Radio: Never mind the vocab, a violin is all Kennedy needs

The week in radio

In hospital recently, my mother lost her surname. She soon learned to answer to her very first name, though nobody had used it since she left school. She found it harder to remember all the nurses' names. When last she'd been ill, decades previously, she'd been allowed to call them "Nurse". These days we are all, immediately, intimate.

So the artist previously known as Nigel Kennedy was, typically, bucking the trend when he publicly renounced his given name, "much to the annoyance of various critics who want to call me Nige". In his new series, Kennedy and the Violin (R2), he talks about his life. It's a strange, off-the- cuff performance in which he appeals for pity - because he'd have preferred to study piano or cello; because he was sent away, too young, to study at the Menuhin school; because his training was so rigorous.

Just as he makes rather too much of these hardships, Kennedy overdoes his vocabulary. He speaks of Stephane Grapelli being able to play like an angel without going through Yeheudi's strict "regiment" - as if the word "regimen" wasn't quite strong enough. Later, he describes Vernon Handley as one of the foremost "authoritarians" on Elgar. And, curiously, this verbal superfluity restores our flagging sympathy: he is so desperately determined to justify himself.

There are, we learned, musicians and entertainers amongst his forebears whose talents he has inherited but "there's a lot of music I play which involves no entertainment whatsoever". It depends what you mean by entertainment. Quite a lot of Nige's past behaviour has been less than entertaining, but once he touches bow to fiddle he is totally transformed: it is electrifying. Why should he bother with the chat, when all he has to do is play? His violin communicates more effectively than even the best-chosen words because its voice comes from somewhere beyond language. Perhaps young Nigel might have done as well on the cello, or the piano, but it's almost impossible to imagine.

This first edition ended with him making his own continuity announcement, as we have come to expect in the absence of any BBC staff. He gave it an endearing touch: "Kennedy and the Violin is produced for R2 by Kevin Howlett" he said. Then he added, without condescension, "a very cool guy".

Lord Reith was the opposite of cool: few would dare to call him Johnnie. The founder and first Director General of the BBC was a restless, furious Scot whose private life scarcely measured up to values frequently invoked as "Reithian". John Sessions played him admirably straight, in Michael Hastings's compelling play The Reith Affair (R3).

Based on Reith's own compendious, confessional diary, the play dwelt on his love for Charlie Bowser, "my angel and my albatross". In bizarrely comic scenes reminiscent of Lawrence at his most Lawrentian, the two men timidly flirted with the practicalities of riding a bicycle naked, before each grimly married the wrong woman. Then one retired into Highland obscurity while the other failed busily to achieve world domination The only flaw was an unbelievably ham portrayal of Churchill as apparently played by the prophet Ezekiel

Two anthropomorphic comedies this week gave voices to a mouse and a pair of goldfish. Agent 52 (R4) is a gloomy pest-officer, sent to destroy a troublesome rodent. But Geraldine, the little white mouse, tells him of her hardships and persuades him to go salsa-dancing with his wife. Eventually he abducts the mouse, explaining that she is infected with "mousculous muscadet syndrome". He intends to use her to alert all his subsequent victims to their peril and safely evict them. It was silly, but quite fun.

The Goldfish Bowl (R4) is inhabited by two talking fish, some gravel and a little plastic castle. Anton and Liam float about discussing their ambitions, which include visiting the Taj Mahal, playing Hamlet and snorting cocaine from the body of a nubile starlet. This, too, is clearly silly - but it is tipped uneasily into something less amusing by the presence of the fishes' owners who are engaged in an anguished battle about a dead baby. Fish gotta swim and people gotta cry - but you can't mix 'em up, however you try.

Every Saturday, Susannah Simons interviews celebrities with some claim to be Masters of their Art (Classic FM). Last week, neatly timed for the release of the Robert Redford film, her guest was Monty Roberts, a horse- whisperer. This man is clearly a genius at equine communication but worse than a goldfish when it comes to humans. Simons patiently questioned him about how it was done - just roughly, you know, she wasn't about to copy him - but would he tell her? If it had gone on a second longer, he'd have lassoed her and boxed her off to the Calgary stampede.

Since Paul Callan's Celebrity Choice was axed, there is no real CFM equivalent to Private Passions or Desert Island Discs: records are selected on behalf of the guests. So here is the producer's choice of music to accompany the Simons-Roberts interview - though I'd lay a silver dollar to a nickel Roberts wouldn't bother with any of it:

"Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copland

"Grand Canyon suite" by Ferde Grofe

"A Musical Joke" by Mozart

Opening theme from The Horse Whisperer by Thomas Newman

"Hoe-Down" from Rodeo by Aaron Copland


Where would you find a proscenium arch? Contestant: On your foot.



I've had a series of lovers - or was that cirrhosis of the liver?


The Very World of Milton Jones, R4

Here are some chopsticks. They're fan-assisted, in case your noodles are too hot.

The Edge, WS

I'm not by nature a big spender - Richard Branson used to call me the meanest bastard in the house - or maybe in London.


On the Ropes, R4

Between us we've got drugs, racist violence, a child out of wedlock and a beaten-up dealer.


The Archers, R4

If Rabbie Burns were alive today, he would probably purchase items from Tommy Hilfiger.


You and Yours, R4

Garden gnomes are having a resurgence: we've put them round here, under a shroud.

Garden-centre owner, Talk Radio

There are many loving hearts to be round in a tax-office.

From Classic Romance, CFM

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor