Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
I'VE ALWAYS thought of radio folk as pale, underground creatures, moling about their dim-lit studios. But last week's Sony Radio Awards ceremony at the glitzy Grosvenor House Hotel dragged them squealing into the spotlight. The trouble is, faced with a thousand of them at the trough, it's hard to spot a single face you know. I was blessed to land up on table 140 to rub knees with three of the greats: Willie Rushton, Jonathan King and Sheridan Morley. I spent the duller moments trying to decide if I was there because I was thought to have something in common with these men, or because they only had room for someone of modest girth.

The trio muttered subversively as we listened to the PA, on which Michael Aspel was MCing unctuously and Minister of Fun Peter Brooke was ranting absurdly. Radio, Aspel said, had been going up in the world. It was now the hot, sexy medium to be in. So why use TV celebs to give out the prizes? Hauling in Julia Somerville and Trevor McDonald to hand over the news awards, for instance, looked very much like Big Daddy television smiling down on little old grandpa radio. Presumably it was with the TV news-bite in mind.

The awards were endless. Do we really need separate gongs for Best News and Current Affairs, Best News and Current Affairs Sequence and Best Response to a News Event? Soon there'll be an award for Best Response to an Awards Show ('and the winner is . . . Cries & Whispers]'). And some of them were mystifying - the only thing Tony Blackburn should ever be awarded is whatever you get for a lifetime's kindness to elderly jokes. But plenty of them hit the spot. Classic FM fully deserves Best National Station of the Year. Miriam Margolyes was Best Actress for The Queen and I, a one-woman adaptation of Sue Townsend's hilarious book, in which Margolyes put the rest of Equity out of work by playing the Royal Family plus retainers. Her speech was nice, too: 'You know what's great about radio? It gives a chance to fat little Jews like me.'

Best Comedy went to the gifted team behind Knowing Me, Knowing You, who didn't look a day over 19 as they skipped up to collect their lump of Perspex, to the perceptible twitching of Messrs Morley and Rushton, who had earlier been grumbling about how empty their diaries were. Best Sports Reporter also went to a novice, the BBC cricket correspondent Jon Agnew, who has quietly pulled off the tricky task of following in the mike-steps of Christopher Martin-Jenkins (see Overheard, below). The unspecific Gold Award went to a groggy Humphrey Lyttelton, dragged from holiday in Eire for this curious knees- up. So Willie and Sherry live in hope.

THE SELECT Committee on National Heritage discussed CDs again on Thursday, by quizzing the record companies. This column went to bed on Wednesday (lucky I'm not a conspiracy theorist). My comments, God willing, will be in the main paper.

LAST SUNDAY we quoted Craig Brown, the columnist, as saying that after 35 years, pop music had worked through all its variations. This week Tony Parsons, the columnist, will go on Channel 4's Without Walls to say the same thing. The point tells us more about the men than about the music. Both are past 35. Both have been pop critics - Brown, as I remember, in the late, lamented Over 21. And both are nostalgic for the stars of their youth - notably David Bowie, who has just appointed Parsons as his official biographer. Pop's not dead. All that is, is two journalists' interest in it.