The week in audio: International Women’s Day; The Last Bohemians; tonight with Andrew Marr | Radio
International Women’s Day Scala Radio, BBC Radio 3, BBC 6 Music
The Last Bohemians hutch house
Tonight with Andrew Marr AML
International Women’s Day last Tuesday, and radio stations filled the airwaves with music and interviews with ‘queens’, ‘pioneers’ and ‘inspirational’ women; it’s all great, but it makes me wonder if those of us who get confused aren’t gorgeous at all. Women must always look fantastic, even on IWD. It’s often said, but we’ll know we’re equal once a woman is allowed to be as mediocre at her job as a middle-aged white man. As for being rewarded with a knighthood for being fired… no one would want a world where that could happen. Oh.
Anyway. Scala Radio, which always features an admirable array of female composers and musicians, had a good week. Simon Mayo, a natural feminist ally, was more relaxed than ever, highlighting Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s birthday; Penny Smith had an interview with soprano Gabriella Di Laccio. The station also brought back She marksthe Sunday night show featuring female film, television and video game composers.
Radio 3, which also has a fairly good gender balance, pulled out all the stops: premiering Maddalena Casulana’s Lost Madrigals of 1583, exploring the sisters in free thought, and featuring female composers during a lunchtime live concert. This committed focus on women’s work in classical music is incredibly interesting. The station also made some cute short videos highlighting the different roles of women behind the scenes; encouraging things when you remember that just 10 years ago, only 1% of radio writers nationwide were women.
6 Music has long had two women set up in the morning, Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs, who both regularly play music created by women; so, despite the station’s promotion of International Women’s Day, both shows sounded like they always do—that is, as great as ever. Hobbs provided my full on “Hooray, women are awesome!” moment, playing PJ Harvey’s wild and hilarious 50ft Queenie straight into the crazy scales of Anna Meredith’s Sawbones. Sometimes the spoken word isn’t enough, just a huge shout to the sky.
For something smarter than screaming at the sky, you can try the first episode of the third series of The Last Bohemians. Kate Hutchinson’s interview podcast is always worth listening to, and it kicks off with a doozy: brilliant artist Maggi Hambling. Hambling, an iconoclast from her wild hair to her cigarette butt, is a quote-and-boo machine, and she didn’t disappoint. At some point his phone rang. Its ringtone was God Save the Queen, played on the trumpet. Hutchinson, who did well not to laugh, asked Hambling: “Are you a royalist, Maggi? “Of course,” Hambling said casually, and she immediately reverted to her stories of “drugs, lots of queer stuff,” debauchery, and art.
Like many older interviewees, she has a habit of repeating entertaining but well-worn anecdotes, but Hutchinson did a good job of cornering her. When Hambling trotted out a familiar quote about his lover Henrietta Moraes – “I have become her subject rather than her mine” – Hutchinson asked what she meant and got a touching story about Moraes’ death. We should all be more Hambling, I think: saved by his work, full of doubts but moving on. “I refuse to be told what to do,” she said. Amen.
Make way for LBC, which hasn’t done much for IWD (aside from Shelagh Fogarty, its daytime hosts have long been decidedly male). Monday, another guy – Andre Marr – started his new hour-long show in the evening. It’s strange. Marr, who came to LBC with Rob Burley, editor of his former BBC TV programme, simply transplanted a TV show to radio. If you watch him, he’s sitting at a semi-circular table, giving his opening links (Autocued) straight into the barrel of a camera, cutting through footage of parliament or Ukraine. Fine: but many of us want to listen rather than watch, and Marr’s tone sounds manic to anyone expecting the radio. Television is to broadcast to the nation; radio is all about talking to one person. Marr’s energy is a bit the Day by day for us listeners, and he sounds really crazy when he talks about news or travel.
A few other points. It’s ridiculous to invite reporters of the caliber of fellow presenters Camilla Tominey (Monday) and Pippa Crerar (Tuesday) over the entire hour-long program and only have them say a few things. The show is very politico-celebrity – Michael Gove on the first night, Jeremy Hunt the next – which adds status but not much warmth. No listener calls, not even a tweet is read. In short, it’s very old BBC, which clearly has its merits but which is shocking after the daytime schedule of LBC.
The station’s USP is feisty, informed and welcoming with presenters who can stick to the schedule while including listeners and never appearing frantic. Marr has yet to acquire all of these attributes. His show feels foreign, though it is clearly meant to usher in the television era of LBC; the brilliant Iain Dale, after Marr, now also hosts at the semi-circular table and delivers some of his links to the camera. Luckily, Dale is such a pro that you can’t notice him when you’re listening. Sure, Marr will be settling into his new show, but there are already plenty of great radio hosts doing TV (Eddie Mair and James O’Brien in particular), as LBC well knows. Victoria Derbyshire could do this show standing on its head and involving the listeners as well.