Radio is my best friend. I know it is the same for many people.
BBC Radio is a particular treasure. Having worked as a press officer in BBC Radio back in the mists of time, I know all too well of the public service mission that the various stations have a duty to deliver, as well as the balancing act they must tread in terms of rising to that challenge, yet still delivering a large enough audience to justify the licence fee.
Equally, doing something distinctive, something which the commercial marketplace might not otherwise support is often one of the biggest justifications BBC Radio has for broadcasting a show.
The BBC recently announced that it is cutting its flagship BBC Radio 3 show, ‘Late Junction‘ (three nights a week, Tues, Weds, Thurs; 11.00pm-12.30am) to just one slot a week. There is a Guardian piece on the proposal here.
Late Junction has become a refuge for me. Sound art; experimental music – a space for artists, musicians and performers to challenge, to experiment, to play, and above all, to provoke. There is no defining it by genre.
At a time when there is a pressure for culture to become more homogensised, and our senses euthanised by the onslaught, this programme provides a space for them to run amok. The BBC should be providing more space for people on the ‘outside’ to flourish – not less. It should be playing to its strengths, and learning from what it does well in terms of public service broadcasting, rather than chasing ratings.
I don’t like making easy comparisons, but what Late Junction does on the BBC radio schedules is probably the closest thing we have to what the role was of John Peel on BBC Radio 1. When I was a BBC PR, we had a to develop an ear for any issues which might impair that public service mission, and rupture relationships with our audiences, whether important opinion-former ones, or loyal listeners. This proposal does all three.
Like many other people, I desperately hope the BBC reconsider this decision. If you have never listened to the show, give it a try, either live on BBC Radio 3, or via BBC Sounds. Regular presenters Verity Sharp, Fiona Talkington, Max Reinhardt and Nick Luscombe are just the most amazing curators of sound.
A range of people including performers, artists, and academics recently signed a letter, urging the BBC to reconsider (“Radio 3 cuts threaten our musical ecosystem”). It includes Alex Kaprons (Musician), Billy Bragg (Singer-Songwriter/Activist), Bob Stanley (Writer/Musician), Brian Eno (Musician), Cleveland Watkiss MBE (Voice Professor, Trinity Laban Conservatoire), Cosey Fanni Tutti (Musician/Artist), Eliza Carthy MBE (Musician), Hannah Peel (Musician/Composer), Ian Rankin (Writer), Jane Besse (Head of Music, Roundhouse), Jarvis Cocker (Musician), Jude Rogers (Music Journalist/Writer), Kathryn Williams (Singer-Songwriter), Nitin Sawhney (Composer/Producer), Peaches (Musician), Peter Gabriel (Musician), Phill Jupitus (Comedian), Polly Eldridge (Co-Director, Sound UK), Rachel Unthank (Musician), Roisin Murphy (Musician), Sorcha Carey (Director, Edinburgh Arts Festival), Stewart Lee (Comedian/Broadcaster/Writer), Tim Burgess (Musician), and Toby Jones (Actor) – and has all the makings of the ultimately successful campaign which was launched when the BBC originally proposed to axe BBC 6Music.
If the BBC can spend millions of pounds on programmes which could easily support themselves in the commercial sector, surely it can find funding for something which might better help justify its licence fee funding for the longer term. Indeed, it should be doing much more of this kind of programming. I usually think audiences can be too quick to dismiss change, but in this case, the BBC need to pick up on these signals before it loses a connection with what the licence fee is supposed to be about.
And since it is sound which is what the show is all about, here are ten recent discoveries I have made, thanks to Late Junction. Prepare to be provoked.
>> Lisa O’Neill & Radie Peat: “Factory Girl (This Ain’t No Disco)”
Such folk female power. I will never forget the night I first heard this track. I had to make sure my Mum was listening too. It still brings a tear to my eye every time I listen to it.
>> Siffleuses: ‘Professional Women Whistlers’ (1917-27)
This really is what it says it is, from when it says it was – and it is a sheer delight!
>> Suitman Jungle: “Do Anything”
Spoken word drum and bass about you day job. More, click here.
>> Alabaster dePlume: “What Do We Want (Hiro Ama Remix)”
More about this track by the ‘spoken-word artist and saxophonist’, with remix by Hiro Ama of Teleman, click here.
>> Noisee le Seque: “Instant Success”
This experimental piece immediately reminded me what it sounds like being in a car with both my sister, and her ten year old daughter (and my niece)! Enjoy (I think)!
>> Let’s Get Lost: “Rabbit”
One of 28 intimate, audio portraits created for the Let’s Get Lost app and designed to be triggered by GPS, enabling listeners to walk in and out of stories whilst wandering through Tower Hamlets Cemetery. Once one of London’s magnificent seven cemeteries, now 31 acres of wilderness. The production was supported using public funding by Arts Council England. More at https://www.wearefornow.com/letsgetlost
>> Farai: “Secret Gardens”
Both the message and the sound stopped me in my tracks with Secret Gardens “where wild flowers blossom… The young are so content, but the old are so bitter… The wildcats are just wandering, just selling and buying, just selling and buying.” More on Farai here. Farai’s Bandcamp site is here.
>> Georgia Anne Muldrow: “Conmigo (Reprise)”
An incredible voice. An incredible track which creates just the right mood for the time I’m usually listening to Late Junction.
>> Combo Chimbita: “Fro Severo”
As the blurb says, “Combo Chimbita returns, expanded and transformed into one of the most original and wild ensembles currently cutting their teeth in the New York City live arena. Their latest 4-track studio effort, EL CORREDOR DEL JAGUAR, co-produced by NYCT’s Greenwood Rhythm Coalition and featuring the powerhouse Carolina Oliveros on lead vocals, is an explosive tour de force of unbridled psychedelic energy and futuristic fire with firm roots in the ritmo of the African diaspora. With connections and inspiration drawn from the vast sea of Caribbean music — specifically the band’s native Colombia — these transplanted first-generation New Yorkers have carved a unique corridor in the thriving underground jungle of the big bad city.” I loved it when Late Junction introduced me to the track.
>> From ‘Tzatzi’ by Carmina Escobar: CIHUANAHUALLI: Payatl Kamojpaltik (rebozo púrpura / purple shawl)
This is Late Junction at its most provoking – the kind of track that I’ve found myself most in need of during recent Brexit shenanigans. I’ve needed to know my senses are still there.