Arts: The Week in Radio: Dusty and candy floss

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The Independent Culture
THE DEPENDABLE superficiality of Radio 2 ensured that there was no undue prying into Dusty Springfield's private life during last Saturday's special tribute programme. Instead, A Girl Called Dusty concentrated on the ups and downs of her musical career. Lulu, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello stood in line to pay homage to the inventor of British soul music who, at the age of 12, shocked the nuns at her school by singing "The St Louis Blues".

Dusty took a lot of risks, disbanding the highly successful Springfields just as the great Merseybeat wave was about to break over them, and switching within months to the kind of sound produced by The Exciters and the Isley Brothers. Her voice brought happiness to many, and there'll no doubt be a lot of people whistling "I only want to be with you" this Easter weekend.

If you happen to visit a fairground over Easter you may care to ponder the disappearance of goldfish. Apparently they are no longer coveted by fair-goers, thanks mainly to the efforts of the RSPCA. In Goldfish and Candy Floss (Radio 2, Tuesday), an ex-waltzer operative, David Essex, told the story of travelling funfairs, amid the din of velocipedes, steam organs, dodgems, traction engines and badly worn pop records. All this racket provided a familiar background as the Essex lad interviewed veteran showmen. One of them explained how to erect a 47ft helter-skelter while making allowances for wind conditions. The fact that they sometimes get blown over, he pointed out, is traditional. Meanwhile, a gent called Arthur Stephens lamented the passing of goldfish.

"The showmen were their own worst enemy," he said. The little plastic bags were supposed to be for transportation purposes only, as specified by the RSPCA, but the stall-holders insisted on displaying their goldfish among the fairy lights, where they got hot and died. Before plastic bags were introduced the goldfish lived in bowls gathered together on a table. "You had to pitch the ball into the neck of the bowl to win it," said Mr Stephens. "And, of course, it frightened the fish."

To get some idea of how the goldfish must have felt under the bombardment, try Radio Yugoslavia (6185 kHz). Wednesday night's 10 o'clock transmission included graphic descriptions of "bombs, missiles and other death-dealing loads discharged by Nato", plus an appeal to Kosovar Albanians "not to leave but to stick together in these hard times and help curb the aggression".

The two female presenters talked in slightly wobbly tones about planes coming from the direction of Albania. These, they claimed, were armed with weapons banned by international wartime law. Earlier in the day Vatican Radio announced that a papal delegation was being dispatched immediately to Belgrade to help resolve the crisis. Perfect timing.

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