Girl offers to shout 'BONG' for the BBC now Big Ben is broken, BBC sends 'priceless response'

The news that Big Ben will cease ringing while renovation works are carried out was met with dismay but one young Radio 4 listener.

So upset was Phoebe Hanson, 8, at hearing the news that she decided to write a letter to the BBC offering up her services to shout "BONG" before the news comes on while the bells are out of action.

Little did she expect that just a few days later she'd receive a response from an editor of the PM show explaining that he'd passed on her suggestion "to those who make the decisions" before warning just how difficult the task may prove to be.

The letter reads:

Re. Big Ben's Bongs (lack of).

Dear Miss Hanson,

Thank you for your letter and your very imaginitive idea about what to do when Big Ben falls silent for repairs early next year. Some of the cleverest and most important people at the BBC are scratching their heads, wondering quite what to do.

Once before, when Big Ben fell silent for repairs, we played different birdsong every evening. The listeners loved that. Then the people behind Tweet of the Day (that's on each day just before 6 in the morning) stole our idea... so we can't do that again.

I must say I was very much taken with your idea... and we have passed it on to those who make the decisions. As you know, the Bongs are live... and (you may not know this) the beginning of the Westminster Chimes (the bit that goes BimBom BimBom BimBobBimBom before the first BOOONNNGGGGGGGGGG!) is always at a slightly different time (which is why you sometimes hear someone accidentally talking when they start). It depends on things like temperature and atmospheric pressure and stuff like that.

So it would be quite a task for you, doing the Bongs: you'd have to rush in after school each day (and at the weekend), rush home for tea, homework, a bit of chillin', then a quick sleep. And then - here's the hard bit - you'd have to rush back again at midnight, because there are live bongs again before the midnight news. That's an awful lot of work for someone who is still quite young. I know I wouldn't like to do all that.

Thank you very much for writing to us. I'm very impressed that you listen to Radio 4. I wish my two children did.

Have a spiffing Christmas and a stupendous and lucky 2017.

Roger Sawyer.
Editor: PM, Broadcasting House, iPM - BBC Radio 4

Sharing the letter she received back from BBC editor Roger Sawyer, Hanson's father Jon called it "priceless".

He told BBC News that Phoebe was "absolutely stunned" to get a reply and was so proud that she'd taken the letter into school to show all her friends.

He later commented on Facebook:

She thinks I should drive her up to Broadcasting House and back twice a day.

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