Found in Translation

Back in June 2016, I was captivated by a programme on BBC Radio 4 about the Russian absurdist writer Daniil Kharms.  It chimed not only with me, but I felt with the times we find ourselves in, and ever since, I have been devouring his work.

Daniil Kharms - with thanks to an excellent piece by Chris Cumming

Daniil Kharms – with thanks to an excellent piece by Chris Cumming

Kharms was born in 1905 and died in 1942 – a suppressed Soviet-era surrealist and absurdist avant-garde writer.  Much of his work was not published during his lifetime, but was saved to be rediscovered in the 1960s and 1970s.  During the twentieth century, he was better known for his writing for children, which was tolerated by the authorities.  That toleration by the authorities didn’t last forever though, and he died of starvation on the psychiatric ward of a Soviet prison.  It was said he simulated insanity to avoid execution – but who can be sure?

You will find plenty of reviews and discussions of Kharms’ legacy on the internet (see below), but in the same way that I was transfixed by the playfulness of his work by the BBC Radio 4 programme, I wanted to share some of that excitement by reading a small number of his very short pieces.

Neat Widget Mic (left) and H5 digital recorder (right)

Neat Widget Mic (left) and H5 digital recorder (right)

The first four are recorded on a new desk mic I’ve bought which gives pretty good quality, but the remaining are on my digital H5 recorder which I’m trying properly for the first time here – a humdinger of a crystal clear sound (I can’t guarantee the quality of my voice!)

Tumbling Old Women is probably the best known of his works, and the one that really caught my ear first.

Fedya Davidovich embraces butter and toe clippings – which pretty much sounds like the story of my life!

Four Legged Crow spits at you – and pretty much hits the nail on the head about the state of relations on Twitter right now.

The Connection puts life in some philosophical context with the aid of a bed-bug.

An Incident on the Street is typical of his writings where an incident is seemingly leading us one way, only to lead us nowhere at all.

The Death of a Little Man vividly captures an important moment in a man’s life – his end.  No niceties or unnecessary gore – just as it comes.

How One Man Fell to Pieces seems to be a lesson about getting carried away, all the while showing that things still carry on as normal when we do, whether that be the use of the dustpan usually reserved for clearing horse manure, or the sweet smell of ‘puffy’ ladies.

Blue Notebook #10 is another signature piece of his writing, beginning by writing about one thing, but by the end of it, because the piece contains none of the things it was intending to cover, the writer either gives up and walks away (as in this case) – or dumps something completely different into the text.


Most of his works are hard to come by now, and a little on the expensive side, as I have found to my cost.  I can recommend “Today I Wrote Nothing” if any of the above plants a seed with you – available from Amazon and AbeBooks.  It is ‘hit and miss’ – a lot of the work can be more hard going or completely obscure, but that is also part of the charm of it.  There are are great reviews in the New York Times and in the London Review of Books.

As someone recently said on one of the UK’s soaps, “You only had to give her a cassette player and a block of cheese and she thought she was in heaven.”  That’s pretty much how Kharms has made me feel of late.  Thank you for indulging me.















Vodafone fail

On Thursday 6th October, I put my Samsung Galaxy S5 in for repair with Vodafone.  And so started a tale of woe which goes some way to exemplifying why they were recently slapped with a £4.6 million fine by Ofcom for poor customer complaints handling.


I was told it would be repaired by Wednesday 19th October, or if it could not be repaired, I would receive a replacement.  Throughout the period of my contract, I have been paying £6.99 per month insurance from Vodafone on top of my contract, so I expected nothing less.  I had to agree to pay £25 excess.  However, I did not expect to have to pay this until the issue was resolved.

As I write this post, I have NO PHONE, and I have ALREADY PAID the excess.  It is 1st November – two days short of four weeks since I put the phone in for repair!

Around the 19th October, I was telephoned by their Repair Centre to be told that I would receive a new phone within five days, as my old phone could not be repaired.

On Monday 24th October, I tried calling the Repair Centre, but after 40 minutes of holding, I had to give up.  I eventually got through to someone on a second attempt, and was told that they were sorry it had not been despatched – that it would be that evening – and would be with the local store the next day, or failing that, within 48 hours.

On Wednesday 26th October, I called AGAIN – and was told EXACTLY the same thing.  It turns out the phone was not sent out after all.

