DJ culture

Chris is a DJ.  God, Annie is a superstar DJ.  Both are on the radio.  James on the other hand is a podcast presenter (although he is on the radio too).  Krishnan is a podcast presenter (and on the telly).

Whatever the difference is between radio DJs and podcast presenters, podcasts provide an excellent long-form format to slow things down, and really get under the skin of a different set of issues, at a different pace.

Hence, I thought it well worth sharing these two excellent episodes of particular podcast series, which provide an environment, free of time pressures for two very different radio DJs to explore and reflect on their craft, their motivations, and on how they, their professional spaces, and the world around them have changed/developed in recent years.

The first is “Full Disclosure With James O’Brien” – in this particular episode, featuring Chris Moyles, who does the breakfast show on Radio X.

You can listen to the podcast via this link here:

The second is “Ways To Change The World With Krishnan Guru-Murthy” – in this particular episode featuring an interview with Annie Mac, who can be heard on BBC Radio 1.

You can listen/watch the podcast interview here:

I love radio – have been fascinated with it ever since I was a child.  Everything about it.  Jingles.  Voices.  Music policy.  The intimate bond the medium  can create with the listener.  The big moments radio can cover fast, whether news or popular culture.  The weird and wonderful things it can capture in a spirit of sheer delight and fascination, often in more detail than TV can hope to.   The ability for DJs to signpost new music with a verve that algorithms simply can’t compete with.  And the sheer scale and simplicity of the creative potential of the medium.

I managed to get work experience at my local radio station, Radio 210 in Reading, when I was still a student.  Like some of my mates at university, I spent hours presenting shows on the university radio station.  When I grew up, I never got to be a DJ (Ha! The very idea!), but I ended up working in PR, for much of that time, in the radio industry.

I was privileged to work closely with Chris Moyles for around four years as his PR when he first came to BBC Radio 1 back in 1997, before he got to the dizzy heights of breakfast, still very much in the pre- social media age.  In this podcast interview, he discusses at length that love of the radio craft which I got to see at close quarters.

He also discusses his attitude towards some of the more aggressive or intrusive sections of the tabloid press.  His frustration is clear.  We are all embarked on professional and personal journeys – and Chris is very open about his.  I was able to chart my own journey while listening, and reflect about a lot of the lessons, and directions taken.

Me in younger days, as Radio 1 PR, on the Roadshow stage.

It was a high pressure, high stakes environment when it came to PR and BBC Radio 1, which was going through a period of huge change.  It was always a little easier for me to stand back, and see this as a job, but listening to Chris in this podcast, it underlines how, in any situation which comes under media or public scrutiny, real people’s lives and relationships are at stake, not just academic scenarios.  While we worked together, Chris wasn’t on the breakfast show, so not under the main radar target of those tabloids, but those frustrations with what could be seen as ‘lazy’ or intrusive journalism were already there.  James O’Brien is able to demonstrate some empathy, having been on the showbiz desk at the Daily Express around the same time.  And what a professional journey he has had!

It’s easy to forget that we are all always growing – and for me, this was a joy to listen to the podcast in this respect.  Personally and professionally reflective.  I learnt a lot about Chris – but also about myself.

DJ culture:

The same was true for Annie Mac‘s interview.  I never got to work with Annie Mac – she joined BBC Radio 1 as a broadcast assistant after I had left, but soon rose up the ranks, and crossed over from the production floor, to become a DJ.  Both of the podcasts are great for demonstrating the power of reflection in opening up lessons from the tracks across our lifelines.  Annie touches on the power of ‘place‘ and ‘space’, and how it has diminished in fostering culture, for example, when it comes to clubbing.  There’s also much to think about around bigger questions to do with gender, and power too.

Whether you are a regular radio listener or not, I thoroughly recommend you give these two podcast episodes a listen.

I loved having that opportunity to work with Chris Moyles.  That obsession with the medium of radio has never left me, and I cherished being able to promote someone who I knew shared that obsession.

Today, my obsession expresses itself is so many different ways throughout the week, listening, for example to:- Janice Long on BBC Radio Wales (Mon-Thurs, 7.00-10.00pm); Late Junction‘ on BBC Radio 3 (Tues-Thurs, 11.00pm-12.30am); Phil Taggart on BBC Radio 1 (Sun, 7.00-9.00pm); Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 2 (Mon-Thurs, 7.00-9.00pm); Rachel Burden & Nicky Campbell; and Emma Barnett on BBC 5Live (Mon-Fri, 6.00-10.00am, & 10.00am-1.00pm respectively); James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Eddie Mair, Iain Dale and Nick Abbot on LBC; Lynn Parsons on Magic Radio (weeknights, 8.00pm-midnight); so much of what’s on BBC Radio 4 (but especially Ritula Shah!) and BBC 6Music; and some of what is left of local radio, although that is increasingly difficult (where I live, that means Eagle Radio, and BBC Sussex & Surrey – which covers my part of NE Hampshire).  I just wish I could shake off a lot of the jingles, voiceovers and awful adverts still trapped inside my head from my childhood! (“You could win a holiday for two!”).

