So, I’ve been in London for a couple of days to chat about our recent Radio 4 comedy commissions and to find out a little bit about their plans for commissioning in 2014, it was great to be invited to see the new Broadcasting House on Portland Place. It’s everything a fan of the BBC might hope for. There’s a Dalek in the foyer, pictures of Morecambe and Wise on the wall and as you walk in there’s an inscription that reads “Nice to see you, to see you nice.” I loved it.
My first meeting was to have a chat about how we’re getting on with some of our new programmes and to come up with a few ideas for presenters and comedians to take part in a brand new stand up show we’re making for Radio 4 Extra. It’s really weird how people are dismissed by a throw away line, a raised eyebrow or a knowing glance and others could have their careers boosted by a simple bit of enthusiasm. It felt awful and terribly exciting at the same time. It felt important.
I then had a rather surprising discussion about making bongs out of a winter coat. You know those coats that Kenny from South Park wears – well, if you zip it right up to the top, and get your friend to blow marijuana smoke up the sleeve, you can turn it into a bong. It was a strange conversation to be having in an office right in the heart of Radio 4. Of course, we were discussing acceptable subject matter for a show we’re making called The Lach Chronicles. It’s imitative behaviour apparently, so we need to pass it by a couple of other people before we can leave it in the show or not, although the general consensus was that it should be fine, as the Radio 4 audience are a sensible lot and they’re hardly going to start getting high as a result of something they’ve heard on the wireless at 11pm on a Tuesday night. In fairness, it might not do them any harm though, it’d cheer up the Shipping Forecast.
The next task was to attend a briefing in the BBC Radio Theatre with around 200 other radio producers. The briefing was led by Gywneth Williams the controller of Radio 4. She talked about the station’s importance in British culture, about their ability to set an agenda for Britain, about how their aim is to stimulate an intelligent response to our world, she wants verbal, linguistic, dexterity, she wants diversity of thought and culture. She said Radio 4 is the best radio station in the world… she then said that made us the best programme makers in the world. That’s when it hit me. Making shows for Radio 4 is like being asked to play for your country. The sense of pride mixed with nerves and sheer terror is really quite overwhelming.
The question is, am I ready for it? I know the people I’m working with are. Al is ready, Sean’s ready, Lach is ready, Jo’s ready… I’ll be there in a minute. I’m just going to zip my winter coat right up to the top and listen to the Shipping Forecast one last time.