On Friday 28th October, I called AGAIN – and was told EXACTLY the same thing.  Yes – it turns out the phone was not sent after all.

Each time, whenever I called the number given for my local store, it went straight to voicemail, and NOBODY bothered to call me back, despite leaving my name and telephone number.  Nobody has rung me back from the local store to this day.

I'll no doubt we waving goodbye to Vodafone at the earliest opportunity. No wonder they can't afford the real Will Young for the TV adverts!

I’ll no doubt we waving goodbye to Vodafone at the earliest opportunity. No wonder they can’t afford the real Will Young for the TV adverts!

On Friday 28th October, as well as calling the Repair Centre, I discussed the issued with the main Vodafone Customer number (they advised me to take it up with the Vodafone Insurance people), and when I called the Vodafone Insurance people, they advised me to speak to Customer Services!!!  WTF!!??  I vented my anger on Twitter.  It got picked up by their Customer Care Team, who advised me to take it up with a live chat – but I couldn’t bear to go through it all again, as an email I sent via their website has never been responded to.

By today – Tuesday 1st November, I still had no sign of the new phone – so I called a new department altogether – Vodafone Complaints.  They looked into the whole issue.  Now it turns out they cannot guarantee me a date by which I will get my phone – so the previous conversations were all LIES!

They can’t begin to have a conversation with me about compensation until the issue has been resolved – but who knows when that will be.  Compensation is not my driving force – I just want my phone!  The Complaints Department tried to fob me off with the Insurance Department – but I knew it wasn’t the Insurance Team’s problem – the issue is with Vodafone itself!

Apparently, it’s all about them having to “follow a procedure“, but obviously, their procedure obviously doesn’t work.  I’m paying for a contract, but not receiving the service, yet some poor mug could walk in off the street, order for the same new phone I’m waiting to receive – and get it straight away.  God forbid they do, otherwise they will be entering into a contract which delivers this kind of service.


When I dropped off the phone on Thursday 6th October, I was given a courtesy phone, to be fair, but in today’s age, it is the equivalent of a ‘brick‘.  The key-pad sticks.  Apps freeze, and kick you out.  There is not enough memory on it to download Apps which I use regularly, like ‘WhatsApp’ – no, I have not disappeared friends.

I have NEVER known a level of service like this Vodafone – so just felt the need to share.  You have taken money from me for a service I am not getting; made an additional charge for a service before I get it; lied to me on numerous occasions; hidden behind a ‘procedure’ which does not deliver for the customer – and refused to discuss how I will be compensated until the issue is resolved – yet nobody is able to ANYTHING to resolve the issue, or give me any signpost about how, or when it will be resolved.


It’s like being in Vodafone’s very own version of the Circumlocution Office – a government office in Dickens literature where characters like William Dorrit are passed from official to official without getting a satisfactory answer.  I’m just being shunted from department to department, but getting nowhere.  Come on Vodafone – I’ve been with you for what must be at least fifteen years.  This is a disgrace!  My next call will have to be the regulator.







I’ve just come to the end of 18 months volunteering with Citizens Advice Hart.  When I was first retired off from work with my neurological condition, I at least wanted to ensure I was still contributing my recent PR experience (and dare I say it, professional skills) to a community cause.

This Citizens Advice Bureau dates back further than the Yateley portacabin - but demonstrates its vital role over the years.

This Citizens Advice Bureau dates back further than the Yateley portacabin of the 1980s – but demonstrates its vital role over the years – more here.

Citizens Advice has always been important to me since they helped my own family in the mid 1980s, when they were based in a ‘portacabin‘ behind the Royal Oak pub in Yateley.  Since then, their recipe of free, confidential, impartial and independent advice, combined with campaigning on those issues which have presented themselves to those organisation with regularity has become more important.  With a widening gap between rich and poor, and Government relying more on austerity as a strategy, Citizens Advice has as good as become the last stop-gap for those at the sharp end looking for help and support.

I know most people have ever increasing workloads and time-pressures in their working lives, but the contribution I have been able to make in the last 18 months has underlined just how much we can all make if we were able to volunteer just a small amount of time to local charities, community organisations or campaigns.

Dealing with life's transitions - like having a baby. Photo taken at Ewshot Recreation Ground.