Podcasts – sound?

It’s no surprise I struggle to find enough time to listen to podcasts because of the amount of radio I am already listening to – although it’s great there is so much content out there, and it’s never been easier to make yourself heard.  Back in 2017, I spent 18 months pulling together a community podcast network locally, Sound Vault.  There are so many formats – we had an 11 year old who managed to bag an interview with Jeremy Hunt MP; a children’s storyteller producing a podcast who had never used a computer before – and then there was sound design too.

One of the strongest ‘shows’ we delivered was a surreal comedy with ambient soundtrack, called “An Audio Listener’s Guide to Adequate Hearing” by Tom Garrett.  I will leave with a link below, so you can listen to an episode.  As well as reflecting more, it has to be about listening a little more.


Late Junction – we must not lose this connection

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.

Late Junction presenter, Verity Sharp. Credit: BBC.

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.

Late Junction presenter, Nick Luscombe. Credit: BBC.

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.

And if you’d like to join the campaign to save this programme, you might like to sign this petition. on Avaaz.  There is also a petition on the 38 Degrees site here.

Musician and laughter guru, Laraaji, who performed at the End of the Road Festival with Late Junction. Click here for more. Credit: BBC.

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.

Late Junction presenter, Fiona Talkington. Credit: BBC.

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.

Late Junction presenter, Max Reinhardt. Credit: BBC.

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


>> 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.


Best of 2018

As ever, it has been a tough call pulling together my top tracks of the year, but in what has been a difficult year due to deaths in the family, and against the backdrop of stagnant cesspit of national politics, it has been a usefully therapeutic exercise.

Top (L-R): Sunflower Bean; Clairo; Jungle; Meldoy’s Echo Chamber; Middle (L-R): Tom DeMac; Trampolene; Gwenno; Scent; Bottom (L-R): Skoot; Peggy Gou; Rhye; Junodream.

I’ve included links to videos of my twelve favourite tracks from 2018.  You can also find a Spotify playlist at the end too.  The full list is:

  1. Sunflower Bean – “Twentytwo“;
  2. Clairo – “4EVER“;
  3. Jungle – “Heavy, California“;
  4. Tom DeMac & Real Lies – “White Flowers“;
  5. Melody’s Echo Chamber – “Cross My Heart“;
  6. Trampolene – “The One Who Loves You“;
  7. Gwenno – “Eus Keus“;
  8. Scent – “Soft Scoop” (iced_coma_mix);
  9. Skott – “Stay Off My Mind“;
  10. Peggy Gou – “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)“;
  11. Rhye – “Waste“;
  12. Junodream – “To The Moon“.

When it comes to new music, I must make a personal ‘thank you’ during 2018 to Phil Taggart (BBC Radio 1), Janice Long (BBC Radio Wales), the Late Junction team (BBC Radio 3), Jo Whiley (BBC Radio 2) and Ricky Ross (BBC Radio Scotland/BBC Radio 2) who all continue to provoke and entertain, and signpost me to things I otherwise would not have discovered.

You can find all twelve tracks via this Spotify playlist (I am freeradiodutch on Spotify):

Maltings radio project takes to the air

The Farnham Maltings is using the occasion of World Radio Day on Monday 13 February to announce that it is to launch its own radio project – and it wants the community to get involved. ‘Sound Vault’ will take to the air in the next year, and will seek to create a ‘radio space for all’, where volunteers can flex their creative muscles, the community can tell their stories, and everyone can get a platform for their artistic talents.


Me with former ‘charge’, BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast presenter Nicky Campbell.

Sound Vault’ will utilise the possibilities offered by podcasting technology to give a wider range of people the chance to make programmes, and share them with a bigger audience. I’m thrilled to be able to say that I will be leading the project as a volunteer, after going to them with the germ of an idea, and capitalising on my experience working for BBC Radio 1, then later with Kiss FM and Bam-Bam (see below), and subsequently with Mark Goodier and Nicky Campbell.


