Sunday, 20 April 2014

Radio Lives – Derek Cooper

The first thing you notice is the voice, described by one writer as “rich as the finest burgundy”. That voice belonged to broadcaster and writer Derek Cooper who died on Friday.

Derek first started broadcasting in the 1950s on Radio Malaya, he ended up in the Far East following service in the Royal Navy. By the end of the decade he was controller of programmes for the English  Service (the ‘Blue Network’) but returned to the UK in 1960 when the station was relocated to Kuala Lumpur.
Joining ITN Derek would produce and sometimes narrate the Roving Report films, short travelogues from around the world. On YouTube checkout Roving Report: Project Malaysia narrated by Nigel Ryan and produced by Derek Cooper.    

When, in January 1963, Granada started their World in Action series, again Derek was on narrating duties, along with Wilfrid Thomas. In 1965 he joined the BBC working on Tomorrow’s World. Raymond Baxter was the presenter but it was Derek’s voice you heard on the filmed reports about the latest technological advances.  This clip comes from a 1969 edition:

On the radio Derek was a regular reporter on the Today programme. It’s a report he did for Today that led to interest in all things food and drink. He talked to foreign visitors to the UK about their response to finding menus full of coq au vin and lasagne rather than traditional British fayre. Articles in The Listener and other publications prompted him to write The Bad Food Guide, published in 1967.

When the BBC Light Programme revamped their news coverage in 1967 and introduced the nightly News Time (from 2 January) Derek was the first presenter. He remained with the programme, alongside other presenters such as Corbet Woodall, when it transferred to Radio 2 and was on the final broadcast on 3 April 1970.

The following week over on Radio 4 the first edition of PM went out with the pairing of William Hardcastle and Derek Cooper.  Bill looked after the hard news and Derek the lighter stories, though he was only with the programme for a few months, being replaced by Steve Race.  

On Radio 4 in the 1970s there were an increasing number of consumer-based programmes: You and Yours (which Derek presented), Checkpoint, Money Box, Going Places and Breakaway. But there was little about the food and drink on national radio other Tony De Angeli (“editor of The Grocer”) on the JY Prog and Margaret Korving’s shopping basket items on You and Yours.  Derek had first proposed a TV series about the food industry in the early-70s but by the time the budget for the pilot had been agreed he and producer Richard Wade had moved on. In the interim Derek went on to present The Food Programme for BBC Scotland and A la Carte for Radio 4 before his original idea was eventually picked up by Radio 4 for the ground-breaking The Food Programme first aired on Sunday 30 September 1979.  
This is a typical early edition from 1986 in which Derek looks at the coffee trade.

When The Food Programme hit the ten years milestone there was a special compilation edition broadcast on 11 September 1989.

Derek would make other programmes some such as STV’s Scotland’s Larder (all episodes are on YouTube) combining both his love of food and of Scotland – Derek was born in London but his mother was from the Western Isles, his father from Kent. For Radio 4 there was the 1989 series about the Western Isles, Islanders and in 1994 Cooper’s Particular Pleasures. For the BBC World Service in the late 80s he was one of the presenters of the arts programme Meridian.

He continued to write and broadcast about food but ‘retired’ from the microphone in 2002 – his last Food Programme was in September of that year. His campaigning work in raising standards in food production was recognised with an OBE, a Sony Award and awards that carried his name such as the BBC Food and Farming Derek Cooper Award and the Guild of Food Writers’ Derek Cooper Award for Campaigning and Investigative Food Writing or Broadcasting.
Derek Cooper 1925-2014

The Art of Hitch-Hiking

Series two of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has just started a repeat run on BBC Radio 4 Extra.  When it was first broadcast in January 1980 it bagged itself a Radio Times cover, testament to the overwhelming success of the first series. (Was this the last time a radio comedy made the cover? Readers with better memories than mine please respond).

The programme billings were something special too as they included artwork from renowned graphic designer and illustrator George Hardie – think Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd album covers. They don’t all tie into the events in that particular programme – the five episodes aired every week night -  as, notoriously, Douglas Adams was still sweating over his scripts until the last minute and the final episodes were still being edited as the week began.

Here are Hardie’s illustrations:

Monday, 7 April 2014

Britpop In Session

Britpop is celebrated this week on Radio 6 Music and Radio 2 with the return of Whiley and Lamacq helmed Evening Session and a number of new and repeated documentaries.  

The rise of the guitar-based music scene produced some catchy tunes infused with 60s pop and 70s punk and was a much-needed shot in the arm for the music business. This week’s programmes coincide with the release twenty years ago this month of Blur’s seminal album Parklife; though lest we get too carried away with the impact on the pop charts of the time it’s worth remembering that this week’s number one single was the Dutch one-hit wonder Doop.  
Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq remain closely associated with the Britpop scene as their Radio 1 Evening Session would be the main forum for new acts and live sessions. “we were the only people to pick on that stuff and dared to put these bands live on the radio”, recalls Jo. “No other station was interested in them for at least a year.”

In fact by stroke of luck they just happened to be in the right place at the right time and it was only the fallout from the Bannister-purge at Radio 1 that secured them the job. The Evening Session was an existing programme that had been presented by Mark Goodier since September 1990. That early evening slot already had a 10-year history of live sessions and breaking new acts with DJs Mike Read, David Jensen and Janice Long.   
Jo’s first Radio 1 appearance was In June 1993 when she covered for Mark on the Evening Session for a couple of weeks followed immediately by two weeks cover from Steve. He was back for a week from 23 August 1993 and the following week saw their first joint appearance. This temporary arrangement continued whilst Goodiebags looked after the Breakfast Show. It became a permanent gig from 25 October 1993 following a reshuffle with Mayo taking over from the departing Bates and Goodier remaining at breakfast.   

By chance I have the first 30 minutes of that 25 October show with playlist comprising dance, house and a new album from INXS.

There’s a opportunity to hear some archive editions from the Evening Session this week overnight on 6 Music and Mark Goodier is back with one of the Radio 2 documentaries with Not Just Britpop: Pop on Wednesday night.

The Face Behind the Voice features from the Radio Times in early 1994:

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