Back in November 2012 I wrote a blog about my love of radio – “Turn on, tune in, but don’t drop out”. The blog was loosely connected to the 90th anniversary of BBC Radio and my scary realisation that I had been listening for about half of those years. I made a reference to “apps available for those of you with smart phones”, a gadget which I didn’t have at the time. But now I do and I realise that as a result my listening habits are evolving. More of that shortly.
Yes, I still love my two internet radios which have opened up a world, literally, of possibilities of listening pleasure. And still my favourite station is Radio Caroline, this year celebrating its, I should say her, 50th birthday.
I still listen to FM radio, particularly for BBC Radio Orkney’s daily broadcast, and for BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4. Sometimes I listen to DAB digital radio and just occasionally good old AM. Remember AM? Or, as it was called years ago, medium wave? Medium wave. It sounds like an unenthusiastic greeting from a distance. “I saw Jim in the high street, can’t stand that man, I just gave him a medium wave.”
Truth be told, there’s not much on AM here in Orkney: we can receive BBC Radio 5 Live, just about, but not Talksport, otherwise there are a few Scandinavian stations and, at night in the winter, you would once have heard the mighty Radio Luxembourg on 208 metres. Remember that? If so, you are older than you are letting on. The last time I was able to check the transmitter is now hired out to China Radio International at night.
But now my smart phone is opening up an even bigger world of listening possibilities. Or perhaps a solar system of possibilities. Or perhaps I’m stretching this simile a little far. Snap, yes, there it goes.
Through my smart phone I’ve discovered the joys of TuneIn Radio, SoundCloud, MixCloud and a renewed interest in BBCiPlayer Radio. In fact, these clever little apps are also available on traditional computers.
TuneIn Radio allows me to listen, broadly, to the same radio stations as on my internet radio. But here is the really clever bit. Pay a small one-off fee – just £2.49 – and you get TuneIn Radio Pro which allows you to record programmes to listen at your convenience, or to keep for repeated listening.
One show I like to catch is Steve Conway on 8 Radio, an Irish radio station. He was one of the final DJs on the offshore Radio Caroline and had to leave the ship, Ross Revenge, in a frightening storm after she ran aground on the Goodwin Sands.
Steve is now working through a mammoth task. He presents The A-Z of Great Tracks each Wednesday at 8.00pm, and Saturday at 10.00am (all times UK). Last night he was eight weeks into songs beginning with B (they included Best Of My Love and Bette Davis Eyes), and Steve reckons he has another 13 or 14 weeks of B to go. He must have spent hours pulling this personal A-Z together. Wonderful.
Another show I recorded on TuneIn until recently was Radio Seagull’s Graham Lovatt but Graham has moved – and his show is available on-demand through something new to me, Mixcloud.
How do I explain Mixcloud? Their website proclaims: “Re-think Radio” and “Listen to the best DJs and radio presenters in the world”. It is a streaming service but instead of non-stop music it hosts shows presented by DJs.
Actually, that was fairly easy to explain but how about Graham’s show? Words are not enough, you need to hear it… It is called The Eclectic Eel Radio Show and I suppose you might say it is somewhat in the spirit of John Peel shows but more wide-ranging, and featuring old, sometimes very old, material along with the new.
Earlier in the year Graham described one of his shows with these words on Twitter: “”Hip-hop, Electronica, Musique Concrete, Rocksteady, Haitian jazz, R&B, Bossa Nova, Hindi Disco & Catherine Deneuve!” What more can I say? Fantastic.
Of course, once you start exploring these less well-known radio shows, who knows where you might end up? I think it was a recommendation of Graham to tune in to Alex Holmes who presents two programmes on Frome FM, in Somerset, England – Open Studio and Homely Remedies.
Alex’s shows are warm and relaxed, there is usually a live guest, the music is sometimes acoustic, sometimes electronic, very often there is nothing you have heard before. On a recent show I particularly enjoyed Blind River Scare and Keith Christmas, and will be purchasing their music as a result.
And, to declare an interest, Alex’s Frome FM programmes have featured two tracks by Mrs Brown, better known as Kathie Touin, Season Of The Raven and Adam’s Kiss.
But I also mentioned SoundCloud. Well, you could spend all day listening to this. For a start, it is where BBC Radio Orkney programmes are posted in case you miss them. And BBC Radio Shetland does the same – so I was able to listen to the RSPB’s Helen Moncrieff present the station’s latest request show at the end of Shetland Nature Festival.
Among the many contributors to SoundCloud are The Economist magazine, Motor Sport magazine, National Public Radio from the USA, Penguin books, Orcadian musician Fiona Driver, and RTE, the Irish broadcaster.
Earlier this year RTE posted a magical programme from their Documentary On One strand – Sister Brid Is Heading For High Places. It followed a 65-year-old nun, Sister Brid, who had lost her sight, taking part in a charity challenge to climb Mount Brandon in Kerry. As she walked and climbed, those around her described the scenery but it was Sister Brid’s insights into life that gave the programme its vision. Beautiful.
I could go on – as you may have noticed – it’s worth another plug for my friend Alan Waring, mentioned in my previous radio blog, who presents a splendid weekday community breakfast show on Biggles FM; a shout for Rory Auskerry, an Orcadian working for the BBC in Salford, who also hosts some pretty loud rock shows, such as Route 66, Sundays at 7.00pm on Pure 107.8FM; hello, from me in Orkney, to islands on the other side of the Earth, and to the Falkland Islands Radio Service; and we cannot forget the seemingly endless great programmes from the BBC available on BBC iPlayer.
These shows are diamonds, some polished, some engagingly raw, but truly diamonds shining in a mass of digital communications. Please go explore.
To find out more
My previous blog about radio, “Turn on, tune in, but don’t drop out”: https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/radio_90/
BBC iPlayer Radio: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/
Radio Caroline: http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/
8 Radio: http://8radio.com/
Steve Conway on Twitter: https://twitter.com/steveconway
Graham Lovatt’s The Eclectic Eel Radio Show: http://www.mixcloud.com/GrahamLovatt/
Graham Lovatt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheGrahamLovatt
Frome FM: http://frome.fm/
Alex Hawkins’ Homely Remedies: http://www.homelyremedies.com/
BBC Radio Orkney on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney
BBC Radio Shetland on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/bbcradioshetland
Biggles FM: http://www.bigglesfm.com/
Rory Auskerry: http://www.roryauskerry.com/
Fiona Driver: http://www.fionadriver.com/
Falkland Islands Radio Service on TuneIn: http://tunein.com/radio/Falkland-Islands-Radio-Service-883-s111551/
RTE documentary Sister Brid Is Heading For High Places: https://soundcloud.com/doc-on-one/sr-brid-is-heading-for-high