Magazine article The Spectator

Our Island Story

Magazine article The Spectator

Our Island Story

Article excerpt

Radio is a way of binding people together, says Lesley Douglas, former Controller of Radio 2 in a Guardian magazine cover-story this week celebrating the richness of British radio. It could be the answer to our editor s quest for what it means to be British, since 90 per cent of us are supposed to listen at some time to a radio station of some kind, whether it be local and illicit or the behemoths created by the BBC. Douglas was writing about what it takes to be a radio presenter. Unsurprisingly, she made no mention of either Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand (whose unruly antics cost her the job), but she concluded that the truly great radio voices, such as Terry Wogan, make the everyday better by talking about the mundane matters of his life and making them seem universal. Maybe that s why radio has become such an indelible part of our island story. It touches us as individuals but also draws us together in community, whether it be through a shared enthusiasm for hip-hop and Asian beats or for the dense thickets of ideas conjured up by Melvyn Bragg and his guests on In Our Time. It s almost impossible to spend a day without tuning in to something that will take you beyond the irritations of this life.

On Radio Four this week, the return of Sue MacGregor s The Reunion (Sunday) brought together five founder members of the National Theatre. We were like flies on the wall as they recalled working under Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic in the early Sixties. One night Maggie Smith had to die on stage as Desdemona in London and the next she was up north in Bradford trying to make the audience laugh as a character in Noel Coward s Hay Fever. We overheard Smith and co. giggling helplessly as they remembered the extraordinary production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun in which Derek Jacobi stood on stage, half-naked and covered in gold paint as an Inca. …

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