The Week in Radio: When a chat queen became the toast of 'Radio Bloke'

 

It's fair to say that when Radio 5 Live was born, I wasn't its target listener. I was barely interested in the news unless it had to do with the government threatening my fondness for empty warehouses pumping out house music to crowds of gurning loons on a Saturday night, and sport wasn't my thing either.

More importantly, I was – and still am, come to think of it – an owner of ovaries. This remains something of a disadvantage when looking for decent daytime radio programming but in the Nineties rendered you all but invisible. Not for nothing was 5 Live called “Radio Bloke”.

I've grown up since then and so, thankfully, has the network.

Last Friday marked the culmination of its birthday celebrations with 5 Live at 20, an hour-long nostalgia-fest, which was essentially an aural collage of past programmes covering the major milestones of the past 20 years. Starting with the first utterances of presenter Jane Garvey as she introduced Morning Reports, followed by some hideous attempts at conveying an atmosphere of excitement – “the joint is jumping” said Peter Allen, hopefully – it went on to ridicule various presenters' trepidation about new technology. The advent of texting – the new medium through which listeners were encouraged to offer feedback – seemed to bring about a special kind of dread.

A reminder of the channel's sporting emphasis came early on in archive football commentary from David Mellor and Mark Pougatch, both adopting that curiously high-pitched tone redolent of men whose privates are being held in a half-nelson.

There were births, marriages and deaths, the latter most chillingly seen in the coverage of the New York terrorist attacks in 2001, during which a witness paused to comment on the beautiful sunset that framed the plumes of smoke coming from the wreckage of the World Trade Centre.

Elsewhere, there were outbreaks of war and declarations of peace; political break-ups and make-ups; natural disasters and man-made catastrophes. There was also an unnecessarily lengthy boast of all the exotic locations from which 5 Live presenters have reported, a segment designed to make even the most benign licence-fee payer feel bitter.

But while there was plenty to make you cringe – a discussion about the Queen Mother's appearance after she had died was all kinds of wrong – the station's unrivalled skill with rolling news was undeniable.

In an era when news coverage is expected to be instant, and when 91 per cent of the adult population is now listening to radio via assorted mediums, 5 Live's function has never been clearer.

One of the jewels in the station's crown is Victoria Derbyshire's show, which flips the bird at the lowest-common-denominator conventions of the phone-in and approaches difficult subjects with intelligence and restraint. One of its most remarkable contributors has been Rachel, an anaesthetist and alcoholic who called in three years ago to tell Derbyshire that she was about to go into rehab. Then, live on air, she cracked open a fresh can of Guinness.

On Friday, as part of the birthday celebrations, a sober and clear-headed Rachel took calls from listeners. Several thanked her for throwing their own problems into relief, and voiced their gratitude to the show for addressing the problem of alcoholism so boldly.

It was all immensely affecting, both for listeners and for Rachel who, not that long ago, was struggling stay alive. Now thanks to her and Derbyshire, there were several recovering alcoholics now toasting the show from afar with nothing more alarming than an orange juice.

Twitter.com/FionaSturges

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
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.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits