The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe

Mark Radcliffe presented the first of his Folk Shows last night on Radio 2.

Listen to it here.

I don’t know if he was advised to or whether it was his own idea, but he spent a couple of minutes saying he’s still mates with Mike Harding, that he’s been in and played with folk bands and been to folk festivals and he’s played folk music on his other programmes. He acknowledged that not everyone was going to welcome him. His guests were Bellowhead, and it’s always good to hear them on the radio.

And to be fair, he played some good music. But the funniest thing was towards the end of the show when he ‘suddenly realised’ that an hour is just not long enough. Well, if he hadn’t read so many messages of support and adoration from the listeners, I reckon he could have squeezed in at least a couple more songs.

I’m sure a lot of people won’t listen to the show on principle. I don’t always like things changing in the radio world either. But I think in this case, it was the manner of Mike Harding’s departure which most people objected to. That, and the fact that anything Mark can do on a live show, well, so could Mike, if he’d been given the chance.

But now, we have two hours of folk music a week to listen to, Mark Radcliffe on Radio 2, Wednesday, 7pm and Mike Harding on his website.

Oh and don’t forget, Iain Anderson on BBC Radio Scotland each Monday to Wednesday at 10:05pm. I say ‘don’t forget’ because, sadly, I frequently do. And at two and a half hours, that’s quite a long show to fit in each week. there’s folk music but a wider range of music too.

Mike Harding ‘leaves’ Radio 2

Another day, another incomprehensible decision made by BBC bosses. It was announced two days ago that Mike Harding has been asked to leave his weekly folk programme on Radio 2, and that the slot will be taken over by Mark Radcliffe.

Well, I’ve got nothing against Mark Radcliffe, I quite like his presentation style and I appreciate his knowledge of and enthusiasm for music.

But I love Mike Harding’s show as it is, too. He has introduced me to so many musicians, singers, songwriters and other ‘folkies’ over the years. And it’s always a great feeling when he catches up with performers that I’d been following already, such as Seth Lakeman and Martha Tilston.

So why is he being moved on?

A Radio 2 spokeswoman said the change of presenter would bring a “fresh perspective” to folk and would allow more live broadcasts. I suppose the listeners were clamouring at the doors of Broadcasting House, just begging for a “fresh perspective” in the Folk and Roots programme. And why a different presenter would allow for more live broadcasts is such an obvious red herring, I suspect the spokeswoman in question will be sent away for re-training. I bet Mike would love the opportunity for more live broadcasts, if the production team, and the budgets, and the bureaucracy allow.

I first wrote about Mike is this blog back in March. That day’s blog posting has now received more responses than any other individual posting. Not scientific, I know, but I think it shows that there is a terrific amount of affection for and support for Mike and his show. Please go back, especially to read the comments from other readers.

I try not to be too negative in this corner of the internet, but I can’t hide my disappointment that the decision has been made. So here’s a positive thought: the replacement is Mark Radcliffe, a radio person. Bob Shennan could have chosen yet another boring ‘big name’, another turgid ‘celebrity’ from TV. Shennan (and his predecessor) certainly has form in that department.

So: Mike Harding’s Folk, Roots and Acoustic show has been on Radio 2 for 15 years. It is currently broadcast on Wednesday nights at 7pm. At present, his final show is set to be December 26. His listening audience is estimated to be about 750,000 – vastly increased over the 15 years.

On Facebook, Mike states that the Press Release makes it look as though he decided to go. Hundreds of messages of support were forthcoming there. Here isĀ the offending Press Release from 17/10/12.

Naturally, we listeners want to do whatever we can to keep Mike’s show – and the campaign starts over there, on Facebook: Lighting the Landscape: save Mike Harding, he’s a national treasure. At the time of writing, there are 1093 members of this group. No: actually, I am number 1094. I’ve supported many campaigns and I like to think in my own small way, I helped save BBC 6 Music. So please do all you can to help spread the word! The Controller of Radio 2 and 6 Music is Bob Shennan. It was he who called Mike (apparently the first phone call made in all of 15 years) to break the news. Writing to him, to the BBC Trust, to Radio 4’s Feedback programme, who knows if we can force a re-think?

I suppose there’s a small chance that Radio 3 might take over Mike’s show… There is a precedent: they took one Andy Kershaw on board when his World Music show was finally squeezed out from Radio 1.

But whatever happens in the long term, let’s continue to enjoy Mike’s show on Radio 2. I’ll be keeping at least some of the programmes for posterity, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one!

How the news has been reported:

BBC News – Mike Harding ‘pushed’ from Radio 2 folk show.

The Guardian: Mike Harding hits out at Radio 2 boss.

The Independent: The Rochdale Cowboy bows out with guns blazing.

The Telegraph: Radio 2 axes Mike Harding from folk role.

And here are some other places of interest:

Mike’s Facebook page.

Mike Harding’s Radio 2 page.

Mike’s own website.