A concrete love affair

By PhotoIain

Happy World Radio Day 2022

World Radio Day is an annual UNESCO initiative to highlight the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together across every corner of the globe. In this 11th year the 2022 World Radio Day theme is devoted to “Radio and Trust”, with a focus on trust in journalism, accessibility and viability of radio stations.

Last years WRD musing were very much focussed on what radio had meant during the most difficult of times (1). I imagined Australian families being forced to flee from the fire fronts of the New South Wales and Victoria bushfires and, thanks to ABC’s completely essential coverage, radio’s incomparable resilience provided people’s only and very vital link to the world beyond (2). Closer to home I discussed how, in March 2020, thanks to the mediums stunning ubiquity, radio linked people in need with offers of help and how it brought a sense of community and shared experience to a world in isolation and lockdown. During those truly dreadful times, I think trust in radio and trust in its journalism proved vital, enabling so many people to hear much needed and trusted information in its most immediate and accessible form. Thankfully the outlook is starting to be more positive, vaccinations have been rolling out and restrictions are beginning to ease in many places. 

This year I wanted to talk about an aspect of radio I’ve particularly enjoyed in the last 12 months which is the curation. A survey commissioned for World Radio Day 2022 by the manufacturer Pure Radio (3) found that on average Brits discover 8 new artists each year via radio, well I think for me - without exaggeration - it might be more like 10 times that figure! 

Whether it’s Alexis Ffrench on Sunday afternoon Scala Radio or Mary Anne Hobbs BBC Radio 6Music's mid-morning show, whether it’s ‘Night Tracks’ on BBC Radio 3 presented by Hannah Peel or it’s sister show ‘Unclassified’ presented by Elizabeth Alker, or maybe even a Ben Böhmer BBC Radio 1 ‘Essential Mix’ hosted by DJ legend Pete Tong - it’s been an extraordinary year of new music discoveries. What I’ve enjoyed most from discovering this music first and foremost via radio is hearing the stories behind the music. Streaming is amazing, but what you don’t get is the joy of hearing a well informed and passionate presenter introducing and contextualising the music they are taking the time too curate. 

Take American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre who recently guest curated late-night Scala Radio show ‘The Space’. Some extraordinary stories shared, and his passion for the music incredible, imparting to the audience how how his “Deep Field” work and the Virtual Earth Choir was put together with a prescient mention of the stunning James Webb Space Telescope. I guess you could find all this on YouTube or Wikipedia but it would lack the immediacy of hearing it directly from the composer and you would certainly miss the serendipity of learning something new entirely unexpectedly.   

I’ve also been a big fan of BBC Radio 3’s Night Tracks, particularly when composer Hannah Peel is presenting. Hannah has such a talent for finding extraordinary music which is inspired by and connects strongly with specific localities, be it the isolation of Suffolk’s Orford Ness, the topography of Yorkshire, the heritage of the Orkney Isles or a midnight walk around Paris. Listening late at night, probably trying to get to sleep, I find radio has a transportive affect I can so easily imagine actually being at the places Hannah so poetically describes - particularly useful when travel has been so reduced due to the pandemic. 

Hannah’s beautiful links on Radio 3 also link in really beautifully with the connection I feel radio has with geography - which I would say was in fact my first contact with the medium. Fond memories of old style 1980’s Vauxhall in-car radios, an FM signal metre on the new digital display which would ebb and flow in line with the changing topography as my Dad drove us around the country. 

Of radio I love the history, I love its remarkable ubiquity and I love it’s incomparable resilience. I love the technology whether its AM, FM, DAB, podcasts, streaming or Spotify, and I love how this technology is always progressing. I love how you can pause and rewind live radio via the BBC Sounds app and listen again anywhere anytime. I love the content and I love so many of the characters who’ve graced our airwaves over the years, I love commercial radio just as much as I love public service broadcasting. I love the architecture, the infrastructure, even the boring technical and regulatory stuff. Most of all I love the serendipity you find after tuning in or loading up the app and still finding myself - on an absolutely daily basis - surprised, enlightened or entertained thanks to this truly wonderful medium.

What ever way you’re celebrating, wishing you a very Happy World Radio Day 2022!

1: https://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2807195780010478539
2: https://radioinfo.com.au/news/bushfire-research-shows-abc-radio-highly-trusted-and-saves-lives/ 
3: https://radiotoday.co.uk/2022/02/pure-radio-commissions-new-research-on-radio-listening/ 

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