The Ballad of the Miners' Strike, Radio 2

Coal-war voices bring a lump to the throat

On the Home Service in the Fifties and Sixties, Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker put together a series of "Radio Ballads" in which different communities were portrayed through interviews and the songs inspired by them.

Over the past few years the formula has been repeated on Radio 2, on such subjects as the decline of shipbuilding and steel, the Troubles, fox-hunting, living with HIV, and Britain's fairground community. Now the 25th anniversary of the end of the miners' strike has been marked with an astonishing piece of work.

The reporter Vince Hunt conducted interviews up and down the country, with policemen – "I wonder, could they ever forgive the police for what we did to them?" – and scabs – "walking by friends, that was the hardest thing" – as well as the strikers and their wives. These were fed to folk musicians, who wove sad, beautiful songs from them. "The Ballad of the Miners' Strike" was stuffed with fantastic lines. "It was the nearest this country has ever been to civil war since 1641 to 1649," one miner said. "It's just a shame we didn't have anyone's head to chop off at the end of it."

The wives responded with strength and resourcefulness. "We were expected to go back to normal [afterwards]," said one. "But I'd forgotten what normal was. I stayed in the new world and that's why I became a councillor ... I'm still proud of what I can do as a local person in politics." But the tone was elegiac rather than bitter: "It was the most exciting thing that ever happened in my life," another wife said.

The programme was rounded off with a mournful, minor-key rendition of "Here we go, here we go" with a brass-band setting. I listened for most of the hour with a lump in the throat. It was, simply, one of the best radio programmes I've ever heard.

To my shame, as a radio critic, I'd never listened to the Asian Network before the recent bad news that, along with 6 Music, it's looking down both barrels. Having gone some way to rectify that, I can report that it's brisk, informative and a card-carrying Good Thing. A typical day includes Sonia Deol's magazine programme, Nihal's lively phone-in, and in the evening a two-hour programme in Mirpuri. It's clearly a niche market, but there are more than 2 million people of Asian extraction in Britain, so it clearly deserves a place in the BBC.

Odd, then, that I've seen no big campaigns to save it, unlike 6 Music, where the spirit of John Peel lives on. The past week's highlights included Jarvis Cocker's delightful Sunday show, and Huey Morgan, just about outdoing him in the laconic-delivery department. Lauren Laverne's morning show is eminently listenable to, as is Nemone's, though the grating George Lamb lets the side down badly. In the evening there's been a welcome repeat of Don Letts' 2006 series about the reggae label Trojan.

Both stations perform undeniably valuable services, and the probable decision to axe them is shameful – a cringing, humiliating bowing-down to pressure from Murdoch and the Tories. The message is loud and clear: if you care a jot about the BBC, don't vote Conservative.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?