Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 21 September

Regional radio shows tell us all we need to know about their tiny pockets of the world

Written by Louis Barfe
A combined review and preview this week, as Radio In A Roundabout Way was transmitted originally on August Bank Holiday Monday but is getting another outing this coming Sunday. Before local radio reached the east of England, the area's interests – particularly agriculture and football - were served by a daily regional opt-out from the Today programme on Radio 4. For six years until 1980, Roundabout East Anglia built up a loyal audience.

The programme had its origins in a Saturday morning show called Happy Weekend, Everybody, hosted by Tom Edwards, who admitted that while the title was twee, the idea of a former pirate radio DJ playing Bill Haley on Radio 4 was appealingly rebellious. Then, in 1970, came a daily regional news programme called This Is East Anglia, much more Home Service in tone.

Finally, in 1974, came Roundabout East Anglia. The documentary contains stories from presenters Stuart Jarrold, Ellis Hill and John Mountford, as well as numerous people who worked behind the scenes. During one snowdrift, Mountford had to be ferried to the studios on his neighbour's tractor.

I was particularly amused by the revelation that taped reports moved into the next pay bracket at 3 minutes 15 seconds and 3 minutes 45 seconds. Freelancers would routinely supply tapes that ran for 3:16 or 3:46, only to fi nd them edited to 3:14 or 3:44 in order to save a few quid.

The real triumph is the archive material that was found by narrator/producer Paul Hayes. The survival rate for network news programmes is spotty, and worse for a regional show. So, Hayes did well to locate tapes kept privately by staff and listeners, clips from which illustrate why Roundabout East Anglia was so popular. It was particularly lovely to hear the late Norfolk radio legend Roy Waller when he was just the AA man who read out the traffic news.

It's a fascinating programme made with care, as I'd expect from BBC Radio Norfolk. Living in north Suffolk for the last decade, it's been my preferred radio station. At its best, it has wit and personality. Some presenters I can't bear, but that's what the tuning dial is for. Now, I'm moving to the Cotswolds, and I shall have to see if I develop a similar loyalty to BBC Radio Bristol or BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

Radio In A Roundabout Way, BBC Radio Norfolk, Sunday at 1pm.

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