Monday, December 13, 2010

At the moment, I am not very proud of the BBC at all

Some regular readers may have spotted that, in the last couple of years, I have developed a passing interest in English folk music. This is very largely down to a BBC local radio programme called Folkwaves, broadcast in a far away place called the the East Midlands. Two or three years ago, my knowledge of English folk music ran to a handful of Dylan records, a handful of Woody Guthrie records, and possibly a copy of The Big Huge. Stumbling on Folkwaves on what the presenters would doubtless call "t'internet" clued me in to what was out there -- and more importantly, to how many of the acts they played did gigs in small local venues. 

Someone called Spiers and Boden are doing a gig in the pub at the bottom of my street (the Croft) -- aren't they the ones that Mick and Lester interviewed, who sang that clever Robin Hood ballad? Better go along and hear them. Someone called Martin Simpson in a church hall in Southville -- isn't he the one who sings that song about his dad that Mick and Lester keep playing? That song that Mick and Lester keep playing about the guy who won't sell hs cottage to the man from London -- better find out if that singer sings anything else good. And don't Mick and Lester nag me every week to go and find some live music in my area?  Better give it a go.

The show covers the big names, of course, but it is long enough to cover lessor known singers, archive recordings and live perfomances which Mike Harding wouldn't go near. (Absolutely nothing against Mike Harding.) And it has that sort of shambolic intimacy which only local radio ever achieves: Mick and Lester have a nice line in banter, know what's going on in their local area, and are never phased when they accidentally put completely the wrong record on the CD player, or when the special guest doesn't show up because he can't find the studio. And of course, the whole point of radio is that you feel the presenter is talking directly to you; that you feel he's your friend.

So of course, the BBC has cancelled the programme (which has been going for about 25 years and had a worldwide reputation). 

There is apparently no place for "minority" interests like folk music on local radio. 


Save Folkwaves (facebook group)

"Without our stories or our songs / how will we know where we came from?"


The Quizzical Observer said...

Agree with all of that, and have blogged myself on the same subject tonight. The title of my post was less measured than yours :-)

Mike Taylor said...

I wish you'd blogged about the existence of this program before it got cancelled. I would have liked to listen to it.

NickPheas said...

I think I can sort of see their point. From the look of the various comments nae begger in Derby ever listens to this show. Which of course does not mean that it shouldn't be broadcast, but if at least explains why the people of Derbyshire might not want to fund it.

Andrew Rilstone said...

The "people" of Derby do NOT fund it. That isn't how local radio works. The BBC arse who keeps sending out form letters to complainants keeps talking about "the licence payers of Derby", appearing not to understand that, er, you don't need a licence to listen to the wireless.

I don't terribly care about Derby local radio; nor do I terribly care where or when Folkwaves is transmitted. The point is that Folkwaves is the only decent folk show on the BBC; the entirety of Radio 1, 2 and 3 (is Folk closer to pop, middle-brow or classical? discuss) can muster 1 hour of Mike Harding in a week. And it's suddenly not going to be there any more. I (seriously) feel bereaved.

The "people of Derbeyshire" have been funding it for 25 years, in any case. What has changed in the last fortnight?
Have the ratings suddenly dropped off? No: in fact the High Ups have made a policy decision that all specialist music (at present, that network has Folk on Monday, Country on Tuesday, Celtic on Wednesday, Jazz on Thursday and Asian on Friday) is to be culled from local radio.

To be replaced with -- what? It really does sound like the triumph of the bland, wall to wall Susan Wagner or whatever it is that the young people apparently think of as "music" nowadays.

And note that a very large proportion of Folkwaves is given over to local artists, and promotions of local gigs and sessions. WHICH IS WHAT LOCAL RADIO IS MEANT TO BE ABOUT.

The question which a "licence payer" like me wants to ask is: okay, the powers that be have decided that local radio can only be bland, sub-Alan Partridge pap: fair enough, maybe that's really what the good people of Derbey want: but having removed 10 hours of specialist music from one part of the network, where else on the network are you going to increase 10 hours of specialist music.

Because, yes, absolutely, the proper place for Mick Peat and Lester Simpson (as in "Coope, Boyes and") is not tucked away on a local chanel, but going out on a late nigh spot on Radio 2.

I swear. Anywhere else on earth, they'd have National Treasure status.

NickPheas said...

OK, 'funded' was the wrong word.

But yes, from the sound of it they should be on Radio 2, not tucked away in local radio.

Andrew Rilstone said... turns out that neither the two presenters, nor do-the-gig-guide-Nigel are actually paid. So it's not about money. It's about the BBC making a positive anti-folk [*] (and anti-jazz, and anti-country) policy.

[*] As opposed to Antifolk. I quite like Antifolk.

NickPheas said...

I expect there are quite significant costs to such things, especially broadcast rights.
Though if the record companies see the show as a publicity tool rather than a money making scheme of itself (it could happen) the the show could probably survive as a podcast.

Andrew Rilstone said...

No-ones claiming that it's free, although the man on facebook, who showed signs of knowing, says that the equipment is switched on and the building is heated whether they are making programmes or not, so the only cost is what he called "needle-time", which I take to mean "fees paid to record companies for playing their records." The point is that they'll still have to pay that with the replacement programme; their middle-of-the-road DJ will draw a salary; they'll have to pay the operators to screen the calls from listeners phoningin to say "Happen my road hasn't been gritter since 1887. It's political correctness gone mad, I tell you." They're not cutting the show because it's too expensive, or because it's not cost effective, they're cutting it because a High Up has decided that (as a matter of Policy) there is to be No Specialist Music On Local Radio (and no corresponding increase in specialist music on the national stations.) Which is, in my opinion, really shitty.