Radio

What it's like being a scarily talented teenager

Plus: the original girl-power pop group – Ivy Benson and Her All Girl Band

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

It was when she said how she loved ‘watching the computer do exactly what you wanted it to do’ that I realised how exceptional she must be. To be so young, just 19, and so at home with technology that you can control it rather than be in awe of its complexity. By the age of 11 Brittany Wenger was teaching herself computer coding, after being inspired by a course at primary school in ‘Futuristic Thinking’. She didn’t find it easy, but she found it ‘a lot of fun’, which says a lot about her. First she persisted in spite of the difficulty, and second she found amusement in that toil and tedious repetition.

Brittany is one of ten teenagers featured on this week’s Radio 1 Stories for having done something that has the potential to change the world. In Brittany’s case she devised a software program that is 99 per cent effective in diagnosing breast cancer. Twice her experiments failed completely but she persevered (driven on by the fact that at the time her cousin was being treated for the disease) and now she says she learned a lot from those earlier mistakes.

Brittany was in elite company on Tuesday night. Gemma Cairney (too old at 29 to be included but a game-changer herself because of the way she’s able to make Radio 1 sound serious) also talked to Malala Yousafzai, who at 15 was shot and almost killed by the Taleban because of her outspoken demands that girls should have freedom of access to education, and who has now been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for continuing her campaign in spite of her injuries. What has her experience taught her? ‘That I should not be afraid of anything.’

President Obama Hosts White House Science Fair
Brittany Wenger meets President Obama Photo: Getty


Malala spoke with such poise and clarity of purpose it was quite humbling. In fact what these ten teenagers shared was an eerie maturity, a certainty and awareness of their essential gift, whether it be for computer technology, house music, hip hop, or gutsy speaking out about issues such as knife crime (Eliza Ribeiro of the Lives not Knives campaign) or female genital mutilation (Muna Hassan). When Brittany set out on her mission to establish a coding system that could help with cancer diagnosis she had no idea she would be able to do it. It’s that combination of a willingness to experiment, to try and fail, and then to try again that characterised all these young people. Not to be deterred, put off, diverted from their instinctive drive to fulfil themselves.

These interviews (produced by Milly Chowles) were packaged Radio 1-style with snippets of Sam Smith, Clean Bandit, Kool Herc, Beyoncé, but the programme was so upbeat and the youngsters so full of hope and enthusiasm that even the music sounded great.

Back in the 1930s, when Ivy Benson wanted to play the saxophone, she was told it was not the right instrument for her, ‘it would not be ladylike’. But she, too, was gifted and determined and within a few years she could not only play sax and clarinet but had also set up her own all-girl band that was soon outclassing the men. We owe a lot to her, says Melanie Chisholm, the former Spice Girl, because of what Benson did, touring the country with her All Girl Band, and pushing on in spite of all the criticism she aroused simply for being a woman and daring to do what she did.

In Radio 4’s Ivy Benson: Original Girl Power (produced by Clair Wordsworth), Chisholm talked to some of the players who had been taught by Benson how to play trombone, trumpet, sax. Many of them were doing humdrum jobs in the mills or munitions factories and playing music just for fun. Once picked by Benson they found themselves in Egypt, Tripoli, France, Germany, Cyprus, Malta, entertaining the troops during the war. ‘There was nothing we couldn’t do,’ they told Chisholm. ‘We were earning our own living. Not dependent on men.’

This did not make them popular with everyone. Benson was asked as late as 1984, ‘Was it rather quaint for a girl to take up the saxophone?’ People came to see the band out of curiosity, only to be surprised at how good they were. The critics, though, couldn’t help adding ‘for women’. Some of the male musicians commissioned to write arrangements for the band deliberately wrote in wrong notes on their scores so that the band would sound off-key. This didn’t work because Benson was too sharp, too thorough, too good a musician to be outwitted. Of course, she didn’t brag about her success, saying on a Woman’s Hour interview before she died (in 1993), ‘I’m just doing a job.’

But hats off to Chisholm (no relation) for bothering to find out about Benson who at the time was as big as Glenn Miller or Vera Lynn, and to acknowledge that she paved the way for her own rather different brand of girl power.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • John Lea

    “Malala spoke with such poise and clarity of purpose it was quite humbling.”

    I wish the metro left would stop gushing about this insufferable girl – she’s a complete pain in the a*se. She was insufferable before the prize, and I suspect her vacuous adolescent preaching will be off the scale now that’s she won the bloody thing. She’ll be Labour’s Women’s Minister for Equality and Diversity within the next two years – guaranteed!

    • “She was insufferable before the prize…”

      In fact, Malala is a Marxist, her family are Marxists, so what does that tell you about (1) the Taliban; (2) the Pakistani government; and (3) the governments of the West?

