Pop justice

Since when did Radio 1 become so nice?

"We're focusing on families tonight," says Aled Hayden Jones. It's Radio 1's Relationships Campaign Week, "and there are lots of people queueing to get on air who are arguing with their parents. Paul - do you have a message?"

“Yes," says Paul urgently. "Appreciate what you've got. I never got to say to my dad how much I loved him."

“God," says Gemma Cairney in the studio, "now we're all sitting here thinking about our dads. OK. Hello, Zoe - how can we help?"

“I just want to get some advice on my mum and dad getting a divorce. Erm, yeah." Zoe has the smallest voice I've ever heard. "I'm scared. Will it go to court? Who will I stay with? I'm nervous of what to say to them. I've only told a few friends. Well, a couple, almost."

A state of grace overtakes Gemma. "Everything you have taken for granted has been taken away," she persuades, "but your feelings do matter, Zoe. Your parents may not love each other any more but they love you to bits. I know, I know - it's terrifying."

“Yes, it is," peeps Zoe. "Thanks."

Cut to Usher for a breather. I don't think I can take any more of this. Radio 1 has never been so nice. It's weird. This station was dire - I'm talking right down to the poozwack - but recently, in the late evenings, it's like it's completely accepted its innocence. Consider the other night, when two of its DJs, Jaymo and Andy George, travelled to Warsaw to report on the club scene there. "It's super loud in here!" said Andy, as though surprised, at a festival.

“Welcome," laughed a sexy woman. "We have hot music, Polish vowdka . . ." There was a silence as your correspondent visualised Andy wearing a school blazer, his hair greased into an approximation of spikes, and Jaymo sitting on a chair, his feet barely grazing the floor.

“We are prepared," said Andy seriously. "We're gonna be meeting the cool kids, the artists, the trendsetters . . ." They hurried back to their hotel in a cab. ("Basically we just jumped in a taxi. This is bonkers!")

The following day they go to meet a musician called Norbert at a popular eatery. "It's a capitalist/communist style of café," drawls Norbert, rather unhelpfully. It strikes him, looking at Andy and Jaymo, that he might have to clarify further. "Alcohol," he says. "An old school smell." One imagined the too-long ash on the end of Norbert's cigarette falling and hitting the tiles. He sounds like someone short, and mad about it all the time.

“How has the country changed in 20 years?" asks Andy, getting out his jotter.

“Oh, it's much better," allows Norbert. "Before, we had no club music. No vinyl."

“Wow," breathes Andy, sympathetic.

“Oh my goodness!" interrupts Jaymo, looking at his newly arrived plate. "Am I gonna like it, Norbert? What is it?"

“Meat and gelatine."

“I'm killing it with lemon!" says Jaymo. Later, they arrange to meet Norbert at a club. "Be there or be square!" says Jaymo in a voice
so sweet it ought to be liquidised and rubbed on malevolent molars.

“Hmm," returns Norbert, snootily.

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 06 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Vietnam: the last battle