled the result and had him arrested. Hafsat and her mother fought for his release, but the family paid a high price for taking on the generals.. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Harry Graham Editor: Munazza Khan Sound design: Joel Cox
14/08/202243 minutes 58 seconds
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How I fell in love with blindness

Itto Outini lost her sight but gained her freedom Itto had been born poor in Morocco's Atlas mountains, and after her parents died, she was shunted between extended family members. She wasn't always welcome, and says she suffered frequent violence. This heightened when Itto was 17, when she describes a relative throwing a sharp object at her, taking her sight. Abandoned, Itto had to adapt to life as a blind person on the streets of a Moroccan city. Things were initially tough and disorientating, but she soon taught herself braille and found huge comfort in books and learning. Despite sleeping rough, Itto fought for the education that had been denied her when she was sighted. Itto has a memoir coming out in Autumn called "Blindness is the light of my life" Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Harry Graham
08/08/202237 minutes 24 seconds
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Nailed into a boat: Escaping Mao’s China

Dr Andrew Kwong fled famine and persecution as a child. He was a proud Maoist, singing revolutionary songs at the top of his voice at school, but then he witnessed an execution, his father was arrested, and famine struck. His family knew their only hope was to smuggle 12-year-old Andrew abroad, though it would mean years of separation. Andrew has written a book about his experience called One Bright Moon. Presenter: Emily Webb Producers: Louise Morris and Fiona Woods
31/07/202243 minutes 16 seconds
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The legendary goalkeeper forced to pawn her gold medals

Goalkeeper Briana Scurry knew at eight years old it was her destiny to win Olympic gold – and in 1996, she did it. That was just the beginning: she won the World Cup and another Olympics with the US Women's National Soccer Team. Briana made history on and off the pitch as one of the few African American women on the national side, and the only openly gay player on the team. But in 2010, a knee to the head changed her life. Incapacitated by pain and unable to work, Briana spiralled into depression and debt and ended up having to pawn the gold medals she’d spent her whole life working to earn. Things got so bad that she contemplated suicide. But then an ex-girlfriend introduced her to a woman who would change her life. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Fiona Woods If you need support relating to any of the issues we've covered in this interview, you can find more information on the BBC Action line website or at Befrienders.org
24/07/202258 minutes 52 seconds
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A poet in a Burundi war zone, part 2

Content Warning: This episode contains graphic descriptions of violence JP Bimeni is a writer turned soul singer who walked through a massacre unscathed as his country fell into conflict. At just 16 he had a lot more living, and almost dying, to do. Now a successful performer these experiences seep into his songs. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Louise Morris
17/07/202233 minutes 56 seconds
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A poet in a Burundi war zone, part 1

Content Warning: This episode contains graphic descriptions of violence JP Bimeni risked his life to save a book of his verse. He started composing poetry to impress a girl, but was soon writing to address the ethnic tensions which threatened to tear his country apart. When violence did break out he dodged machete-wielding mobs to make it to safety. The mission to rescue his poetry almost cost him everything. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Louise Morris
10/07/202237 minutes 20 seconds
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My husband thought I was an imposter

Abi Morgan’s husband woke from a coma and didn’t recognise her. Abi is a playwright and screenwriter based in London, and she'd made a name for herself writing successful and often highly emotional films and TV Series such as The Iron Lady, Shame, and The Split. In 2019 her life took such a strange and unfamiliar turn, she says it was almost like she'd landed in one of her scripts. Her partner Jacob was ill and put into a medically induced coma. Eight months later, he woke up, and no longer recognised Abi as his wife. Abi has written a book about her experiences called This Is Not a Pity Memoir. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Harry Graham
03/07/202245 minutes 29 seconds
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My dream holiday turned to horror

Pirates attacked Judith and her husband in a remote Kenyan resort in 2011. Judith was dragged from her bed and taken by boat to Somalia, where she was held for over six months. Despite everything she went through, Judith Tebbutt has spent the last ten years trying to get justice for a man she believes was wrongly convicted of the crime. Due to breaking news we're bringing you this episode of Lives Less Ordinary earlier than scheduled. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Rebecca Vincent
23/06/202248 minutes
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A family lost at sea

