Monday, 27 July 2015

Radio Review: 24 July

WG Grace, Fiddler, Sinatra – the airwaves are packed

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176When radio presenter Stephanie Hirst announced in a moving interview with Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live last year that she was undergoing gender transition, her return to the wireless was only ever a matter of when and where.

And return she has, on Saturday nights at 10pm on BBC Radio Manchester, where she now hosts a cracking music show called Nothing But The 90s. As she’s one of those presenters who’s also an obsessive record collector, we can expect some delightful obscurities in future shows.

There’s plenty of humour too. She opened the first show with the briefest snippet of Man! I Feel Like A Woman! by Shania Twain, before cutting in with ‘Mmm, actually, on second thoughts’ and firing up Change by the Lightning Seeds instead.

Meanwhile, Craig Charles has most of the rest of Saturday 25 covered, with his usual Funk And Soul Show on 6 Music at 6pm and him deputising for Graham Norton on Radio 2 at 10am. On this week’s show, Phoenix Nights actor, renowned Les Dawson expert and comedian Justin Moorhouse is one of his guests, so that’ll be worth a listen.

Indeed, listeners are spoilt for choice on Saturday, with Radio 3 going to the Proms for a lavish Grange Park Opera production of Fiddler On The Roof starring Bryn Terfel with the BBC Concert Orchestra (7pm). As if that weren’t enough, Henry Goodman pops up at half-time to talk about the story behind the musical.

On Sunday 26 at 6pm, Radio 5 Louis Barfe Summer Blasts WG Grace, Fiddler, Sinatra – the airwaves are packed Live listeners can take a break from the Ashes and treat themselves to the story of WG Grace, ‘told by those who have studied, met and played with “The Champion”’. The programme marks 100 years since the legendary pogonophile Gloucestershire doctor died.

On Monday 27 at 9.30am, BBC Radio 4 Extra repeats Jack Dee’s 2012 programme about Gerard Hoffnung. Dee explores what he calls ‘one of the most unlikely comedy heroes of recent times’. A cartoonist and sometime tuba player with a crusted-port voice that made him sound at least twice his age (he was only 34 when he died of a brain haemorrhage), Hoffnung came to prominence on radio panel games.

He’s now best remembered for the story he told at the Oxford Union in 1958 about the unfortunate bricklayer locked in a battle for equilibrium with a barrel of bricks on a rope and pulley. Here, Dee explores the background to the story with the help of Hoffnung’s widow Annetta and long-time fan Ian Hislop.

Later that day, at 8pm on Radio 4, Today presenter Sarah Montague – no stranger to night work before the show goes on air at 6am – looks into The Night Shift. In particular, the programme investigates whether the human body really can adapt to shift work, or whether we are best off following conventional sleep patterns. Some studies point to higher rates of serious illness among shift workers.

Moving forward to the week after, my highlight of the Proms schedule is Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane going through the Sinatra songbook with the blooming marvellous John Wilson Orchestra. That’s on Radio 3 at 10.15pm on Friday 7 August. It’s on BBC4 as well, but I generally find the radio sound mix of any Prom to be preferable to that of the TV.

Also – and let joy be unconfined – a new series of Meet David Sedaris starts on Radio 4 on Thursday 30 at 6.30pm with a tale that promises to be decidedly lavatorial. You might be best advised not to eat while listening.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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