Dealing with life’s transitions – like having a baby. Photo taken on steps of the slide at Ewshot Recreation Ground.

I was excited to be able to bring my 18 months to a close by producing a postcard-led volunteer recruitment campaign, “Change a Life – One Step at a Time”.  It featured scenes which utilised Slinkachu-style street art, which I photographed in locations throughout our largely rural area, to help bring a district to life which many of our residents were unaware of.

Dealing with life's transitions - like bereavement. Photo taken on the steps of Odiham War Memorial.

Dealing with life’s transitions – like bereavement. Photo taken on the steps of Odiham War Memorial.

The scenes each illustrated a different ‘life transition’ which the charity is likely to help local people, so that potential volunteers can get an insight into the kind of work they could help with.  Previously the charity had found it difficult to get permission to share examples of case studies, and this overcame that problem.

The local newspaper – the ‘Fleet and Yateley News & Mail‘ were so impressed, they gave us a full page feature on the initiative.

Citizens Advice Hart's "Change a Life - One Step at a Time" campaign in the "Fleet and Yateley News & Mail"

Citizens Advice Hart’s “Change a Life – One Step at a Time” campaign in the “Fleet and Yateley News & Mail”

The full campaign was explained in this blog post.

It had social media extensions on Instagram and Pinterest, and the postcards are designed to be used regularly as banners on Twitter and Facebook.

It has been a real thrill to work with staff and fellow volunteers to help spread the word on the local Citizens Advice.  When I first began, I helped show how media relations works, and how the potential of a story can be properly unlocked.  They ended up on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, in the pages of the Spectator magazine and in the local media too.  As well as helping them embrace social media, I then worked with the trustees on pulling together a full communications strategy.


The biggest thrill was embracing some of the best practice from of the best agencies I have had the privilege of engaging with over time to run a session with the team of 30 or so volunteers to help unlock the true nature of the charity’s communication problem – and how to overcome it.  We were able to see how some solutions directly led to changes in service delivery – and changes in how we thought about how the service might work in the future.  It also helped volunteers and staff see how PR is about much more than press releases, but can actually help the organisation keep a focus on improving relationships with people.  And it helped put them in the driving seat of the analysis stage of compiling a communications strategy.

After 18 months, I had to remember that I was retired off for a reason, and will be concentrating on that for a bit.  But in the meantime, I just wanted to pen a post recommending that as many people as possible – whether they are PRs, marketers, lawyers, accountants – whatever, volunteer their time with a local charity, community organisation or campaign for change that is dear to them.  Some ‘CPD‘ schemes include volunteering as part of their structures – but it’s just a great thing in it’s own right!







Fun Palaces come to Yateley

Saturday 1st October 2016 sees the Fun Palaces weekend – ‘an ongoing campaign for culture at the heart of community, with an annual weekend of arts and science events created by, for and with local people.’


This year, my home village of Yateley’s library will be hosting a Fun Palace event – and I will be sharing the delights of ‘Slinkachu’ style street art photography with those who come along.  We’ll be encouraging people to use my figures, and try their hand at it amongst the books and shelves of Yateley Library, to see what they can come up with.

Here’s a few ideas with books I had lying around the house, to demonstrate the kinds of things you can do amongst the shelves on the day.




If you’ve never seen much about ‘Slinkachu’, this is a useful link to read more.  And you can also see how I’ve helped the local Citizens Advice Hart make use of this approach to photography in their campaigning on their blog.  They will be launching a new volunteer recruitment campaign using ‘Slinkachu’ photography in the coming weeks.

I love the central manifesto of the Fun Palaces movement:- “We believe in the genius in everyone, in everyone an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in community can change the world for the better.  We believe we can do this together, locally, with radical fun – and that anyone, anywhere, can make a fun palace.”

The common good!

The event is from 10.00am-4.00pm on Saturday 1st October at Yateley Library on School Lane, and my Slinkachu stuff will be running from 12.00noon-4.00pm.


The Local Government Boundary Review have just published their final recommendations for Hampshire County Council.  I took part in the consultation process at the end of last year.

I wasn’t expecting my comments to be acted upon, but I at least expected them to be acknowledged in the consultation report.  They were not.


