I cannot imagine my life without radio.
As a young teenager, I listened religiously to Dr. Fox’s UK Top 40, stopping and starting my tape cassette player at just the right time to catch my favourite chart songs. Every Sunday. Nothing unusual there. But it developed into a daily obsession as I grew older and began to worship Steve Lamacq, taping instead the increasingly obscure bands I’d read about in Melody Maker and the NME. The highlight of my teenage years was Lamacq reading out my ‘Fantasy Festival’ although I can’t remember the detail of my dream lineup…only that it probably involved the Pixies…probably as headliners.
I stopped listening to Radio 1 a long time ago as I simply can’t cope with the ‘personalities’ that hype up every Next Big Thing with alarming enthusiasm (although I enjoyed Colin Murray towards the end of his R1 stint). I sometimes dabble with 6Music, particularly Guy Garvey’s delightfully charming Sunday night show and Adam & Joe’s delightfully shambolic Saturday mornings. I also listen to Kermode and Mayo’s fabulous film review podcast from BBC 5 Live.
My true love is now Radio 4.
I adore the variety, the fact that I can turn on my beloved DAB radio and hear something interesting, whether or not I’d imagined that I would or could be interested. I like the comedy, the fact that it is smart and sometimes surprising, a far cry from the crude, competitive comedy typified by TV programmes such as Mock The Week. I am constantly bowled over by the ability of certain programmes to move me to tears. I am – I am not ashamed to say – simply hooked on The Archers.
Perhaps the best way to explain it is to describe some of my Radio 4 highlights:
- ‘Jon Ronson On…’ is never anything less than fascinating, because ordinary people are so fascinating. But it has the most wonderfully creepy quality, like you’re being let in on a secret that you shouldn’t be hearing or that has remained long unspoken. I remember the night I listened to the episode on uncontrollable responses and could barely sleep for the sense of menace I experienced hearing the story of a 7/7 survivor falling foul of conspiracy theorists. Incredible radio. And I’ve just discovered that you can listen to every single episode here.
- ‘All Bar Luke’ makes me laugh until I cry. The show is all about Tim Key’s high-pitched, nervous giggle which captures beautifully Luke’s utter social ineptness. My Wednesday nights are empty without it.
- ‘Desert Island Discs’ can be somewhat hit and miss, although I really do love Kirsty Young’s interviewing style, which just gets better every week (I have such a girl crush on Kirsty Young). But when it’s good, it’s very, very good and the recent interview with Mary Portas was a real highlight. Her description of the moment she bumped into her estranged stepmother, who had left her homeless, penniless and with younger siblings in her teenage years was simply heartbreaking.
- ‘In Our Time’ is another hit and miss programme but one which always challenges and often surprises me. Go on. Search the archive and be amazed by vast array of subjects and knowledge.
- I have no idea what programme this was on but Radio 4 recently broadcast an interview with a man who had been ‘locked’ in a coma for many many years. I was driving into town and sobbing, it was so terrifying.
I could go on. About Woman’s Hour and Just A Minute and The Archers and the Today Programme and BH and the World Tonight and the Book At Bedtime and Listen Against and Cowards and You & Yours and anything that involves Charlotte Green’s voice and, oh, what’s that programme with the man interviewing people on trains?