      Also, how is it that Marxist conferences can be held in, of all places, Swat, Pakistan?! Why is the organization Marxist International Tendency spreading across the globe?

      See my earlier comment for more on this spiked story…

  • The Pakistani girl supposedly shot in the head because she championed formal education for females. Well, she pretends to be a Muslim, but is a Marxist, and when she traveled to England for cranial reconstruction, after the surgery she still had her hair!

    On October 11, 2012 International Marxist Tendency (IMT) published an article denouncing the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai two days earlier, affirming she is an IMT sympathizer and showing a picture of her speaking at an IMT school in Swat, Pakistan earlier that year…

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/10/501143.html

    Not being able to attend the 9 March 2013 congress of the Pakistani section of the IMT due to the “shooting”, Malala sent greetings instead…

    “First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

    “I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”

    http://www.marxist.com/historic-32nd-congress-of-pakistani-imt-1.htm

    Here’s Malala in February 2013 “recovering” from her cranial reconstruction surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England…

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/malala-speaks-for-the-first-time-since-shooting-20130205-2dv4u.html

    Notice anything odd? Yeah, Malala (1) still has all her hair; (2) isn’t wearing hospital pajamas (she simply hopped into bed with her cloths on!); (3) has no bandage; (4) has no swelling; (5) isn’t hooked up to the intravenous tube lying near her arm; (6) has long sleeves that obstructs intravenous tubes, which is one reason why patients wear short-sleeved hospital-issued pajamas; and (7) is still wearing her scarf! Huge gaffs, but the Marxists that control the political parties in Britain probably didn’t care because they know nobody in Britain thinks any longer.

    Here’s a quote from Malala after the cranial reconstruction surgery…

    “And because of these prayers God has given me this new life . . . and this is a second life. And I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

    The Marxist Malala is invoking God, because she knows you’re ignorant of the fact that she’s a Marxist, your ignorance based on your credulity to believe anything the co-opted media/government tells you, even when the facts contradict the co-opted media/government.

    The Malala Yousafzai deception is a part of the USSR & Allies-tasked “War on Terror”, an operation being carried out by the co-opted governments of the West, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending “War on Terror”; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (3) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union from the “Atlantic to Vladivostok”; which will (4) see the end of NATO …

    Notice that not one political party in the West demanded verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    It gets worse–the West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested and detained the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of “Perestroika” (1986-1991)!

    The fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Moscow & Allies, which explains why verification of the “collapse” was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West “lost” China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

    • Catherine Waterman

      Flippin ‘eck, is this a conspiracy theory? I must confess I didn’t read your post in full. I found it hard to read beyond the ‘supposedly shot in the head’ part. So I will imagine that the rest of your post is somewhat far fetched too.

      So the British medical team who carried out the surgery are secret agents of some kind? As far as I understand, she only needed a partial shave on one side of her head. Her hair must have grown back by now. In any case, as she wears a hijab, the shaven side wouldn’t have been especially obvious. And you certainly can’t feign paralysis on one side of the face. Even the best facial distortionist in the world (I’m thinking of the late comedian Les Dawson who loved to gurn) would find it hard to keep up a one-sided expression.

      The only problem I have with Malala is that she’s still religious. I only hope that one day she will realise there is no need for it.

      • “As far as I understand, she only needed a partial shave on one side of her head.”

        LOL! The whole head is shaved for surgery for germ protection.

        As I said, “…nobody in Britain thinks any longer.”

        “And you certainly can’t feign paralysis on one side of the face.”

        Yes one can, by severing a nerve.

        “The only problem I have with Malala is that she’s still religious.”

        Ah, you’re a Marxist! Of course! No one could be so stupid.

        • Catherine Waterman

          It’s all very interesting to suspect a conspiracy, but I’m not at all convinced.

          I’ve found a couple of links to prove that Malala had surgery in the UK, in a hospital in Birmingham. She now has a steel plate in her cranium to replace the shattered part of her skull.

          I also know for certain that complete shaving of the hair prior to cranial surgery is not usually carried out unless absolutely essential. The head’s of brain tumour patients, for example, need only be partially shaved. Indeed, a neighbour of mine had such surgery last year and kept most of his hair during the op. Only a small patch was shaved off. It’s quite normal nowadays to shave only the immediate area where the surgery is to take place.

          I find it extremely hard to believe that the hospital staff in Birmingham would be lying. I certainly don’t believe that Malala’s British surgeon in the Youtube clip below is lying.

          By the way, I’m not Marxist, just a humble atheist. And If Malala is really a socialist rather than a Muslim, then good for her!

