Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Radio & Podcasts
6 January 2021updated 04 Apr 2023 11:11am

BBC Radio 4’s One to One turns to creativity and failure

In this sensitive three-episode series, journalist Rosie Millard speaks to creatives who are yet to have "made it".   

By Anna Leszkiewicz

In a recent essay on books such as How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big and The Value of Failure, and podcasts such as Elizabeth Day’s interview series How to Fail, the NS columnist Megan Nolan described a new cultural obsession with failure as “a hot commodity”. Such books and podcasts have little interest in failure as we might traditionally understand it, but, through interviews with celebrities, posit failure as “a necessary milestone in the lives of the ultimately fabulously successful”, or “a series of experiments which lead inevitably and inexorably to the conclusion of success”. It’s a limiting framework.

[See also: The childish, cartoony smut of The Great]

Into this context comes a new episode of the BBC Radio 4 interview series One to One. The culture journalist Rosie Millard – a former arts editor of the NS – has years of experience speaking to leading figures in the arts about how they “made it”. She admits that the predominant narrative is that “luck and persistence will out: all you need to do is follow your dream”, because we are a culture that is “obsessed with success and terrified of failure”. But in this sensitive, thoughtful, three-episode series, Millard speaks to those with stories that don’t fit this narrative, and whose voices are rarely heard in popular media.

In the first episode (12 Jan, 9.30am), she talks to an Edinburgh-based fiction writer, Debbie Bayne, who is in her early 60s and is yet to have a novel published. A management consultant for many years, Bayne came to fiction writing later in life: after spending nine months writing and editing a draft, she sent a copy to “all the agents I could find in Britain, and had no success”. Bayne is frank about the fact others might see her writing career as a failure. On whether a lack of publication invalidates her work, Bayne herself feels “divided”. “In my better moments I don’t think it does at all, because it still exists, those characters still exist, they still have a life. In my worst moments I just think, ‘Well, it means I’m not a good writer.’” Bayne is insightful on the “binary” world of publishing, where you either get your work accepted, or you don’t. “The measure of doing a good job is whether you get published or not,” she says. “But I can’t control that.” 

[See also: Barbara Windsor created an icon in Peggy Mitchell, the definitive “soap matriarch”]

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

One to One 
BBC Radio 4

Content from our partners
"Homesharing helps us get a better work-life balance"
How to empower your employees to stay cyber secure
<strong>The energy sector reform the UK needs</strong>

This article appears in the 06 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Out of control