Explaining the idea, Gavin Stride, who is the Farnham Maltings’ Director (and head honcho) said;

“World Radio Day – this year on Monday 13 February – was established by the United Nations to celebrate radio as a medium, and to encourage us all to use it to promote freedom of expression. Radio is the mass media reaching the widest audience in the world, and is a powerful storytelling tool. It is only right that the Farnham Maltings use World Radio Day to reveal our exciting plans.”


Initial programming plans centre around four themes:-

Voice: personal story-telling; oral history; and voices from the street;

Audio Collage: sound creations, where music meets speech;

Specialist Music: exploring music genres missing a platform elsewhere;

Maltings + : an audio dimension to the Farnham Maltings’ own programme.

The online radio platform will be accompanied by a website, and social media dedicated to celebrating listening more generally around the world.

Former Kiss FM breakfast show DJ Bam Bam has dropped by to advise me on the plans.

Former Kiss FM breakfast show DJ Bam Bam has dropped by to give me some advice on the plans. Bam presented the show for 7 years, and won countless Sony Radio Academy Awards, before going on to become a pioneer in podcasting. Back in 2006, he was one of the first DJs to launch a daily podcast, and his ‘Faceless‘ podcast was one of the most downloaded of that year.  Today, as well as presenting the breakfast show on Southampton’s Sam FM, his consultancy is behind the successful Brain Training Podcast which has reached number 11 in the Top 100 podcasts on iTunes.

Sound Vault’ is now putting out a call for volunteers who are interested in getting involved in the project – whether in the shape of production, technology, digital, legal, music or oral history/digital heritage expertise. People interested in becoming involved with the project can find out more details at Farnham Maltings’ refreshers, festival of retirement on Monday 27 February where I will be running a stand between 11.00am and 4.00pm – or by emailing me at

Once a volunteer team has been recruited, the plan is to reach out to source programme content from the community, using a studio at the Farnham Maltings, portable digital recording equipment, and ‘pop-up’ recording booths.

While I live just eleven or so miles up the road in Yateley, I was born in Farnham, and my family have lived around this area of the Surrey/Hampshire border, whether in Bentley, Church Crookham, Crondall, DeepcutDogmersfield, Elvetham, Frimley,Odiham, Rotherwick, South Warnborough or Yateley for hundreds of years – so a project dedicated to tapping into local story-telling is extremely important to me.

Farnham Maltings

Farnham Maltings

The project, while centred on the Farnham Maltings, and surrounding communities on the Surrey/Hampshire border, will ensure that its horizons are global as well as local. Updates about its development will follow in the coming months. It is expected to launch in time for World Radio Day 2018.  Updates will be posted at . Stay tuned!


a radio space for all.

a radio space for all.

Get involved – email

** For anyone who doesn’t know, Farnham Maltings is a creative organisation that works with the artists and communities of South East England to encourage the greatest number of people to make, see and enjoy the best art possible. From a range of buildings, set in the heart of Farnham, they present events and workshops from large scale craft festivals to intimate cabaret shows, as well as proving space for voluntary and community groups to deliver their own ambitions. They enable artists making craft, theatre and dance work to thrive by providing affordable studio and rehearsal space, offering producing and tour booking, developing networks, sharing resources and equipping artists with the skills and opportunities to promote their work locally, nationally and internationally. . They are a perfect fit for a project like Sound Vault – and I’m really excited to be working with them.


Greatest Radio Voices

The Guardian recently published a list of the Top 10 Radio Voices, and in response, an alternative Top 10 list, as proposed by its readers.

I could not let this opportunity pass without using it as an excuse to compile my own Top 10 list. With radio being such an important part of my life, both professionally and personally, I found it nigh on impossible to restrict myself to one list.

I ❤ my radio: With thanks to

I ❤ my radio: With thanks to

As a result, here follows one list which tries to capture my current favourite voices; one list compiled from those names/stations I have worked for, or with; and finally, a list of names who were favourites on programmes which no longer air, or those voices who have sadly passed away.

I hope it does something to share the breadth of radio’s magic, and the ability these names have.  I am sure many will disagree with my choices, but I felt the urge to collect them together in one place.  Apologies to any I adore that I have had to leave out in such limited space.  There are so many other programmes and output to celebrate, but I wanted an opportunity to celebrate my favourite voices.