Only four submissions were apparently received about the ward I made a submission about, so it is pretty easy to track whether my views were noted, let alone acted upon.  I felt the proposals were wrong, and did not meet statutory criteria – little room for confusion there.  I have copied my full response at the end of this post so you can see what I mean.  They refer to the Hart District area of Hampshire.

However, in the report, it says, “We received four submissions relating to this division. Two of the submissions commented on the parish warding arrangements for Yateley. We have considered the evidence and provided for revised parish electoral arrangements for Yateley at page 47 of this report. The remaining submissions commented on the division name. It was argued that Blackwater be included in the name as it would better reflect the communities which make up the division. We are persuaded by the evidence received; however, we consider a division name consisting of Fleet North, Yateley East & Blackwater to be too long. As Blackwater and Yateley make up a significant part of the division, we have re-named the division Yateley East & Blackwater which we consider better reflects communities represented in this division. Subject to this change of division name, we confirm our recommended division as part of our final recommendations.”

No mention that I objected to putting together half of Yateley with part of Fleet which are NOT natural communities, with zero public transport links.  For this, and reasons to do with lack of recognisable community groups and interests across the proposed division, I did NOT feel it met the statutory criteria.

Yateley's Dog & Partridge, near the boundary of two divisions under these proposals, rather than at the heart of one, as under mine.

Yateley’s Dog & Partridge, near the boundary of two divisions under these proposals, rather than at the heart of one, as under mine.

Indeed, additionally, on the proposal for ‘Hartley Wintney and Yateley West‘ division, the report states, “We received support for our draft recommendations relating to Hartley Wintney & Yateley West division,” despite my submission having said that I did not think they met the statutory criteria either for similar reasons.

By deciding to ‘change the name’ of the Yateley East division which had I made a submission about, to take out reference to Fleet, but not to take out the actually area it refers to kind of demonstrates the point I am making, without doing anything about it.

This has totally removed what little faith I had left in public consultation processes.  There has to be a better way if it even turns off political geeks like me from taking part.  Apologies for being such a bore, but I had to get it off my chest.  I don’t really mind that my argument didn’t win the day – I object to the fact that it was ignored completely despite being eminently valid.

My original submission in full, so you can see what I am talking about:

“I wish to comment about the proposed divisions in Hart, specifically, ‘Fleet North & Yateley East‘, but also ‘Hartley Wintney & Yateley West‘ which I do not believe reflect the statutory criteria.  On the summary report pages, the test of ‘Community Identity’ suggests that there should be good transport links across the division, and highlights public transport.  There is NO public transport between Fleet and Yateley, or between Hartley Wintney and Yateley – something I acutely feel as a disabled person.  It asks whether there are recognisable interests, and community groups across the divisions – but as the names suggest, both these divisions ‘bolt’ together natural communities which have been split apart – namely Yateley, and Fleet.  Surely it makes sense to build an electoral division around Yateley as ONE community (which includes Blackwater and Hawley, and possibly Eversley); and an electoral division around Fleet as ONE community – each with very different interests, boundaries, and community groups.  Hartley Wintney more naturally looks west, towards Odiham, and Hook.”


“To group together ‘Yateley East‘ with ‘Fleet North‘ makes absolutely no sense at all.  I was born in the area, lived here until I was 18, and have just returned a year ago at the age of 44 years.  My mother has lived in Yateley all her life, as has her mother.  When I consulted with my immediate neighbours about the proposition, they were totally bemused.  Fleet and Yateley are the two largest towns in Hart District, approx. five miles apart.  Why would you split each of them, and then create a new division which mixes part of one, with part of another, particularly when they share no public transport link?  Even if you do not accept this argument, then at the very least, the proposed name of the division is inappropriate.  It includes Blackwater and Hawley – places in their own right which share some focus with Yateley, but absolutely none at all with Fleet. ” 


“My proposal, which I have not tested, would be for a division for the whole of Yateley (which would include Blackwater and Hawley, and possibly Eversley); one for Fleet Town (which could include parts of Fleet North from the previous proposal, including Elvetham Heath – and if any levelling up is needed, this could be done with the division of Church Crookham & Ewshot, which is a more natural fit, and low on numbers).  Similarly, Hartley Wintney would be a more natural fit for the division of Odiham and Hook, which could be renamed accordingly.  This would increase its numbers which are currently a little low.  I believe such a proposal would make a more natural community fit for Fleet and for Yateley (as well as surrounding population centres) reflecting community interests and identities, and could be a more equitable spread of population, thus providing good electoral quality. Crucially, in the case of Yateley and Fleet, it would be based on strong, easily identifiable boundaries, and help deliver strong, effective and convenient local government.  At the moment, local people often struggle to know who their local county councillor is because they do not know which side of an arbitrary boundary they fall on within Yateley or Fleet – this is patently absurd, particularly when it is written into the statutory criteria for your own consultation.”

Thank you for bearing with me!

Thank you for bearing with me!

What Women Want 2.0

When a good friend sent me an email this summer about a campaign she was involved in, I had no hesitation in asking a selection of women neighbours, family and friends to take part in it, to support it as much as I could.  I’ve re-printed the text of the email, to provide some background, as well as a few of the photos I have collected, as the campaign comes to fruition today.


“What do you want?  That’s the question women were asked twenty years ago as part of a campaign called What Women Want.  It was supported by Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop as a way of giving British women a voice at the United Nations World Conference on Women in September 1995.  The idea was simple: to invite women to complete a postcard answering the simple question ‘What do you want?


Mary (my Mum) #WhatWomenWant20

“Twenty years on, there is still a desperate need to understand the answer to this question so we are repeating the survey.  The What Women Want campaign reboot is WWW2.0, and it is inviting women to engage in and create what could be the world’s most powerful conversation to make change happen.  Our goal is as it was before: to enable women to say what matters most to them and use their collective voices to effect the change they say they want – for themselves, their families and communities and for society as a whole.”


Ruby (neighbour) #WhatWomenWant20

The response in 1995 was overwhelming.  Replies came from all of the UK and from all parts of society with more than 10,000 women taking part, making it the biggest ever survey of British women.

Brenda (aunt) #WhatWomenWant20

Brenda (aunt) #WhatWomenWant20

“We hope you will participate in this exciting conversation with us and thousands of others to find out what women want in 2016 – 20 years on from the original survey. Are the concerns and challenges and goals different now? Help us find out and please tell us what you want.”

Olivia (my niece) #WhatWomenWant20 #herecomethegirls

Olivia (my niece) #WhatWomenWant20 #herecomethegirls

You can take part in one or all three of the simple ways below:

1. To answer the question ‘What do you Want?’ go to

Carol's is specific and heartfelt #WhatWomenWant20

Carol’s is specific and heartfelt #WhatWomenWant20

2. Take a picture of yourself with the answer to the question on the downloadable postcard and post it on social media using the #whatwomenwant20

3. Join in the conversation on social media on September 5th and get as many people to answer the question in your personal and digital networks as you can. The more answers the better. If there is someone in particular you admire and are interested to know their response, then tweet them the link to the question and ask them to respond.

The 5th September is the day Parliament returns after the summer break. What better time to tell politicians ‘what women want’ than ahead of their conference season. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get Theresa May to tell us what she wants? Tweet her the link @theresa_may

To find out more about the campaign please see

You can also see the campaign on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram:

Tickets please!

Last Friday, I hurriedly submitted written evidence to an inquiry which had been launched by the Transport Select Committee on the Bus Services Bill.  I’d only discovered the day before that it was taking place, and the deadline was that day.


I can think of better ways to spend my summer, but buses are an important part of civic life to me.  They have been woefully neglected as part of the fabric of society outside London.  If, like me, you can’t drive (I had to surrender my licence because of my neurological condition Chiari Malformation), you can come to rely on buses pretty heavily.  Which means that if the service is pretty woeful, you are stuck.

I’m not going to bore you here about the contents of my submission.  Suffice to say, there is something wrong with our democracy if we have allowed our buses to get into the position they are, and if the piece of legislation going through our Parliament right now misses a lot of the central points that it should be dealing with on the matter.


Even more of a failure is the fact that the Transport Select Committee’s Inquiry has been launched AFTER it can have any real impact on the nature or content of the legislation – a bit of a waste of time.

I’ve done a written submission nonetheless – I doubt many other people have, given they probably hadn’t heard of it, and if they had, the precise guidance for submitting such written submissions probably put them off.  We must find ways of making these inquiries and consultations more user-friendly.  There are pressure groups campaigning on the issue, such as the Campaign for Better Transport’s Save Our Buses, and We Own It, specifically raising the issue that local authorities should be able to own and run their own services, but they must find it difficult too.

