Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Article excerpt

For once, the superlatives that have greeted Terry Wogan's death from cancer have been entirely in keeping with the man. He did truly touch the lives of millions, understanding that the essence of radio, what makes it so individual among technologies, is the way it connects us, person to person, in a single moment of time. Wogan had the knack of making us believe that we were having a private conversation with him in that moment. In his own way he was also an artist, of language, of the music of words, of radio itself, constantly surprised by the strangeness of strangers, the oddities of everyday life, the idiocy that lurks beneath most big organisations.

Long before Twitter or Facebook, he understood back in the 1970s that for his breakfast show on Radio 2 to have a real impact he needed to create a kind of continuous conversation with his listeners from day to day. Not just by establishing his own inventive running gags but by getting them to send in their thoughts, happenings, comments. Wogan fed off his listeners, his 'TOGs' as they liked to be known, his 'Old Geezers and Gals' (among whom no less than the Queen was proud to number herself). And they in turn fed off him, wanting more of him and less of the music, so appealing was his take on life, his irreverent commentary on the news and on what they had sent him in sackfuls of post.

'You have allowed me to share your lives with you,' he told us tearfully in his farewell broadcast on Radio 2 in 2009 (he carried on with a weekend show until last November). And he did, reading out his listeners' messages, chatting with them on air, making them feel as important as he was himself. That was his enduring appeal; you never felt he was talking himself up or taking the mickey for the sake of a soundbite or a bit of self-promotion. It was all about cheering up the world not by avoiding its ugliness but by providing the most important antidote: unaffected, straight-from-the-heart, person-to-person communication.

Just to prove that there are many different ways of carving out a career on radio, one of Wogan's fellow-presenters at Radio 2, Vanessa Feltz, was a guest on A Good Read this week (Radio 4, Tuesday). Feltz has her own ardent band of listeners, drawn in by her energy, her motormouth style, never lost for a word, always willing to use ten words where one is quite sufficient. Her effervescence is catching, if at times a little exhausting, as is her quick-witted way of looking at the world. …

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