1. Nick Abbot


Nick Abbot: Credit via

I was rather late to the party when it comes to Nick Abbot.  I know many people who had ‘raved’ about him over the years, when he had gigs on BBC GLR, and Virgin Radio.  Now at LBC, Nick is my ONE appointment to listen every week.  It is genuinely free-form radio, deftly incorporating unscripted phone-in with the deployment of a clever range of sound effects which manage to get straight to the heart of the paucity of the quality of arguments in politics and current affairs, without any need to be particularly controversial.  In the process, he’s probably the last hope for any questioning/challenging of accepted orthodoxies because he is able to bring and include a mainstream audience, particularly of elderly phone-in callers with him.  I love Nick Abbot’s show.  I wish LBC would put him on more – and allow him to continue to do the humour and sound effects even when he covers for other presenters too.  Listen to Nick Abbot, LBC:  Fridays and Saturdays, 10.00pm-1.00am

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

2. Rhod Sharp


Rhod Sharp: Credit via Jon Super

Rhod has become one of my ‘best friends’ on radio as insomnia has crept into my life over the years.  His approach is so laid back, and he genuinely sounds as intrigued as the listener would be when he is interviewing guests, usually from a much wider gene pool than the standard fare of guests you find on mainstream UK radio.  His ‘Up All Night’ show tends to explore what is happening in a much wider range of places around the world, and seeks to incorporate a more disparate range of voices.  I dread the day that Rhod Sharp ever decides to call it a day.  Only one of his cover presenters (Giles Dilnot) has ever come anywhere near being a patch on what he can create on-air, for the particular demands of that time of night.  Listen to Rhod Sharp, BBC Radio Five Live (Up All Night): Mon-Weds (1.00-5.00am)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

3. Josie Long


Josie Long: Credit via

Josie plays audio ring-master to around three or four short audio stories in a single half hour, based around a single theme, in a BBC Radio 4 show called ‘Short Cuts’.  It is the closest we have to a US-style NPR radio show in the UK, celebrating the particular – the commonplace, but the unique that it is all to easy to overlook.  I usually listen to the programme when it is broadcast at 11.30pm, and Josie’s voice makes you want to hanker down, as if you are reading a favourite book, under a blanket in a shed as the rain falls outside.  Josie Long was a more recent joyous discovery – and I love her on the radio.  You can listen to Josie on the radio at various times.

Audio (via BBC iPlayer On Demand and podcasts) – click here.

4. Jo Whiley


JO Whiley: Credit, PR via Guardian

Jo Whiley’s love of new music isn’t at all ‘anorak’ as can be a tendency with many enthusiasts on the radio – it is something that is shared with the listener, with a voice that immediately brings her trusted status from her having as much of the thrill of the reveal as you.  Her move from Radio 1 to Radio 2 did nothing to diminish that – indeed, it seems to further ensure she spreads that passion further and wider.  Listen to Jo Whiley (Radio 2):  Mon-Thurs (8.00-10.00pm)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

5. Janice Long


Janice Long: Credit, via S Mag (Express)

A hidden gem on the Radio 2 schedule – I have no idea why she is not used more widely during the day.  That being said, it gives her more freedom to be herself, to talk about the everyday, to laugh incessantly, which emphasises what sounds like a smoking tinged throat – which all goes to make for one of my favourite voices on the radio.  It’s also great to hear a voice from Merseyside with such prominence.  The show has a loyal band of listeners, which the texts and emails help to foster a community following in the small hours.  I regularly texted-in as ‘Paul from New Cross‘, and when I met her for the first time at Radio 1’s 40th Birthday – well, let’s just say there are not many celebrities who will turn my legs to jelly.  Suffice to say, it was a big thrill to get her in to do a guest lecture at the university I was then teaching at about new music, and how best to catch the DJ’s ear if you are a new act promoting yourself.  Listen to Janice Long: After Midnight (Radio 2): Sun-Weds (12.00midnight-3.00am)

Audio clip (via BBC iPlayer On Demand) – click here.

6. Danny Baker


Danny Baker: Credit, BBC via Express

Genius.  Captivating.  Never obvious, but dealing with the common-place in a non-common way.  For some reason, the powers that be will not give him the slots he deserves.  He was BBC London in the afternoon, but they took him off.  I loved him on BBC Radio 1 at the weekend when he took over the slots from DLT, and I’d love it if Radio 2 or 6Music could give him a platform.  But for now, we just have two hours on a talk-only station to savour him.  Listen to Danny Baker (BBC Radio Five Live):  Saturdays (9.00-11.00am)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

7. Don Letts


Don Letts: Credit via

Don has slowly emerged as a Sunday night appointment to listen.  Sunday nights and radio have always been an important time for me – a period of still before the madness in the week ahead.  David Jacobs has been a friend in that slot.  Jarvis Cocker.  Various Radio 4 thought provokers like ‘Something Understood’.  Don has seen them all off.  Unaffected, no nonsense and refusing to be pigeon-holed, he signposts more music for me to discover every week than any other DJ I have every known.  Thankfully, his producer has now fixed the tracklisting feature on DAB (it was driving me mad not knowing what he was playing), but now I can relax, ready to add a track to one of my own playlists if it catches my ear.  Listen to Don Letts Culture Clash Radio (BBC 6 Music):  Sundays (10.00pm-12.00Midnight).

Video clip (via YouTube) – click here.

8. Ritula Shah


Ritula Shah: Credit, BBC

At Ten O’Clock in the evening, I do not listen out for Big Ben’s chimes, or the pips – I listen out for those crucial words – “It’s Ten O’Clock, good evening, you’re listening to the World Tonight, I’m Ritula Shah.”  Authority, without pomposity.  Flair, without grandstanding.  Clarity, without being boring.  Ritula Shah is quite simply my current favourite radio news broadcast voice, and I want to hear more of her.  Listen to Ritula Shah on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight:  Monday-Friday (10.00-10.45pm)

Audio clip (via BBC iPlayer On Demand) – click here.

9. Sarah Ward


Sarah Ward: Credit (Unknown) via

I discovered Sarah Ward’s distinctive gravely tones when I first started lecturing in the evenings, some time in the mid-noughties.  She was presenting the same slot she does now on Jazz FM – Dinner Jazz, except then it was on during the week, whereas now it is into the weekend.  I am not a particularly big jazz fan, but I found she set a particularly ambience, perfect after an afternoon and evening lecturing for a novice teacher on the long drive home.  It was not until more recently that I discovered Sarah’s mammoth radio pedigree – having presented shows on Classic FM, BBC Radio 4, the breakfast show on the original BBC Radio 5 in the 1990s, and the late show on Capital Radio in the 1970s.  I find her voice both warm and comforting, but also a little bit illicit at the same time.  Listen to Sarah Ward (Dinner Jazz) on Jazz FM: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays (7.00-10.00pm).

Audio (via Mixcloud) – click here.

10. Roger McGough


Roger McGough: Credit, Eamonn McCabe via Guardian

The fact that Waitrose made him the voice of their adverts says it all really.  A Merseyside voice on an otherwise very ‘RP’ Queen’s English network.  He makes poetry inviting, and makes difficult, new material accessible.  He has a very warm, yet quite clearly ‘radical’ voice.  Always a tonic.  Listen to Roger McGough on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please:  Tends to be on Sunday afternoons, around 4.30pm.

Video (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Iain Lee and Sarah Montague.  Ian for daring to do something different with the medium (even if his employer’s don’t have the balls to back him), and Sarah Montague, because you can so clearly hear her smile – and I find it so infectious when she is on-air.

Audio clips of Sarah (video via BBC iPlayer – click here) and Iain (audio via Soundcloud – click here.)  Photo credits BBC and Gay Times (via Instagram) respectively.


1. Annie Nightingale


Annie Nightingale: Credit, Unknown, via

Annie has an incredible, double-speed, passion-fuelled voice, which sounds as if it is sat at a buffet of new music treats, and can’t wait to report back what she can see, smell and taste.  In my first few months at Radio 1, I was honoured to be allowed to be allowed to be a member of the ‘pink pussy posse’ on the show, taking calls when I accompanied a journalist onto the show to review it at around 2.00am on a Saturday night. First Lady of Radio 1 – cliche, but true.  Listen to Annie Nightingale on BBC Radio 1:  Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (1.00-4.00am).

Audio clip (via YouTube clip) – click here.

2. Bam Bam


Bam Bam: Credit (Unknown) via

Bam Bam is one of the cleverest minds  I have had the pleasure of working with on the radio when he presented the breakfast show at Kiss FM.  Bam has an inventive mind when it comes to the uses the medium can be put to, and the limits to which formats can be stretched.  He really has the knack of putting himself in the mind of the listener and how they will hear what is being created, which sounds obvious, but is far too often overlooked.  Add to that the fact that he will never compromise – period, often to the conventional cost of his career.  To many of my generation, particularly in London and the South East, it means his reputation will always be huge.  Often overlooked is his voice itself.  To put no finer point on it, that voice is sexy.  Not in a sultry way, or a masculine, but in a ‘get under your skin and into your head’ kind of way.  Before I became fully aware of him in industry circles, I had thought he was black.  His voice is difficult to pin down, apart from being mesmerising, playful and intriguing.  I know some people have found Bam Bam difficult to work for, but I found that an ever greater part of his allure, and can safely say I am proud to have worked for him – and love listening to him.  Listen to Bam Bam (on Sam FM South Coast): Mon-Fri, 5.00-10.00am

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

3. Jo Whiley


See paragraph above.

4. Nicky Campbell


Nicky Campbell: Credit, Sara Lee for the Guardian

Nicky has a beautiful ‘burr’.  A softer edged voice than most you will find on a talk radio station, it makes for a friendly, accessible tone.  Nicky’s profile has changed a great deal over the years, but his radio voice has remained pretty consistent. His late-night radio show of the early 1990s on BBC Radio 1 was of a format, combining long form interviews, with music that has not really been equalled.  The voice is now deployed to great effect in a phone-in that unpacks some of the most sensitive of subjects, such as mental health, rather than giving yet another airing to the latest populist headlines, instead allowing listeners to feel safe enough to contribute their own experiences.  Listen to Nicky Campbell on BBC Radio Five:  Monday-Friday (7.00-9.00am for Breakfast, and 9.00-10.00am for Your Call).

Audio clip (via YouTube) from BBC Radio 1 late-nights – click here;  and from BBC Radio 5 Live (via YouTube) – click here.

5. David Rodigan

Rodigan has established himself as the ‘don’ when it comes to reggae.  A unique style which has toasted listeners to dip their toe further into this genre, whether while he was on Kiss FM for many years, and now in the BBC family at 1Xtra and Radio 2.  A true gentleman too.  Listen to David Rodigan on BBC Radio 1Xtra:  Sundays (7.00-9.00pm)

Audio (via YouTube) from BBC Radio 1Xtra – click here.

6. Sara Cox


Sara Cox: Credit, (Unknown) via

I don’t feel Sara has got the respect she deserves as a radio broadcaster. Unlike many other of her peers, she combines a distinctive voice, with an extremely quick wit.  A strong Bolton accent, together with a sense of humour which resides somewhere as dark as my own, I’ve come to appreciate the intelligence Sara brings to the conversation between the tracks, which can often be missing from many other music broadcasters.  No wonder she is regular called upon as cover on the breakfast show on Radio 2, and that she had been a feature on Radio 1’s schedule for so long..  Listen to Sara Cox’s Sound of the 80s (BBC Radio 2): Saturdays (10.00pm-12.00midnight).

Audio (clip via YouTube) – click here.

7. Lynn Parsons


Lynn Parsons: Credit via

One of the most charming, friendly, happy voices you will ever hear on the radio.  I was so pleased when Jazz FM made her their breakfast show host, after she had been the mid-morning presenter on Smooth FM for a few years.  Prior to that, Lynn has been a mainstay of early mornings and late nights on Radio 1 and Radio 2, but there was always a sense that they could do so much more with her.  I was lucky enough to work with her briefly at Radio 1 – very exciting for someone who had listened to her in the 80s on County Sound.  I hope we hear her reappear on-air soon.  Listen to Lynn Parsons via her website:

Audio (via her website) – click here.

8. Sarah HB


Sarah HB: Credit, via Twitter

An intelligent club DJ who made her name on Kiss FM, somehow, Radio 1 never gave her enough freedom to find her true voice on the station, restricting her to a more mainstream format than it originally intended.  An enthusiastic, intelligent voice – just a real shame that we have not got to hear more of it in recent years.

I could not find ANY audio clips of Sarah, but have found this video clip of her on the decks alongside Jamie Oliver and Alex James (via YouTube) – click here.

9. Steve Lamacq


Steve Lamacq: Credit, BBC

Steve is the very essence of what the BBC’s new music mission is about.  Steve’s voice is dedicated; it is battle scarred by gigs and sessions; it is to the point, interested in the music, and none of the faff that associates itself with the industry.  Having the opportunity to work with Steve was one of my proudest responsibilities, and I am so pleased he has gone on to continued success at 6 Music.  Listen to Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music:  Monday-Friday (4.00-7.00pm)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

10. Chris Moyles


Chris Moyles: Credit, via Independent

I cannot fail to mention Chris Moyles.  Like Danny Baker, he DOES something with the medium.  I found it so easy to promote Chris when I worked at Radio 1 because I believed in what he was doing. He spent hours crafting his shows.  He was dedicated.  And while I was there, he spoke to his Mum almost every day.  Perfect timing, and ear for sounds/words, and where they will fit in.  I might not be so enamoured with the populist uses to which they are deployed, or the aggression with which they come across, but Chris Moyles has to be in my top 10,.  Listen to Chris Moyles on Radio X:  Monday-Friday (6.30-10.00am).

Audio of Chris’ mammoth jingle packages (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Mark Goodier and Mary Anne Hobbs. Mark, for being a master of his craft and being THE voice of the chart, and Mary Anne for a voice that is sheer enthusiasm.

Audio for Mark (via BBC iPlayer On Demand – click here) and for Mary Anne (via video on ‘risk’ – click here).  Photo credits via Wikipedia and BBC respectively.


1. Big George


‘Big George’ Webley: Credit, BBC via Guardian

Big George had made his name in the music business.  His radio career appeared accidental.  His voice sounded real.  Nothing manufactured for broadcast – almost slapdash.  It was also authentically London.  The mix made for compelling listening, and I, like one of the most fiercely loyal bands of listeners I have ever known to a radio show came to love Big George.  He became a real neighbour, introducing you to other neighbours across London who regularly called in. I felt I knew them too.  On the day I heard he had died, I bawled my eyes out. Cabbies took to the streets of London in mourning (he regularly used to invite listeners to drop in on him in the studio in the middle of the night).  He was quite a surprise to me as a broadcaster, but I came to love him.  RIP.

Audio (via Mixcloud) – click here.

2. Kevin Greening


Kevin Greening: Credit (Unknown)

One of the most unassuming voices I have ever heard (or worked with) on UK radio.  Kevin was a refreshing anecdote to brashness, and obsession with celebrity, and since this this was juxtaposed against the backdrop of the UK’s biggest pop music station, it added to the curiosity. As time went on, he was allowed less room for using the medium for comedy, but it didn’t cramp his voice.  RIP.

Audio (via Soundcloud) – click here.

3. Diana Luke


Diana Luke: Credit, via

I grew up with her as a presenter on my local radio station, but she went on to become the first voice on Jazz FM, and one of the voices on the ‘stand-out’ sound of GLR.  You can still hear her voice on videos for her mindfulness workshops – and she still has the same sublime, smooth, velvety, tones, given extra depth by a Canadian accent.  Her voice is a sheer delight.  If I ran a radio station, she would be my number one hire.  I have no idea why she does not continue to have a national profile – perhaps it is through choice.  All I know is that she has one of radio’s best ever voices.  Listen to Diana Luke on BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Humberside and BBC Radio York:  Saturdays (10.00pm-1.00am)

Audio (via AudioBoom) being interviewed by Lynn Parsons – click here.

4. Brian Redhead


Brian Redhead: Credit (Unknown) via BBC

The kind, uncle sounding broadcaster who was the presenter who introduced me to the Radio 4 Today programme.  A much more rounded voice than the current inhabitants of the chair.  RIP

Audio (via AudioBoom) of a short clip from an interview with Nigel Lawson – click here.

5. Sue MacGregor


Sue MacGregor: Credit, Peter MacDiarmid via Telegraph

Adorable.  Authoritative.  Polite.  Polished.  Only in this choice of ten because her outings on the radio are now less regular. You can listen to Sue in various slots on the radio, mainly BBC Radio 4.

Audio (via AudioBoom) – click here.

6. Simon Cummings


Simon Cummings: Credit (Unknown) via

Not a particularly credible claim to fame, but during my teenage years, my appointment to listen was not John Peel, but my local commercial radio stations, such as Radio 210 in Reading, and County Sound in Guildford.  My favourite voice was that of Simon Cummings, who I particularly loved listening to when I got in from school, and got particular joy from getting my letters and telephone calls read out by on air.  He sounded more youthful than most of the other presenters, and seemed to directly to you.  Little did us listeners realise that behind the microphone, he was seriously ill, and he died well before his time in 1996.  RIP.

Audio (via AudioBoom, particularly from 44m 15s) – click here.

7. Simon Dee


Simon Dee: Credit, Rex via Telegraph

If you don’t know the story of Simon Dee, you really need to investigate – supposedly the model for Austin Powers. A consummate broadcaster who understood how to use his voice to full effect, particularly when it came to timing.  But he allowed the celebrity life get the better of him, and before he had chance to reach his full potential, the machine spat him out the other side into ruin, from which he never recovered. Listen to him interviewed later in his life, and the voice is still there, uncompromising as before, which goes some way to explain why he never returned to our airwaves.  RIP.

Video (via YouTube) – click here.

8. Emma Freud


Emma Freud: Credit via BBC

The choice of Emma Freud may surprise many, but Emma’s voice on the radio was the perfect one for me when I first heard it on music radio on GLR.  Here was an intelligent voice, playing pop music – like combining Radio 1 and Radio 4.  When Matthew Bannister took the risk of bringing her to Radio 1 to takeover the lunchtime show in the mid 1990s, I was transfixed – and in part, she was one of the reasons that made me want to work at Radio 1.  Here was intelligent, public service broadcasting, doing something different and challenging for a mainstream audience.  I haven’t heard many voices deliver that trick since.  Even today, I can remember where I was when she introduced specific tracks, and hear her talking up to the intro.  I’d better call myself a cab!  Emma is no longer a regular on music radio.

