Festive Essentials Wireless
Thursday, 12 December 2013

Festive Essentials Wireless

Take some time out for unmissable Christmas and New Year listening

Written by Louis Barfe
Drape the kitchen wireless in tinsel, the festive season is almost upon us. While Radio 2 should never have got rid of Russell Davies’s Song Show, it’s good that a berth has been found for the learned Dai in his new Monday-night, musically inclined interview show, Russell Davies With… On 16 December at 11pm, he meets Little Britain star Matt Lucas and I have a feeling that the ebullient Lucas will go well with the dry Davies. The following week, Dai is in conversation with Brian Blessed, a man who barely needs the radio to be heard nationally.

Also on Monday 16 December, at 11am on BBC Radio 4, the Greatest Living Englishman talks about his early experiences as a sound recordist for wildlife programmes, in David Attenborough: My Life In Sound. Meanwhile, between 4pm and 9pm on BBC 6 Music, Marc Riley meets some of the pioneers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and on Radio 4 at 10.45pm, the week’s Book At Bedtime begins. It’s a joyous slice of PG Wodehouse, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, in which Bertie Wooster takes to the countryside in search of a rest cure.


Moving forward to 21 December, the Saturday Drama on Radio 4 comes from the superb Cornwallbased Kneehigh theatre company’s The Wild Bride, a blues-tinged musical story of a young girl whose father accidentally sells her soul to the devil. Not having had a preview, I’m not sure how that could be done by accident. The following day on 6 Music between 4pm and 6pm, Jarvis Cocker welcomes Brian Eno back to the Sunday Service for a spot of a cappella singing. Cocker describes Eno’s visits as ‘like a little musical education where you’re guaranteed to hear something great you’ve never heard before’. This is a large part of what radio is about.

On Christmas Eve, the Carols From King’s at 3pm on Radio 4 are non-negotiable, while at 7pm on Radio 5 Live, Al Murray reconvenes his 7 Day Saturday associates Andy Zaltzman, Tiffany Stevenson and Kevin Day for a Christmas special of cutting-edge satire about festive TV and music. After that, at 8pm, switch over to Radio 2 for two hours of cosy radio with Sir Cliff Richard. He promises to talk about his early influences, his greatest moments on record and the music that keeps him interested today in his early middle age. I doubt he’ll mention how scary his fans are, though. Some of them would slit your throat to get a bit nearer to their hero.

In the same slot on the same station on Christmas Day, Barbara Windsor presents a history of pantomime called, Oh Yes It Is. For me, what makes the programme unmissable is that Babs talks to the great Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter, who, until he retired from panto a few years ago, was widely held to be the best dame in the business. Genius is a much-abused word, but I believe Baxter qualifies.


Throughout Christmas Day, Radio 4 Extra is paying tribute to Richard Briers with programmes including a 1978 special that The Good Life star made for Radio 4, talking about his favourite comedy moments, and a 1984 documentary he made about Tony Hancock. On Boxing Day, on Radio 2, the retiring but far-from-shy Dame Edna Everage serves up her Christmas Leftovers between 10am and noon.

Finally, on 27 December between 10pm and midnight, Katie Puckrik, ex-presenter of The Word (don’t hold it against her – she’s bright and funny), talks the Radio 2 audience through ‘yacht rock’. This is high-class adult-orientated rock with an impeccable production sheen – like Hall and Oates, the Alessi Brothers, Michael McDonald or Steely Dan, best heard on the deck of a very expensive boat. As a fan of both the genre and the presenter, this might end up being my highlight of the season.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: wireless@cheeseford.net

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