5, 4, 3, 2, 1: all systems go

RADIO

IT IS sad to see Liz Forgan leaving. They said she would rule by ruthlessness, but her three years in charge of radio at the BBC have been characterised more by courage, determination and a redeeming humour. She has also been remarkably efficient. As a tribute to her skilful management, this column today assumes an unwanted air of organisation. Forget grumbling: here are the five national BBC stations at their best, in processional order. Well, that's the intention.

This week R1 gave us The Brits Abroad, an account of the murky marketing of pop records. For abroad read America where, since the days of Dickens, artists have had to tour to achieve sales. English pop stars are not much good at it. They dislike having to earn the advertising that wins air-time by being polite to endless corporate backers after gigs. The big schmooze sits uneasily with the cynical arrogance that often got the musicians noticed in the first place, but when Americans have no national radio stations to tell them what they should be buying there is no alternative.

Unless they turn and face east. Jo Whiley's instructive, entertaining programme ended with the success of Shampoo, a pair of blonde, outspoken girls who respect nobody. They are huge in Japan where, apparently, such behaviour is ecstatically received, and they are earning mega-yen. Jarvis Cocker should pay Japan a visit.

The best programme on R2 this week came from a delightful musician called Simon Mayor who was Marooned With a Mandolin. The mandolin is an instrument of surprising virtuosity. In a huge orchestra of Neapolitans, led by the splendidly named Signor Squillante, it can sound like the languorous tremolo heat of a thousand summer nights, but even on its own it can provide comfort - particularly if you get hold of the one that has been specially doctored. This fine instrument has a little door on the back with tiny brass hinges. Inside there is just room for 20 fags and half a bottle of Scotch.

R3 has been sending itself up again. John Morton (whose hilarious People Like Us is currently enjoying repeats on R4) wrote Mightier Than the Sword for four other Johns - Sessions, Fortune, Bird and Wells. They assemble, ostensibly to discuss great literature. The presenter Hugh Pankhurst (Ses- sions) is distracted by his collapsing marriage and becomes increasingly tearful as academics, producers and actors struggle manfully to discuss such monumental masterpieces as Virginia Woolf's Beyond The Shore, D H Lawrence's The Doctor's Daughter's Horse, Shakespeare's Folio, Prince of Jutland and Samuel Beckett's Getting On.

This last concerns characters called Velcro and Clod, permanently stuck in a revolving-door. Rebecca Front, as the naive, determined arts reporter, tries to interview the play's lascivious director, but he is far less interested in theatre than in her - or so we assume when he breathes, apropos of goodness knows what, "They really suit you". Eventually, he leads her astray to a cosy dinner.

This leaves us free to hear Pankhurst's anguished whispers about his wife's lover, who wooed her during a dulcimer-playing course in Totnes and calls himself a psychotherapist, though he used to be a driving-instructor. Momentous Beckettian lines constantly interrupt everyone - such mournful pensees as "My knees hurt", or "I've got some celery left". Each programme ended with the threat of T S Eliot next - eliciting almost suppressed groans. It was wonderfully, wonderfully funny.

R4, the housewife's best friend, produced many good things, among them a half-term treat for children. Joan Aiken's stories make perfect broadcasting. Beautifully written, they have an air of classic myth-making, and there was one nearly every morning. Monday's was The Winter Sleepwalker, read with gentle sensitivity by Lesley Manville. It told of a wood-carver who felled an ancient oak and was cursed to turn to wood the first object he touched on waking. Appalled at the risk to his daughter, he sent her to sleep in the barn, but she wandered at night and befriended a sleep- walking bear. Eventually, inevitably, she woke her father and suffered her fate and the poor man set out to find the bear. In the end, wooden girl and wooden bear were enshrined together in a snowy mountain cave.

There was no story on Thursday because of the wretched, domineering Cricket World Cup. Sport on radio is extraordinarily popular, though it leaves your reviewer colder than the weather. However, last Sunday's Baker and Kelly Up Front provided a snippet from R5 to end this round-up. Football fans were asked to phone in with stories about how they survived the "bundles" that, it seems, regularly follow all good matches. One caller had escaped from dangerously rioting crowds only by crawling away very slowly, safe and unassailable, under a milkfloat.

Radio 5 Live seemed, to many of us, a pretty hopeless idea at first, but Liz Forgan saw its potential and championed it. These days, even sportophobes are finding its news features and magazine programmes increasingly attractive.

In her statement to the press, Forgan said that she was leaving radio in strong form. It is true, and the strength of BBC network radio owes a lot to her vision. She will be seriously missed.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing