Arts review of the year - Radio: The lost sons of our wars live on in their playlists


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The Independent Culture

Top of the bill, and recipient of this year's This Is Why I Pay My Licence Fee Award, is Jeremy Vine's five-programme series marking Armistice Day, The Songs My Son Loved.

Interviews with mothers of young soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, interspersed with their favourite numbers – even the jauntiest of which took on a new, haunting resonance – it was one of the most moving things I've heard on radio.

Unexpected delight of the year

It's a crowded podium for this award, and I really can't choose between them: teenage Aboriginal rappers the Wilcannia Mob in Australian Rap, the other-worldly ice-guitar music in Richard Cole's The Music That Melted, the other-worldly fence-wire music in The Wire – all brilliant examples of the BBC's ability effortlessly to expand one's horizons. Not just the Beeb, though: the extraordinary sounds produced by the Bermuda Test Transmissions team on Resonance FM in June were the soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Comeback of the year

He's been gone for far too long, so Andy Kershaw wins hands down. He reappeared following a difficult few years alongside the excellent Lucy Duran in Music Planet, a sister programme to TV's Human Planet. I doubt there's a human being on Earth from whom he couldn't extract an interesting conversation. Now he needs his own show, sharpish.

Turkey of the year

Today man Evan Davis beat all-comers on this one. The best way to interview any politician, not just the Prime Minister, is, I'd venture, to ask penetrating questions politely but firmly. Davis chose to subject David Cameron to a barrage of mediocre questions with the hectoring tone of an exasperated parent. And another thing: I wish I didn't know that his nipples are pierced, and that he apparently smiles enigmatically when asked if he has a Prince Albert; it's very distracting.

Clanger of the year

This goes to the decision by Bob Shennan, the new Controller of Radio 2 and 6 Music, to shift Mark Radcliffe's and Stuart Maconie's wondrous show from Radio 2 in the evening to 6 Music in the afternoons. There's always iPlayer, but live radio should be listened to live. My evenings took a serious turn for the worse.

Biggest laugh of the year

Shared by Mark Steel, and his evergreen Mark Steel's in Town, and Miles Jupp's In and Out of the Kitchen, the diary of a not-as-successful-as-the-others celebrity chef. They're the joint-second funniest blokes on the radio in 2011, behind ...

Total star of the year

David Cain, scourge of bedbugs the length and breadth of the land. Hardeep Singh Kohli – one of the best broadcasters around – met him in his series 15x15, 15 minutes and 15 facts on a different word for each programme – in Cain's case, "mattress". He had a slow, painstaking manner that was pure Mike Leigh. I'm not saying he should have his own show, but I'd love to hear a programme devoted to him. Runner-up: the theatre director Adrian Brown, who spoke to Mark Lawson on The Rattigan Versions, part of Radio 4's excellent season marking the playwright's centenary. Lawson asked him about the bad old days, when being gay was a dangerous business. "Well, Mark, you say that," he replied, "and people say, 'Oh, what a terrible time, Lily Law breathing down our necks, and the shadow of prison bars' – not at all! We had a wonderful time and there were wonderful parties ... we had much more fun than anybody else." Go, boy.

Listener of the year

Had to be Jonathan from Swansea, who suggested in a talkSPORT phone-in that perhaps presenter Matt Forde might not be entirely to his satisfaction. "You are a talentless liar, a shameless, sycophantic sell-out with a jelly spine and a mush mind," he began, and for a full seven minutes he played his way into the ranters' pantheon, culminating in: "You're the reason we had the riots!" Jonathan from Swansea, you're a star.