Local Radio Folk

The whole folk club scene in Britain desperately misses the excellent BBC local radio programmes whose presenters not only read out the local folk diary, but also showcased the music of the guest artists passing through. RIP folk shows from BBC stations in Sheffield, Humberside, York, Newcastle, Derby/Nottingham, and I’m sure you can add to this list so feel free to in the comments. Plus the earlier loss of folk shows on commercial stations such as Radio Aire, Pennine Radio, Hallam and – again – many more you can name. It’s great that we do have some community stations broadcasting folk (Sheffield, Lincoln etc.) but these are not widely broadcast – though often can be heard via the internet.

Of course there are many good internet-only ‘radio’ shows (such as Mike Harding’s) but though these are great for hearing new and newly released music as well as old favourites, they are not geographically specific and therefore can’t promote a whole regional diary – plus, of course, they are often available via the net long after the original broadcast dates, so diaries are largely irrelevant.

When I was working for Yorkshire Folk Arts I was (professionally) involved in the protest/argument with the Yorkshire cluster of BBC stations when they axed Henry Ayrton’s show which was broadcast over the whole cluster from Humberside (having already amalgamated the Sheffield, Leeds and Humberside shows into one and lost the independent ones from Sheffield and Leeds). Effectively they were axing three shows at once though, of course, their argument was that it was only one show they were closing. After a 1000 signature petition and some face to face meetings with execs the regional deputy controller promised there would be a replacement show by the end of the year (2002 IIRC). That didn’t happen, though eventually the Durbevilles’ show emerged on Radio Leeds (not called a folk show, note). The other Yorkshire cluster stations remain folk-less to this day.

When I first started listening to folk back in the 1980s I could get a local folk show on most days of the week from BBC Sheffield (Bob Hazlewood), BBC Leeds (Bernie Parry), Bradford Pennine Radio (Nigel Schofield), Leeds Radio Aire (Dave Burland), BBC Humberside (Ray Williams and later Henry Ayrton) and Sheffield Hallam (I forget who, sorry). Now I can only get the Durbevilles on Radio Leeds on my radio. (Listening on the computer involves me being in my office, which is usually when I’m working, so not listening to radio as I can’t concentrate on two things at once.)

I do believe that the loss of so many folk shows on the BBC has had a detrimental effect on folk club attendance. Kudos to the excellent regional shows that still exist (Gen Tudor, Johnny Coppin etc.) but a big raspberry to the BBC regional clusters that have axed folk from their schedules. The BBC, funded by licence payers not by commercial sponsorship, has a duty of care to all its constituent listeners, including those who want to hear ‘minority’ music on the radio whether this is folk, jazz, country or ethnic/roots.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com).
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