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-21387139

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbgZS82OSAI

          • “I’ve found a couple of links to prove that Malala had surgery in the UK, in a hospital in Birmingham.”

            I never said Malala wasn’t in a Birmingham hospital. I said there was no surgery, as the pictures prove.

          • AJH1968

            You have made some exellent points all wasted on the lunatic Dean, one should never argue with small children drunks or imbeciles. Dean has embarked on a sustained period of abstinence (the gene pool will definately benefit) so that he might contribute to the fall of communism in the world. A frustrated altruist like Dean has nothing better to do than to malighn people and reguritate tired old platitudes.

          • “You have made some exellent [sic] points all wasted…”

            That’s true! Catherine Waterman made some excellent points that on reflection of the facts were wasted. She, and the British public, needs to do a little more thinking and less regurgitating.

            “First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

            “I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.” — Malala Yousafzai, March 2013.

            Why don’t you add that to your gene pool, Comrade!

          • AJH1968

            Brilliant riposte Dean. I mean that sincerely, and I will chastise my comrades for their lack of free speech.

          • “…and I will chastise my comrades for their lack of free speech.”

            Chastisement will be useless. The thugs in the Kremlin and their allies across the globe feel that have a messianic mission to “liberate” the world, and that mission includes the policy of (1) pedophilia; and (2) the “War on Terror” that’s killed over one million civilians, as tools to (1) demoralize the West; making possible (2) convergence between the West and East. With such a nice group of people, truth is a threat to their prime mission. Any ideology that can’t take the truth is by definition corrupt.

            The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848 thought Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly, so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States, while we don’t know when exactly the Democratic Party was co-opted by Marxists, thanks to the peculiar historical nature surrounding the founding of the Republican Party, we do know when exactly the party of Lincoln was co-opted.

            The following incomplete list identifies Marxists/socialists who after the failed 1848 revolution in Germany came to the United States, subsequently infiltrating the embryonic Republican Party, many forming voluntary Germanic Union Armies and becoming General Officers themselves within the Union Army, such as…

            (1) Brigadier General Joseph Weydemeyer of the Union Army was a close friend of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels in the London Communist League (Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, close friend of Marx, published with Joseph Weydemyer a number of Communist journals and, also “The Communist Manifesto,” commissioned by Karl Marx. As a member of the Communist/Socialist Fourier Society in America, Dana was well acquainted with Marx and Marx’s colleague in Communism, Fredrick Engels. Dana, also, was a friend of all Marxists in the Republican Party, offering assistance to them almost upon their arrival on the American continent.);

            (2) Brigadier General Louis Blenker, Union Army—radical socialist/Communist from Germany—was remarkably successful in encouraging German immigrants to join the Union Army and the Republican Party;

            (3) Major General August Willich—often called “The Reddest of the Red ‘48ers” was a member of the London Communist League with Karl Marx and Fredrick Engles. Before seeking refuge in the U.S. Willich was a personal acquaintance of Karl Marx;

            (4) Major Robert Rosa, of the Union Army, was a proud member of the New York Communist Club;

            (5) Brigadier General Carl Schurz –as a young socialist, was noted for helping Gottfried Kinkel of Bonn escape from Spandau while imprisoned there for his socialist activities in the ’48 Revolts. Schurz came to America in 1848. He was a forty-eighter who became very active in the development of the Republican Party and in politics. He was given a high position by Lincoln in the Union Army;

            (6) Brigadier General Alexander Von Schimmelfenning, after the failed revolution in Germany he fled to Switzerland, then traveled to London where he became a part of the German ‘democratic movement’, a sectarian group within the Communist League led by Karl Schapper and August Willich. In 1854, Schimmelfennig emigrated to the United States and worked in the War Department, where he maintained his association with the Forty-Eighters;

            (7) Major General Franz Siegel, thought to be one of Lincoln’s most controversial and the poorest of his generals;

            (8) Commander Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker, (exact military title not known) known as “Red” and “Flagrant Friedrich.” Educated in Germany, received his doctor of law degree in Munich. He was expelled from Prussia. Arriving in the U.S., he took part in the creation of the Republican Party, encouraged the proliferation of German newspapers carrying the Socialist propaganda, aided in the election of Lincoln, and propagandized heavily among German immigrants for volunteers for the Union Army. He was named Commander of a regiment he raised of Germans;

            (9) General John C. Fremont was noted for his close association with all of the socialist/communists whom Lincoln placed in positions of command in his army. Fremont was the first Republican candidate for president. He was considered to be the “darling” of the most radical socialists. His chief of staff, early in the war, was Hungarian socialist revolutionary;

            (10) Brevet Major General Frederick Charles Salomon, one of a group of four radical socialist brothers, with highly similar names– three of whom were in the group of Socialist 1848ers. Frederick began his career in the Union Army as a Captain in MO, wound up as a Colonel in the Ninth Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, then a brigadier general and a brevet major general;

            11. Brevetted Brigadier General Charles E. Salomon, also started his American military career with a bunch of MO volunteers. Born in Prussia, he, also, was one of the radical socialists arriving in the U.S. after the 1848 Socialist uprising failure and was a brother to Frederick Charles;

            12. Governor Edward Salomon, a third Salomon brother, also born in Prussia, did not do military service, but ran for political office in Wisconsin, was elected lieutenant governor, becoming Governor of Wisconsin when the elected Governor “drowned”; and

            13. Colonel Fritz Anneke/Annecke was a Forty-eighter, with a strong leftward tilt. He was a Communist League member and a Baden Revolt veteran…the list goes on…

          • Catherine Waterman

            Thanks AJH ! I must add that Communism in Pakistan might well be a preferable in comparison with the human rights abuses carried out in the name of Islam. I’m far more concerned about issues such as the spread of Sharia Law which has even infiltrated the British Law Society. Women are definitely the losers under this unfair system.

          • AJH1968

            I think Kurdish women warrant a mention, not only as selflishly brave heroines, but also as pioneering feminists in a patriarchial and repressive soceity. They become warriors to defy the role traditionally assigned to them. Instead of some vaccuos model leading a Paris feminist protest, they should have had Kurdish female warriors leading, both comely and courageous, they more than most warrant a mention.

          • “I think Kurdish women warrant a mention, not only as selflishly brave heroines, but also as pioneering feminists in a patriarchial and repressive soceity.”

            Once more, that’s another Marxist operation. You have to remember that Marxists long ago co-opted the West, hence the East was also co-opted.

            True reforms in Muslim nations will come when real Muslims are in power in those nations, not Marxists pretending to be Muslims.

          • “I must add that Communism in Pakistan might well be a preferable compared with the human rights abuses carried out in the name of Islam.”

            You still haven’t understood that Marxists long ago co-opted the governments of the West AND Muslim nations,* and what that means concerning where the violence in Muslim nations is coming from.
            —————————-
            *As proved by the fake Malala Yousafzai narrative, where the co-opted West and co-opted Muslim nations push the script of a God-believing young girl only out to universalize education for females in Muslim nations. The fact that Malala Yousafzai is a Marxist, from a Marxist family, pushing a Marxist agenda informs us (1) the Pakistani government is Marxist; (2) the Taliban are a Marxist creation; and (3) the governments/institutions of the West are Marxist.

          • Gary

            Whoah… how deep does this rabbit hole go ??? Tell me, have you seen Elvis lately and are the grey aliens treating him well ?

          • “Tell me, have you seen Elvis lately…”

            Yeah, I saw him just outside the Finland Railway Station in Saint Petersburg. He asked me why not one statue of Lenin was destroyed after the collapse of the USSR…

            http://www.saint-petersburg.com/monuments/ploshchad-lenina/

            I told Elvis the same reason the Soviet roundel is still on NEW Russian military aircraft…

            http://www.defencetalk.com/pictures/su-47-berkut-russia/p6041-su-47-berkut.html

            …and why the hammer & sickle is still stenciled on Aeroflot aircrafts’ fuselage…

            http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.airplane-pictures.net/images/uploaded-images/2013-8/31/316500.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.airplane-pictures.net/photo/316500/vp-bdn-aeroflot-airbus-a319/&h=853&w=1200&sz=342&tbnid=LpEalOG0f8GrcM:&tbnh=101&tbnw=142&zoom=1&usg=__G489DWC7zsP5bnmGg5-Pi0QB8xs=&docid=xUpoGn9FHxnMDM&sa=X&ei=evRRUtGuJNGs4APLsoDICg&ved=0CC4Q9QEwAA

  • Gary

    It was great! And now I’m a scarily talented and long retired 40-something.

    Self teaching ASM z80 and 6502 at age 8, Simula, Smalltalk, COBOL, Fortran77, Lisp, Algol … ducking out of school to play on the university Prime Minicomputer in Primos… Hacking uni accounts from the Polytech library to learn mainframes and languages till I got caught monitoring users logging in and out across several campuses and was given my own special account at age 9 on the promise I don’t break anything and stay in school. Helping people 4 times my age with their homework in the library … God it was great. Got my first 8bit game published at 14.

    Now I’m a polyglot on a yacht : )

    Oh, wait … you mean some precocious brat who’s mommy and daddy are frantically buying up column inches for …. meh! I can name dozens of much younger kids that leave her in the dirt and have a far nicer personality too.

    And no, I’m not being an ass… I’m being autistic. It looks similar, granted.

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