Sunday 25 August 2019

Radio review: There's more to life than being popular

George Hook
George Hook

Eilis O'Hanlon

Radio is just people talking. Budget is no restraint. That makes it ideally suited to tackling a range of thought-provoking issues.

This week, for example, George Hook spoke to Professor Frank Furedi on High Noon about the increasing stress reportedly being felt by students.

Furedi felt that "medicalising" young people only exacerbated the problem. Stress is normal. Colleges were simply treating them like children by opening special 'de-stressing rooms' in the style of nurseries. Young people in work don't get this treatment. Why should students?

On her self-titled morning show on the UK's talkRADIO, Julia Hartley-Brewer was talking with fellow journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown about a new list of the most influential women, as compiled by BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Both agreed that this year's list was particularly "laughable", including as it did the "needy, needy, needy", not to mention fictional, Bridget Jones. Alibhai-Brown saw this as another example of the "fall into populist culture. Everyone wants to be frightfully cool, even Woman's Hour wants to be cool. You don't have to be cool."

By contrast, faced with an abundance of possible talking points, both home and abroad, Tuesday's Liveline opened with a man whose phone had been stolen at Dublin Airport. Whether the interest was meant to be that the culprit was in her 70s, or that she was a Romanian, was unclear; but phones get stolen every day. It's really not that enthralling.

Radio 4 Desert Island Discs is another show that has succumbed to pop culture. Indeed, when future historians try to date when the rot set in to western civilisation, they'll surely pinpoint the moment that guests on the show began to choose pop rather than classical music.

Last week's castaway was TV presenter Davina McCall, and she had a fascinating tale to tell of the difficult relationship with her neglectful, alcoholic mother.

As a child, Davina once nearly drowned in the sea and had to be rescued by a passerby; she never even bothered to tell her mum. Later, she tried to patch things up by inviting her mother to her wedding. Said mother took private pictures and sold them to a tabloid.

Unfortunately, hearing her story meant ploughing through the usual ropey pop tunes. Stuck for ever on a desert island, how often could you really listen to Funkadelic's One Nation Under A Groove without going stark, staring mad?

On Mooney Goes Wild on RTE Radio 1, finally, Derek played a long clip of Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed A Dream on Britain's Got Talent, then said: "And if you're wondering what that has got to do with the next item, well, recently I met a woman who has big dreams."

This was West Cork forestry worker Imogen Rabone, who is behind a plan to plant one million trees across Ireland in a single day. Interesting woman, great cause, but what a truly awful introduction.

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