Westwood goes AWOL in Magaluf

BBC music journos can’t help getting territorial when let loose abroad

On Radio 3's World Routes (Saturdays, 3pm) the presenter, Lucy Duran, was talking shop at the Gnawa Free Music Festival in Morocco: ". . . unlike the festival in Fez, where you have to pay . . ." Through my window I could see, clambering into his boat, my neighbour Henry, briefly back from watching the cricket on the screen in Regent's Park.

“How's it going?" I shouted. "Wot?" he said, removing an earphone. "I said, how's it all going?" Henry sighed. He puts up with a lot from me, not least my dinners made mostly from those little tins of briny peas (to stave off scurvy). "Ponting just took a ball in the face," he said. "There's blood." I was still responding when he fixed the earphone back in, grimly, like a steelworker pulling down his face mask in a foundry. There's simply no talking to Henry when he's plugged in to 5 Live. He has the Pakistani batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq as a screen saver in much the same way my sister had Orlando Bloom as Legolas on her mousemat.

Ah yes, mid-afternoon really is the best time of day on Radio 3. Tomorrow, for example, it's the early music show Ich bin ein Hamburger, and I for one can't wait. Meanwhile, Lucy was giving it all the phrases one expects from a world music programme: "slave rhythms . . . an instrument made from one string . . . We're in for a treat." BBC music journalists running amok in foreign parts always get that tone in their voice: appreciative, but keen to establish they have control of the territory. It's a kind of neocolonialism.

Just then I got a text from my brother, who was singing at the Barenboim Prom: "jst had rehearsal with barenboim. He has aura. did 3 hour rehersal in 25 mintes now gne in his limo." So I vowed to tune in later, but come the hour was distracted by the promise of Tim Westwood in Magaluf for Radio 1.

“Westwood, Westwood, Westwood," went a voice-over for the show. "This is Westwood." Except it wasn't. And this preamble went on for ever, like
the opening credits to CSI: Miami, or the time I went to see Bill Clinton speak at a Pennsylvanian community college and the local baseball star had to flannel for three hours solid ("Does anyone here want a balloon?") while Clinters inexplicably circumnavigated the New Jersey Turnpike.

“Westwood," went the radio. "This is Westwood!" But still no Westwood. After a while it got quite spooky, reminiscent of my recent trip to a petting zoo in Udaipur. (Am I sounding "well travelled" all of a sudden? I assure you I'm not. I did go to Portugal for the weekend once with a boyfriend. At least I think he was my boyfriend.) Well, in this petting zoo was a crocodile who had died seven months ago but staff were still fondly throwing rocks at its head, reluctant to accept it.

Online, the BBC freely admitted that Westwood's Magaluf BBQ had been mysteriously "cancelled", but nobody on air was breathing a word. "Westwood, Westwood, Westwood," promised the bleat into the night, like sonar after the apocalypse.

PS: I'm calling for the elimination of the condensed weather report on the Today programme, people. I mean "Sunny spells. But also heavy showers. Depends where you are" is just not useful.

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Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 31 August 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The next 100 years