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Coma Songs: York and Cardiff academics co-produce BBC Radio 3 programme

Posted on 10 October 2014

Academic research into the experiences of families of patients with severe brain injuries has been translated into a radio programme, providing insight into the heart-breaking dilemmas they face.

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for their innovative ‘Between the Ears’ series and due to air on Saturday 11 October at 10pm, Coma Songs is the result of collaboration between families with experience of catastrophic brain injuries, academic researchers at York and Cardiff universities, artists and media producers.

Using interviews carried out by Professor Celia Kitzinger from the University of York and Professor Jenny Kitzinger from Cardiff University, co-directors of the York-Cardiff Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre, the programme draws on hours of recorded conversation with families. Talking with stark honesty about what it is like to have a relative in a long term ‘coma’ or vegetative state, Coma Songs raises questions about the profound emotional and ethical dilemmas they face.Co-produced by Professor Jenny Kitzinger, working alongside radio producer Llinos Jones from Terrier Productions, the programme uses words, sounds, music and poetry to explore modern medicine's specific ability to save the body but not to restore the brain.

The programme also features poetry written and read by James Nash and metal music composed and played by Eliza Gregory following sponsorship from C2D2. The artists were given full access to interview transcripts to inform their creative interpretation of family experiences.

Interviews featured in the programme were originally used in a web resource, launched last month to provide family support and training for practitioners involved in the care of people with severe forms of brain injury. However, research suggested that there was a need for wider social engagement with issues raised, encouraging the academics to take their work further.

Professor Celia Kitzinger, of the Department of Sociology at York, said: “This creative radio programme captures aspects of the research findings that are hard to convey in a learned journal - the traditional outlet for academic findings. The issues raised need to be informed by, but go beyond, academic debate – the challenges raised by 21st Century medicine affect us all. This radio programme is a contribution to that wider public debate.”

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