Who are radio's hottest new talents? Meet Beryl Renwick and Betty Smith (combined age: 176)
Forget talk shows – natter is where it's at. Adam Sherwin tunes in to the BBC Humberside double act that took the industry's top gong
Adam Sherwin is Media Correspondent at The Independent and an award-winning writer who specialises in covering the entertainment, broadcasting, music and popular culture industries. Previously Media writer and diarist at The Times, he was a co-founder of the Beehive City media and entertainment website. As regular contributor to BBC London 94.9 Radio station, he was named Music Business writer of the year at the awards of influential music industry site Record of the Day in 2006.
Tuesday 15 May 2012
Beryl and Betty do not deliver stereotypical DJ one-liners. Nor are they hip young things waxing lyrical about the latest chart sensation. When these ladies get chatty on the mic, their cackling banter veers from memories of wartime rationing to lustful thoughts about Michael Bublé.
Last night, Beryl Renwick, 86, and Betty Smith, 90, became the oldest winners of a Sony Radio Academy gold award, beating the BBC 6 Music duo Adam & Joe and the comedian Frank Skinner to the prize. They were the surprise winners at the UK "radio Oscars" when their cult show on BBC Humberside claimed the Best Entertainment Programme prize, previously awarded to Chris Evans and the scandalous Russell Brand.
Their break came after David Reeves, a BBC producer, overheard their chirpy chat when they joined a tour of the Hull studios six years ago. Searching for a different voice for the Humberside station, he offered them their own show.
Their weekly 6pm Saturday programme now has an audience of 20,000 but the DJs pay little heed to radio convention. They cheerfully talk over jingles and offer teasing opinions on the contemporary pop they are required to play (Madonna has "two left legs", Betty recently observed).
The conversation frequently turns to the sex appeal of younger men – in particular the Canadian crooner Bublé. Beryl disclosed on air: "If he was in the studio now, I'd put me arms round him and give him a squeeze, I'll tell you."
But Beryl and Betty, who co-present with Reeves, are also encouraged to give an insight into Humberside's history. A recent conversation reminisced about the price of sugar during the Second World War. Asked about their trip to the Grosvenor House hotel in London for last night's glamorous ceremony, hosted by Chris Evans and featuring live performances by Jessie J and Gary Barlow, Betty said: "It's quite a do, isn't it?"
The judges praised "a joyous, entertaining double act" who "give a voice to a sector of society unrepresented on radio". Their mix of music and cheeky humour is a hit with children as well as adults and is set to find a national audience through the BBC iPlayer. Beryl said the show's success was because "there's nothing else like it on the radio, anywhere: two ladies, talking. And we do talk about everything".
The grey power theme at this year's Sonys continued with Nicholas Parsons, 88, who has hosted Radio 4's panel show Just A Minute since 1967, receiving the lifetime achievement award.
BBC 6 Music, the digital station threatened with closure under cost-saving plans, celebrated a spectacular turnaround after winning the top prize, for UK Station of the Year.
The Best Comedy award went to the Radio 4 series, Mark Steel's In Town, in which the Independent columnist visits communities across Britain and creates a show for a local audience.
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