I love radio. So many hidden treasures. At its best, unassuming, but still a thing of beauty when brash. Confident in its use of timing and sound, and the fact that it is usually live, and able to maintain a real-time relationship with its audience. A few of my regular “appointments to listen” each week follow.
My radio is usually on between 7.00pm and 1.00am every day – accompanying whatever I am up to during the evening. At that time, there are frequent clashes, so I have often had to find myself navigating them. Janice Long (BBC Radio Wales) was my listen of choice before her tragic death on Christmas Day, 2021, but I also find myself gliding effortlessly during that time slot between Jo Whiley (BBC Radio 2), Lynn Parsons (Magic Radio), Zeb Soanes (Classic FM) and Iain Dale (LBC) in particular, depending on my mood, switching to an appointment with Ritula Shah (BBC Radio 4) at 10.00pm, and then on to late night BBC Radio 3 for the rest of the night, usually leaving it on overnight.
Weekends, I usually start later, with Nick Abbot (LBC) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday nights my guaranteed appointments to listen, along with Liza Tarbuck (BBC Radio 2) on Saturday evenings, and Don Letts (BBC 6 Music) on Sunday evenings.
During the day, I tend to yo-yo between BBC 6 Music, Times Radio and BBC Radio 3 as my staple background listens. I love a dose of BBC Radio 4 around dawn, particularly for Farming Today, one of the most under-rated shows on UK Radio (and for other special shows across the day).
Times Radio had become an alternative home for me for a while after its launch, but I have drifted away to a degree, after a couple of my favourite presenters left the station in a schedule change, and another was moved. Having worked in the radio industry, it was a reminder – as a listener – how much a schedule change can disrupt loyalty to a station, often inadvertently. I still like what the station does (I love I how it tends to let interviews ‘breathe’), and dip in occasionally, and am sure I will drift back, particularly now Jane Garvey and Fi Glover have signed up.
The UK radio listening space feels particularly blessed at the moment, especially when you add in the burgeoning number of internet radio streams too, and community radio stations. When we have access to so much of that radio output via ‘listen again‘ services like BBC Sounds, it’s no surprise that I find I have little time to listen to podcasts, except in rare circumstances. I’m sure that will change, but for now, my love affair with radio continues.
If you haven’t read it, I blogged some time ago about my all-time favourite voices here .
Here are the full details on those regular “appointments to listen“, with links:
RADIO PICKS >>:
Late Junction: BBC Radio 3 (Fridays, 11.00pm-1.00am)
In a world that increasingly leaves me desensitised, Verity Sharp and Jennifer Lucy Allan on Late Junction never fail to surprise, provoke, confuse and delight. I would be lost without Late Junction. A huge outcry when it was cut from three shows a week to one, and we lost regular presenters Max Reinhardt, Nick Luscombe and Fiona Talkington, but I still listen each week, not live, but via BBC Sounds in the bath on a Sunday morning (too much information!).
One of my favourite voices on the radio. Ritula Shah quietly, but authoritatively crept up on me. 10.00pm is The World Tonight in my house. Nothing else.
Always there for me. Love what Nick Abbot does on air on LBC. Wish he had more time on the schedule to show off. Genius use of sound effects. Neither left, nor right – just absurd. “Hello, THERE.” You can hear more of what he does on his show via the podcast based on the show, ‘The Nick Abbot Habit‘ via the Global Player.
Liza Tarbuck: BBC Radio 2 (Saturdays, 6.00-8.00pm)
Liza’s show is a hidden gem on the Radio 2 schedule. She is one of the funniest, most spontaneous presenters on the network, together with a music playlist that is the most diverse and personal. It is a huge surprise to me that Radio 2 do not make more use of Liza Tarbuck as a daytime presenter during the week. Her music reminds me of what Radio 2 used to sound like in the evenings and at weekends with Desmond Carrington and David Jacobs, together with a hint of 6 Music. It has become a ‘must listen’, usually while I am cooking along with thousands of other listeners, sharing the contents of their everyday lives on a Saturday early evening.
After Late Junction was reduced from three nights a week to one, Radio 3’s late night output felt a little more anglicised. The exception was this one hour show with Elizabeth Alker, which makes a refreshing difference, promising “music by an exciting new generation of unclassified composers and performers, breaking free of the constraints of practice rooms and concert halls.” It has not let me down to date.
This is the regular strip of shows across the week which have effectively replaced Late Junction. While they are a little less edgy than the show they replaced, the slot has grown on me, and accompanies me into the wee small hours every night. I like the way Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Hannah Peel curate themes, and both have great voices which are a perfect fit for the slot.
Jo’s show – once more flying solo, and restored to the evening time-slot she has made her own – is probably my ideal soundtrack. Perfect signposting of new music, delving into vinyl which matches my life story – and snapshot of life around the UK at a time of the day when people are doing the most interesting things. It tends to be when I’m doing my most flour-laden sourdough work, or winding down making pom poms. I was lucky enough to work with Jo for a short time, and am a huge fan.
There is too much to single out on the station, but particularly during ‘lockdown’, I have found it becoming a permanent friend during the day, as well as Don Letts (pictured, Sundays, 10.00pm-12.00midnight) with his Culture Clash Radio show, and Stuart Maconie. The particular flavour of music thirst of the likes of Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs, Craig Charles and Steve Lamacq is on during the day exactly where it works best. I might be imagining it, but I am pretty sure that it was hearing Mary Anne ‘dep’ for Jackie Brambles in the lunchtime slot on Radio 1 in the mid 1990s (as John Peel similarly did, completely ripping out the foundations in the process) that was one of the things which made me think I might want to work at the station. And I did. Good to hear her back on in a similar slot again, and making it her own.
Am a big fan of Nemone on the station too. I’ve loved hearing her do some stuff during daytime on mental health during the first ‘lockdown’, and hadn’t realised she is an integrative psychotherapist outside of her radio work on 6 Music. I’ve always loved her voice, and you can catch some of her Meditations via this link. And breathe….
More recently, have loved the addition of Jamz Supernova (above) to the station – her own show on Saturdays, and ‘deps’ for other presenters like Mary Anne Hobbs.
The journey of BBC Radio 6 Music has been a considerable success – love it.
Times Radio (various)
Whether it’s Aasmah Mir (above), John Pienaar, Mariella Frostrup, or Calum Macdonald, I love what Times Radio has to offer. It was a big shame after a year when Jenny Kleeman and Luke Jones had to move on, and there was a bit of a schedule change, but I’m gradually coming back to the routine, especially now Jane Garvey and Fi Glover are joining the fold. A welcome addition to the radio landscape.
Josie Long: Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4 (Various times)
Big, big fan of this neat production Josie Long presents – one of my favourite things. Her work is inventive in sound terms, and extremely human. Storytelling to another dimension – and a great voice. Short Cuts is everything I think a perfect radio show should be. “Short documentaries and adventures in sound.”
Lynn Parsons, Magic Radio, 7.00-10.00pm
Lynn Parsons is the nicest person I have ever had the pleasure of working with – full stop. It also remains a pleasure listening to her. Such a rich, relaxing voice. Weekday evenings have a lot going on in them for me (Janice Long, World Tonight, Late Junction), but whenever I can fit her in (or whenever I particularly need to), I know Lynn is there, working her mellow magic! I get a particular thrill when she reads out a text from me, sharing my ‘window on the world’.
The Skewer, BBC Radio 4/ BBC Sounds
It is imperative that you wear headphones to listen to this. Jon Holmes takes a skewer, and twists it through the news of that particular week, with the help of a myriad team of contributors. They describe it as ‘a twisted comedy treat‘ – and it is that. As much sound art as it is comedy, I’m never quite sure how the team get away with the content on BBC Radio 4 – but I’m glad they do. It’s just what we need. They also describe it as ‘a kind of concept album made of music and news. There’s simply nothing else like it.‘ And for that, they have already got a great big bag of awards. Deservedly so!!
And then, not forgetting…
Nicky Campbell, BBC Radio 5 Live, Mon-Fri, (9.00-11.00am)
I was over-awed by Nicky’s late night shows on BBC Radio 1 back in the day – completely genre-busting. Nicky Campbell is a titan of UK broadcasting, and I was privileged to be able to work for him, first at BBC Radio 1 in the late 90s (when he was in the afternoons, and on the Roadshows), and then later as a freelancer, after he had switched to 5 Live. Although I don’t always get to listen to him in his new slot, I still love the lilt of his voice, and when I do catch him, it is always clear why he first impressed me – and continues to cut such a dash.
LBC is in fine shape. It’s not my first choice station, but I do turn to it for Nick Abbot and Iain Dale. I have grown to increasingly love how James O’Brien has used the medium to strike a different furrow from most other daytime presenters. I’ve long been a fan of Shelagh Fogarty and Eddie Mair, but I also like Iain Dale, to provoke me from alternative positions. LBC has a fine sense of its own identity, and is in as good a shape as it was in its heyday, although it could do with embracing a more diverse range of voices on its schedule – just too white, too male, and too middle aged. Guest presenters are not enough to rectify this!
Sara Cox, BBC Radio 2 (Monday-Fridays, Drivetime)
I have to give a special plug for Sara Cox. I had the honour of working with Sara in a very small way, doing the PR on her show when she took over the helm of the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show. I think she has amazing wit, and real warmth in the rapport she builds up with her audiences. If she had secured the breakfast show gig, she might have won me over from the political and current affairs output I’m addicted to at that time, but at drivetime I certainly tune in when I can, and for relief from the rubbish that has been going on during the rest of the day.
Ricky Ross’s New Tradition, BBC Radio 2
This is only an occasional short series, but is actually one of the best things on BBC Radio 2. Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross plays new songs, and traces the common themes which have influenced song- and music-making over the decades. I learn so much, add so many tracks to my playlists, and get to feel part of a live, warm audience community who contribute via Twitter. I’ve always been a fan of Deacon Blue, and this show cements my affection for the man. Through this show, I’ve discovered some of Ricky’s shows on BBC Radio Scotland too. Great to have him on the radio, as well as on stage and in the studio.
Have been so glad to discover Camp Radio, thanks to an occasional show by band I follow called Polyhymns. They are amazing, and their radio show – The Polyhymnal – is on another level. Camp Radio broadcasts direct from their revolutionary arts facility high in the French Pyrenees. On their airwaves can be found a diverse array of audible pleasures, from drones to poetry, punk to grime, improv to environmental sound. Beautiful.
I was hugely despondent when Nick Luscombe left Late Junction, but it was not long before he launched his own online radio show for the ‘musically curious’ featuring a mix of ‘alternative and experimental music, sound art and rarely heard recordings.’
Max was another loss to Late Junction who has surfaced in a number of settings, including this one on Soho Radio. I have Max and Nick to thank for many of my music discoveries in recent years, and I am glad I can still listen to regular radio shows.
Sarah plays a mix of deep house, rare groove and hip-hop. DJ and club-head, with a radio track-record taking in pirate radio, Kiss FM and BBC Radio 1. I love her style, and had the pleasure of working with her at the BBC. She now has a regular gig at Totally Wired Radio – a station from Acid Jazz, the seminal East London record company. It takes its name from a ground breaking series of albums launched by Eddie Piller and his original partner in the label which became a byword for creative eclecticism. “TWR is the audio companion to Fred Perry Subculture – promoting independence, individuality and identity. From Punk to Funk, Jazz to Reggae, Hip Hop to Gospel and a whole lot more in-between.”