The Week in Radio: The BBC should never be short of a Bob or two

Celebrities. They're everywhere. Packing out Desert Island Discs, emoting on the interview shows, attached like a lucky charm to every programme proposal. Don't you sometimes think, 'What do actors and singers have to say that's so special?' There are times when you wish Celebrity Culture could be replaced by Clerical Culture, or Science Culture or I don't know, Poet Culture. In Shelley's time, poets were the "unacknowledged legislators of the world", but now it's the celebs who rule the airwaves. Given, though, that we must exist in Celebrity Culture, thank heaven for celebrities like Bob Geldof and Michael Sheen.

"I hate listening to myself, period. I hate pictures of myself and I won't listen to anything on television," was Geldof's endearing introduction to Meeting Myself Coming Back, a clever format for which radio is ideal. The idea is for John Wilson to play a selection of archive clips and then oblige the subject to meditate on them. What might for some celebs prove an invitation to hard-core narcissism, in Geldof was a revelation. Wise, self-searching, frankly even self-flagellating, the most affecting parts came when he talked about his childhood ("family dynamic was grim") and his turbulent private life.

Expressed in his trademark mordant tone ("I sound, as ever, ridiculous"), he relived his Band Aid experiences, recalling how Mother Teresa was a "wily old bird, very media hip" and at one point, on the subject of African slums, breaking down. "Listening to it now... " he stuttered, "you get overwhelmed with the analysis of why it should happen... but... it was unspeakable." Otherwise endlessly articulate, he spoke with an extraordinary poetry about the most difficult things. Of the death of Paula Yates he said, "I was beyond despair, the pain was beyond immensity, universes of grief, my head was crowded with loss." Such lyricism is a rare thing to hear on radio.

While sticking to my thesis that we are far too entranced by the meditations of actors, I have to admit that Michael Sheen is a fabulous exception to the rule. When 6Music got him to play DJ in A Month of Sundays, he came across not only as funny and intelligent, but as frankly a damn good DJ, riffing on Jack White of The White Stripes: "He has the whole history of rock music springing out of his fingertips" and introducing us to "the greatest singer in the world", Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Indeed he recalled how when listening to him in the car, he "reached almost a religious ecstasy", a level of enthusiasm you rarely hear from say, Chris Evans or Ken Bruce.

A few hundred years ago, singers were made of different stuff. Feathery stuff, in fact. In a genuinely eclectic and fascinating little documentary, The Bird Fancyer's Delight revealed how in the 18th-century birds were trained to sing specific dance tunes, like waltzes and gavottes, in order to act as avian record players. Musician Sarah Angliss unearthed a set of manuals on how to train the baby bird. "Begin with a two-month-old blackbird. He needs a moderate breakfast and supper and hang in his sight a lively worm as a reward for good behaviour." If prevented from hearing the songs of their own species, some birds turn to humans as the next best thing and will copy whatever they hear.

The European Bullfinch is the star. "They're highly motivated to get it right. They're like children learning a nursery rhyme; if they get it wrong, they go back and start it again," explained Professor Tim Birkhead, an expert in bird behaviour. "They become sexually imprinted on their owner. If I get this song right, you'll love me. It's a mutually reinforcing system." Utterly enchanting, and a little bit sad that 200 years of bird technology later, all we have now is Twitter.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us