Me and some of the gang on one of the local bus services which connects our village to a nearby Sainsburys superstore.

Me and some of the gang on one of the local bus services which connects our village to a nearby Sainsburys superstore.

The issue is important, but probably more important is the quality of our politics right now.  First, we need to do something about the quality of our opposition parties – I’m in despair.  Second, the House of Lords – for me, an issue like this demonstrates the need for a set-up in the shape of a Sortition – another elected chamber just wont cut it.  A chamber drawn at random from people on the electoral roll, in the same way as jury service would ensure we have a chamber that considers issues like bus services deliberatively – and might ensure that those considering the issue might even use buses regularly!

Bad review for Hampshire’s library decision

Today (18th April) was decision day by Hampshire County Council about the future of its libraries.  A draft strategy had been prepared following one of the largest ever public consultations by the county.

Future of Hampshire's libraries

Future of Hampshire’s libraries

One of the main aspects of the plan was to put the county’s libraries into four ‘tiers’, reflecting their size and importance.  The top two tiers were essentially guaranteed their future, and have the best existing opening hours.

Comparison of Hampshire's library 'tiers'

Comparison of Hampshire’s library ‘tiers’

Like other responses to the consultation, I pointed out that, based on usage data provided my local library in Yateley had been placed in the wrong tier – ‘Tier 3’ rather than ‘Tier 2’.  This meant that, if confirmed, in a year’s time, the library could close, or be handed over to volunteers to run.

Data comparison for Hampshire's libraries

Data comparison for Hampshire’s libraries

Despite a water-tight case, we were ignored in the council’s draft response to the consultation, issued in March, so I took to the local media, and I know others to lobbying.  You can read more of my arguments below.

My letter, published in the Fleet & Yateley News and Mail

My letter, published in the Fleet & Yateley News and Mail

There is no question that we are right, and in the council’s announcement today, they have had to insert a paragraph, finally dealing with the issue.  However, that’s as good as it gets!

Hampshire responds

Hampshire responds

Despite the catchment area and usage figures unquestionably making Yateley a ‘Tier 2’ library, and the council recognising its ‘school library’ status as ‘unique’, it has remained a ‘Tier 3’ library in the decision – which means Yateley Library’s status in the medium term remains uncertain.  The points made about lack of family activities and adult learning opportunities are not something I recognised – and might be something that could be rectified were it open on Wednesdays, and after 5pm on other days.  Absurd!

I feel really let down by the quality of local democratic decision-making.  This is unquestionably a bad decision.  Do Conservative-run Hampshire County Council ignore the town of Yateley because it has had the temerity to return Liberal Democrats as county councillors?

I read more carefully, and discovered that between the original draft of the strategy document, and this final version, a ‘new’ paragraph had been ‘retro-fitted’ to explain how each library’s tier status had been decided (see below), so that Yateley conveniently sits just below the catchment area figure of up to 25,000 to justify ‘Tier 3’ status (Yateley is said to have a catchment of 24,803, although whether this includes new developments, or Eversley is unclear).  No one is convinced – this was never in the original documentation.

'Retro-fitted' explanation paragraph!

‘Retro-fitted’ explanation paragraph!

I owe so much to Yateley Library.  We had no books in my house as a child.  I spent hours in the place, and it stood me in good stead, helping me to get to University at Sussex, and then a career in public relations, including at BBC Radio 1, in parliament, and the civil service.  A second career as a lecturer meant that I have seen again the importance of young students coming to university not only with a love of books, but with an ability to navigate a library.  Yateley’s ‘Tier 3’ status already restricts the number of days it opens, its opening hours – and now leaves a question mark over its longer term future.

Today I have no alternative but to leave a ‘bad review’ for Hampshire County Council’s decision, but a big ‘thank you’ to everyone connected with Yateley Library!  The huge response to the consultation underlined the importance of this issue to local people.  I am grateful to the council for at least taking notice of the point we were raising, but feel deep disappointment at their inability to see it as anything other than nimby-ism, and as such, even having to retro-fit the paragraph in red above, so their plans make sense.  Very poor form.

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.