Sweetness and Light

By Louis Barfe

One good thing to come out of the Radio 2 schedule shake-up is Sara Cox becoming a regular evening presence. It’s a shame Jo Whiley had to budge up, but Cox is fab.

She’s fun, warm and intelligent. She was doing the show (weeknights, 10pm-midnight) from Birmingham last week in the lead-up to Radio 2’s ‘Biggest Weekend’. On Tuesday, she coped admirably with a complete absence of the 10pm news from London. ‘I do apologise to our lovely newsreaders in London,’ she said after a yawning gap of dead air.

‘Whoever was doing news, I reckon they’ve popped out for a pint and a cream cake.’ She had the town crier of Bromsgrove in, and fielded communications from listeners on the best things beginning with ‘c’ (for coventry) that had happened to them that day. One came from a girl who’d just started her GCSE's; Cox’s manner reminded me of Annie Nightingale on the old radio 1 Sunday-night request show, sympathising with teenagers doing their homework. Cox is that most agreeable of radio presenters, one who sounds as though she’s winging it but knows exactly what she’s doing. That makes her perfectly at home on a station that gave us Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce. Like them, Cox wears her true professionalism lightly and well. Cox had been preceded by Barry Manilow’s They Write The shows (Tuesdays, 9pm). Manilow laughs a little too much at his own jokes, but I’m assuming he’s just testing his face. It was tested fully by an astonishing selection from Coco, the 1969 musical by André Previn and Alan Jay Lerner about Coco Chanel, starring Katharine Hepburn, a non-singer. As Manilow explained, Rex Harrison had half-spoken the songs in Doctor Dolittle and Hepburn went a similar way. If you’re remotely intrigued, it’s all there on iPlayer.