Radio Review: 29 September

A look back at the Light Programme, and going dotty
Last week, during the first part of The Story of the Light (R2, available on iPlayer) Paul O’Grady gave me another reason to love him. He was talking about Sing Something Simple, and after acknowledging its importance in the Sunday evening schedules from 1959 to 2001, he admitted that he hated it, largely due to associations with homework doom. So did I, for similar reasons. Louis-Barfe-colour-176

The grimness of childhood Sundays lingers long into adulthood. The programme was a pleasant jaunt through the history of the Light Programme. However, at times, it sounded like the talking heads, who included Petula Clark, Ken Bruce and Judith Chalmers, had been primed to say things the producers needed rather than relaying their own thoughts and memories. Sadly, it’s increasingly common in documentary making. 

The 50th anniversary of Radio 2 celebrations are tinged with professional sadness for me. A while back, I thought the history would make an excellent subject for a book. My agent agreed, and I wrote a proposal, but several publishers said Radio 2 was ‘niche’. At 15 million listeners, that’s a pretty big niche. Oh well. I’m not bitter about it. Much. 

The fourth part of Join the Dots (R4, available on iPlayer) made me resolve to catch up with the rest of these 15-minute documentaries on the power of a simple mark. 

Janet Ellis, whom I’ve loved since she was on the brilliant children’s TV show Jigsaw, looked into Morse code and Braille. On one hand, the Titanic disaster could have been avoided if radio operators hadn’t been too busy sending passengers’ paid messages to hear iceberg warnings from other ships. On the other, without radio, it’s likely that nobody would have survived. Sobering.