I love radio. I rarely watch TV these days. It has to be something special to make me turn the box on and that’s usually a Doctor Who!
(And yes I am sorry Peter Capaldi is going – I’ve liked an older Doctor being in charge of the Tardis. That’s nothing against David Tennant, Matt Smith of Christopher Ecclestone, all of whom were great, but for a Time Lord meant to be over 900 years old, having an older actor playing the role fits).
I also love watching the Proms, especially the Last Night, but in more recent years I have been tuning in to the radio far more often to pick up my “proms fix”. And thanks to BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, I have managed to “attend” more concerts (and from all parts of the world) than I could manage, even if time, money and convenience of locations weren’t all factors to consider too. There is much to be said for radio!
Most of my favourite comedies come from radio. My Top 10 would be:-
- The Goon Show
- Just A Minute
- I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue
- The Castle – a superb send-up of all that is medieval.
- Dad’s Army (though it is marvellous TV too).
- Elvenquest (a must for all fantasy fans but sends up enough I think it would appeal to others too. If you know the basics of The Lord of the Rings, you’ll get the jokes here. Alistair McGowan plays The Dark Lord but there is more than a hint of a camp and it is all huge fun).
- Round the Horne
- Hut 33 – a comedy based around the Bletchley Park codebreakers and very funny. Lots of class jokes.
- Milton Jones – king of the one liner. Have loved all his series.
- News at Bedtime with Jack Dee and Peter Capaldi. Send-up of the Today Programme/PM.
It’s good to see Just a Minute is now in its 50th year with Nicholas Parsons still at the helm and still at the butt of the jokes. That is the role of the Chairman!
And I’m glad the BBC have woken up and realised if you give people a channel with repeats they actually want (hello, Radio 4 Extra!), then people will tune in. Some of the shows I list above originate from before I was born or from when I was far too young to have heard/appreciated them first time around, but thanks to Radio 4 Extra, I have come to love many shows I would not have heard otherwise.
I’ve also appreciated the James Bond stories adapted for radio (they work surprisingly well) though one of my favourite dramas has been a short (15 minutes) play called My Three Ladies. This is a ghost story starring Paul Darrow as King Henry VIII being haunted before his own death by Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Katherine Howard. Very creepy. The tension is built up as Henry tries to dismiss what is happening but is unable to do so. Very well written. Excellent use of sound effects to create the right atmosphere and it would all have been achieved relatively cheaply too. Older sci-fi fans will remember Paul Darrow as Avon from Blake’s 7.
I’ve also developed a liking for Dorothy L. Sayers’s famous detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, thanks to hearing the radio adapations. Ian Carmichael played the title role and my favourite of these, The Nine Tailors, has a distinctly creepy feeling to it. Again the use of sound effects was really well done. I don’t know what it is about sound/music that can trigger the imagination so well, but trigger it, it does.
And of course I found one of my favourite books, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, thanks to the radio adaptation. It really is a simple adaptation. The book is read with some music at appropriate junctures and a beautiful theme, The Princes in the Tower, by William Walton. The radio series had me hooked the first time I heard it and is the only radio series to make me want to go and get the book it was based on.
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop is world famous for the quality and range of its recordings. They did a lot of work for The Goons, as well as even more famously for Doctor Who with Delia Darbyshire’s iconic theme. It is incredible to think what sounds they could create when assisting Spike Milligan and company in the 1950s. Necessity really is the mother of invention, it would seem, and if this was the Radiophonic Workshop’s unofficial motto, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
The huge advantage of radio is having it on in the background while working away. You do take in more than you might think, or at least I find I always have. And when my mother was in a specialist dementia home, one of the loveliest things was the residents had a radio in their rooms. It was switched on and off for them but, especially when illness meant they had to be confined to their rooms, as was the case for the last couple of months of my mother’s life, her radio was tuned in to Radio 4, Solent or Radio 3. My mother would have been very happy to listen to any of these. Going into her room to visit and hearing the radio on made the room feel more like a room rather than a place to visit. There is something comforting about radio at times.
So I very much hope that as TV figures continue to decline (lack of imagination in what they produce now? Where are the Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who of this generation?), I trust people will turn to radio. All life is there!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.