The Axeman cometh

Creating your own station offers the joys of elimination

This month, Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, suggested that in future the corporation will enable audiences to create their own stations using its content. This process will be called MyBBCRadio. Of course, thanks to both the Listen Again facility on the BBC's website and the corporation's foray into podcasting, some people are pretty much doing this already. But it is still an intriguing prospect. What would you choose? More to the point, what would you eliminate? My dream is for decent midnight listening that doesn't include either politicians (see Radio 4) or Anita Anand (see Radio 5).

From Radio 1, I would take nothing. Colin Murray, Sara Cox et al make me feel like someone had best remove my kitchen knives for safe keeping. From Radio 2, I would take Stuart Maconie, who is brilliantly easy on the ear.

From Radio 3, I would have Composer of the Week, a series that holds the secret to adulthood, I am convinced, because it tells you the stuff you need to know should you be invited to an intimidating dinner party. (Its most recent subject was Elisabeth Lutyens, the Edith Sitwell of classical music; this is a name I'll be dropping over the fennel à la grècque quite soon.) From Radio 4, there would be The Archers, plus Start the Week, Front Row, The Write Stuff and That Mitchell and Webb Sound. From 6 Music, I'd grab Andrew Collins, and from BBC7 anything at all with Linda Smith in it.

As you can see, there isn't any drama on my playlist (unless you're one of those weirdos who thinks The Archers is all made up). This is because I've just endured Honour by Joanna Murray-Smith (15 July, 2.30pm, Radio 4) in a Saturday Play broadcast using the same cast as when the drama was staged, to lukewarm reviews, in the West End in March; for the BBC, it was produced by its male lead, Martin Jarvis. I'd like to know more about Jarvis's relationship with the BBC. He and his wife, Rosalind Ayres, have a production company that makes a lot of Radio 4 output - notably, his sublime readings of Richmal Crompton's Just William stories. This, however, was dreadful. Think Luvvie Central; think Hampstead liberals talking in emotional riddles; think, in other words, total torture.

I listened, and I thought: no one speaks like this. George (Jarvis) is a noted critic, and his wife, Honor (Diana Rigg), a former poet; they have been together for 32 years. Then along comes the hottie hack Claudia (Natascha McElhone), who is writing a profile of George. She flatters him; he leaves his wife. "There's something about me that makes men want to screw me," pants Claudia. "You have a ravishing mind," pants George. Cue agony all round. But then . . . a twist! Claudia, the little minx, decides she doesn't love George after all. Poor George. As for Honor, she's writing again; the critics love her. Poor George, twice.

What I want to know is: how did this flaccid, hammy production wind up on Radio 4? That's the first mystery of the week; the second is the replacement of Home Truths on Saturday mornings with Sound Advice, in which the unbelievably awful Gyles Brandreth leads listeners through "the labyrinth of life". Forget the labyrinth of life. I'm more interested in the labyrinth of the mind of Radio 4's controller, Mark "Axeman" Damazer. Let us in, Mark. Let us in.

Pick of the week

The Memory Experience
2 July, 9am, Radio 4
Mariella Frostrup and Dr Mark Porter launch R4’s much-hyped (over-hyped?) memory season.

Lenny Bruce Is Dead
25 July, 8.30pm, Radio 2
Timely look at the US comedian who died after being charged with violating state obscenity laws.

Don't miss . . . Antonioni's Blow-up
During the filming of Blow-up, its director declared, "I am not God, but I am Antonioni." If you like your cinematography moody, your narratives scrambled and your polo necks black, look no further than this 1966 art-house gem - the film that exposed the vacuous heart of the Swinging Sixties, and inspired David Lynch and Austin Powers alike. This exhibition to mark its 40th anniversary includes the Don McCullin photographs that appeared in the film, as well as paintings by Ian Stephenson that inspired Michelangelo Antonioni.

"Antonioni's Blow-up" runs from 21 July at the Photographers' Gallery, London WC2 (020 7831 1772).

Next Article