Fleeing Vietnam, Lauren Vuong’s family almost died. Settled in the U.S. all she wanted was to fulfil her parents’ dream of finding their rescuers. This is the story of one family’s quest for survival, and the kindness of the strangers who helped them. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producers: Louise Morris and May Cameron Film clip: Finding the Virgo/Barre Fong/Lauren Vuong/ Barre Fong Designs
19/06/202240 minutes 23 seconds
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Giving birth as a hostage in Syria

Janina was six months pregnant when she travelled to Syria in 2015 to meet a school friend who’d become an extremist. Janina Findeisen, a journalist, was making a documentary about their friendship. The trip was only meant to last a few days – little did she know that she would end up being taken hostage and forced to give birth in captivity. Presenter: Emily Webb Producers: Emily Webb and Fiona Woods Film clip: Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell, The Weinstein Company.
12/06/202257 minutes 22 seconds
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Taking on the witch hunters

Blamed for killing her father through witchcraft, Monica Paulus fled for her life, but she didn’t stay in hiding for long. Monica realised she could be someone to stand up and prevent others being killed after accusations of sorcery. This is the story of how one brave woman took on the witch hunters and changed history in Papua New Guinea.
05/06/202239 minutes 15 seconds
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Township lawyer v gold giants, part 2

Charles sues his country’s richest companies on behalf of black gold miners. It’s a battle that could spell ruin for Charles, but this isn’t a man who takes no for an answer. Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Fiona Woods
29/05/202246 minutes 11 seconds
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Township lawyer v gold giants, part 1

Apartheid taught Charles to know his place, so how did he end up suing the gold industry? When Charles Abrahams told his teachers he was going to be a heart surgeon they laughed. This was Apartheid South Africa and kids like Charles had no business having such lofty ambitions. But Charles knew something those teachers didn't. He was destined for a bigger life and nobody was going to stand in his way. Charles has written a book, it's called Class Action: In Pursuit of a Larger Life. TV Clip: Dallas, Leonard Katzman, Lorimar Productions Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Fiona Woods
22/05/202245 minutes 36 seconds
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We need to talk about Carlo

Donna discovers her ex fiancé’s secret life. When Donna met Carlo at an anti-war protest she immediately fell for him. They just had so much in common, particularly their left-wing politics. When he moved into her flat she discovered they had all the same books - it was as if they were fated to be together. Donna couldn't  believe her luck! There was just one thing that bothered her - he'd never introduced her to his family or friends. Donna McLean has written a book, it’s called Small Town Girl. Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Fiona Woods
15/05/202247 minutes 6 seconds
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You wanted me dead, but look at me now

Anne's village thought her disability made her worthless. She had other ideas. Now a graduate and a Paralympian who's represented Kenya and the UK, this is the story of how Anne Wafula Strike forgave the unforgiveable and made her return. Presenter: Jo Fidgen Producer: Louise Morris
08/05/202250 minutes 44 seconds
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Bike-riding bank robber, part 2

The FBI close in. “It’s a wake-up call when police are trying to shoot you.” Tom Justice’s fantasy is fading, he’s now robbing banks to fund his addiction and things are about to get a lot worse. Film clips: Heat/Michael Mann/Regency Enterprises and Forward Pass Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Louise Morris
01/05/202240 minutes 13 seconds
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Bike-riding bank robber, part 1

Olympic hopeful to audacious thief – the cyclist who turned to crime. Movies influenced Tom’s biggest life decisions. Slacker film Reality Bites made him give up becoming an Olympic cyclist, and heist film Heat ‘inspired’ him to make the bizarre leap from fiction to reality. But there are only so many banks you can rob before your ego, and the FBI, start catching up with you. Film clips: Reality Bites/Ben Stiller/Jersey Films Heat/Michael Mann/Regency Enterprises and Forward Pass Presenter: Mobeen Azhar Producer: Louise Morris
24/04/202239 minutes 11 seconds
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The trailer

Astonishing true stories, jaw-dropping twists. Why would an Olympic hopeful rob a bank? How does someone keep their double life a secret? From the team behind Outlook, incredible personal stories from around the world, to show you just how surprising and extraordinary humans can be. With Emily Webb, Mobeen Azhar and Jo Fidgen. Premieres on 25 April.
18/04/20222 minutes 54 seconds
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Introducing Lives Less Ordinary

Enter other people’s worlds. Welcome to the new weekly podcast from the Outlook radio team, finding amazing personal stories from around the world. Premieres on 25 April. With Emily Webb, Mobeen Azhar and Jo Fidgen.
13/04/20225 minutes 16 seconds