Radio review: Radio 1's Stories - Derry does harmony, but the undertones remain

 

The Undertones have earned a place in the history of Derry, so when a piece of music was sought with the aim of presenting a harmonious front to the world there was only one choice. Bring on the fiddles, the bodhrans and the pipe-band snare drums and let “Teenage Kicks” begin ....

In Radio 1's Stories , four Derry youngsters were given a week of training at the Radio 1 Academy, then a week to assemble a band representing both sides of the city's religious divide. They did it in the nick of time, and a fine noise it was, too.

The programme also explored Derry's vibrant musical scene and assessed the progress made in post-Troubles Ulster. The difference between the youths they spoke to in two community centres, one Protestant, one Catholic, and the musicians they were either recruiting or consulting, was striking. For the former, little or nothing has changed – the talk was of cages and peace walls and routine intimidation. The walls will be up "for another 40 years", one of them reckoned.

The musicians, possibly thanks to some intrinsic aspect of their calling, or perhaps simply because they've got something other than religious tribalism to occupy their hearts and minds, tended to see things differently. A member of the terrific experimentalists, The Japanese Popstars, saw plenty of common ground "if the Government do their job and make sure everyone's looked after". No problem there, then.

An intriguing idea in Radio 4's afternoon slot before The Archers was Mother Tongue Interference (Radio 4, Monday-Friday ***) described as "five short autobiographies in two languages", a slightly laboured way of saying people ensconced in Britain who were raised abroad. Gisela Stuart, born in deepest Bavaria, now MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, kicked off.

She told the tale of taking a phone call from a voter. "You're German." "Well, I've been here for 30 years …" "Doesn't matter, you're German." But she needn't have worried: the caller was a Labour voter and would remain so: "Me and my husband, we're worried about what's going on with law and order and we think no German will put up with it." I think that qualifies as a back-handed compliment.

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