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BBC Editor Thanks Girl For Offer To Replace Big Ben Chimes


Every afternoon on the BBC between the radio news program "PM" and the network 6 o'clock news, there is a moment of pure London.


SHAPIRO: The chimes of Big Ben ringing out live from Westminster. Next year, Big Ben will temporarily go silent for repairs. When 8-year-old Phoebe Hanson heard that news, she wrote a letter to the BBC. And, Phoebe, will you tell us what that letter said?

PHOEBE HANSON: Dear Radio 4, when Big Ben is not in action, can I be the bong? I have the right equipment - a gong - and I hum along with my microphone. From Phoebe Elizabeth (ph) Hanson. P.S. I am 8-years-old.

SHAPIRO: The editor of the radio program "PM" is Roger Sawyer and at the BBC he received the letter. Mr. Sawyer, what did you think when you saw Phoebe's offer?

ROGER SAWYER: Phoebe just wrote this beautiful letter with a really imaginative and clever idea because we still, to be honest, this is the BBC but we still haven't decided what we're going to do. I mean, once before we played some bird song and sometimes there are just the pips (ph) that go beep, beep, beep, beep, which is, you know, cool and it keeps accurate time but it's not the bongs. So this was a great solution from Phoebe, but I just had to point out that it's quite a lot of work doing the bongs because they're live twice a day, once before 6 o'clock and once before midnight - on the radio, that is.

SHAPIRO: So you wrote a letter back to Phoebe. And, Phoebe, can you tell us what you thought when you opened up this letter from the BBC?

PHOEBE: It felt quite nice because I didn't think that they were going to write back.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell me about what the letter said?

PHOEBE: It says, (reading) dear Ms. Hanson, thank you for your letter and for your very imaginative idea about what to do when Big Ben falls silent for repairs early next year.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Sawyer, as you mentioned, Big Ben has gone silent for repairs before. Can you give us a preview of some of the options that are being considered for when the bongs fall silent?

SAWYER: Well, Phoebe's letter has prompted an absolutely amazing response both on Twitter and on Facebook and to our email inbox. There are people suggesting that we take different clocks from around the country, so different bell towers from around the country, that Phoebe get to go to do the bongs and the other people get to go to do the bongs. So there's lots of imaginative suggestions coming in and it's all thanks to Phoebe's letter.

SHAPIRO: Phoebe, tell me what you think when you hear Mr. Sawyer say that your letter has had such a huge impact.

PHOEBE: Well, it's quite amazed.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

SAWYER: Well, it's incredible. I mean, I'm very lucky because this is the first time I've actually spoken to Phoebe. We've exchanged letters, it's all been very formal so far. So hello, Phoebe, how are you doing?


SHAPIRO: Phoebe, have you got the gong there with you?


SHAPIRO: Would you please give us a sample of what your Big Ben bongs would sound like?

PHOEBE: Bing (ph), bong, bing, bong. Bing, bong, bing, bong. Bing, bong, bing, bong.


SAWYER: BBC News at 6 o'clock. That sounds fantastic.

SHAPIRO: Eight-year-old Phoebe Hanson and BBC "PM" editor Roger Sawyer, thank you so much for joining us.

SAWYER: It's a real pleasure.

PHOEBE: Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.