Afterwords: Martha Gellhorn on BBC Radio 3
I’m excited to say Radio 3 has just aired a documentary I helped produce, about the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. It’s part of the Afterwords series, produced by Falling Tree Productions. I was so chuffed to get to work with Ellie McDowall on this archive led piece, looking at Martha’s work and its relevance to journalism now, in this troubled political time.
You can listen back to the broadcast here or download the podcast here.
In our research for this documentary, we found that a lot of biographies and other work about Martha Gellhorn tends to focus on her personal life – her marriages, sex life and relationship to her children. We wanted to make a documentary that was interested in her as a writer. We wanted to understand why journalists like Lindsey Hilsum and Janine di Giovanni carried battered copies of her books into conflict zones around the world; and how her passion and sense of justice impacted the way she wrote and what she chose to write about. We also wanted to make space for critiques of her work – in particular, her reporting on Palestine later in life, which seemed to lack the rigour and fairness that characterised pretty much everything else she ever did.
My favourite part of making this piece was finding a documentary in the British Library that Martha made in 1997. It was called A View From Abroad: History Erased, and in it she revisited a Welsh town hit hard by the miners’ strike in 1984. She reported from that town back in the 80s, and in this doc she went back to find out how the place was faring over a decade later. You can hear a bit of that archive in our documentary, and if you ever get a chance to listen to the whole thing, I’d really recommend it!