Audio (via RadioRewind website) – click here.

9. Douglas Cameron


Douglas Cameron: Credit

The voice of commercial radio news in my youth, and one of the central voices of LBC.  Douglas’ voice defies description.  Sharp, angular, but deep, it had rich authority.  It was not always serious – it was known for that voice to convey a smile as it read a story as the photo confirms, but above all it was a distinctive voice.  RIP.

Audio (via AudioBoom) – click here.

10. Cash Peters


Cash Peters: Credit (unknown) via

Cash had a weekly spot on Rhod Sharp’s Up All Night show until a few years ago, providing US TV gossip, from across the Atlantic. His style was breakneck, and decidedly trashy, but the report he established with Rhod was strangely compelling.  I found myself setting my alarm for the middle of the night to ensure that I did not miss it.  A change in production personnel on the show spelt the end of Cash’s half hour slot. There was a backlash from listeners, but to no avail.  I think he could have bagged his own show, and definitely voiceover work – so slick – but we don’t hear enough of Cash.  Cash no longer has a regular slot on UK radio, but does have a podcast – click here.

Audio (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Brian Hayes and Chris Morris.

Audio clips for Brian – the original radio talk show presenter (via LBC, click here) and for Chris Morris (‘On The Hour’, via YouTube’, click here).  Photo credits (Unknown via BBC) and via Twitter, respectively.


Radio silence

I had a joyful hour last night, listening to a BBC Radio 4 documentary on silence, presented by Lucy Powell.  It was called “Shhhhhhh” and as the promotional notes said, “examining the nature of silence might not seem the most obvious thing to do on the radio, the medium most wholly given over to noise and which was in its day seen as a direct threat to the realm of silence in our personal and public lives.”

With thanks to

With thanks to

Thanks to the programme, I was introduced to the work of Paul Goodman.  Much to my shame, I was not aware of him before the broadcast.  He came up with a distillation of nine kinds of silence, and the programme included a recording from a WBUR radio programme in the States called Stylus, where Christopher Ricks reads from the anatomy of silence constructed by Goodman.

I quickly had to transcribe Goodman’s nine kinds of silence from the BBC iPlayer.  They help add so much to our understanding of the concept that is too easy to take for granted.

“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world.  And there are kinds and grades of each.

✭ Dumb silence, of slumber and apathy;

✭ Sober silence, that goes with a solemn, animal face;

✭ Fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul from whence emerge new thoughts;

✭ Alive silence of alert perceptions, ready to say, ‘this, this’;

✭ Musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity;

✭ The silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift, and helping him to be clear;

✭ The noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud with sub-vocal speech, but sullen to say it;

✭ Baffled silence;

✭ The silence of peaceful accord with other persons, or communion with the cosmos.”

Maria Popova did a great blog post on the same subject earlier this year.

Paul Goodman (1960) "Growing Up Absurd", Vintage Books

Paul Goodman (1960) “Growing Up Absurd”, Vintage Books

As with so much other radio, it has introduced me to new thinkers, new material – in this case, from way back when in the shape of Paul Goodman – activist, pacifist, poet, anarchist, pacifist; some of whose writing focused on education, and sexuality amongst much more besides.  I can’t wait to explore some of his work, which appears at first glance to chime with so much with my own thinking, particularly going by the title of one of his books, “Growing Up Absurd”.  The embrace of the absurd appears to me one of the values most worth cherishing in modern society.

Just as with the absurd, don’t be afraid to embrace the silence, and this programme on BBC Radio 4 made great use of sound (and on occasion, noise) to explain why.


It’s courtesy to listen

I’ve just heard the kind of programme that reaffirms why I love radio as my medium of choice – and why I love the BBC.  It was  AL Kennedy presenting “A Point of View” on BBC Radio 4, on the topic of “In Praise of Courtesy”.

"In Praise of Courtesy"

“In Praise of Courtesy”

It is the kind of programme I would usually recommend any of my undergraduate students take an opportunity to listen to, not because of its relationship to the news agenda, but because of the quality and depth of reflection – something required on so many course assignments, and obviously, a useful life skill.

This particularly programme addresses the idea of whether courtesy might not just be something ‘good’ in itself in principle, but might just be a practical tactic for success.  It reminds me very much of some of the work in the book by Susan Cain (2012) “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” London: Viking.