Summer waves

It's July, so all the usual presenters are taking it easy, writes Antonia Quirke.

Various programmes
Radio 3, Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra, 6 Music

It's July and the most commonly used phrase on the radio (In Our Time, Start the Week, All in the Mind) is "we'll be back in September!", conjuring an image of the presenter quitting the studio and following the smell of garlic and herbs to a trestle table where waiters with Shelley-length hair immediately rush up and remove a waiting bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé from an ice bucket. The rest of us are left with Cheap Summer Radio, ie a higher-than-usual quotient of contributors talking about themselves.

On Sunday, for example, the airwaves were given over completely to various personalities examining minutely their likes and dislikes - in effect going through their iPods and jottings without the excuse of having an obvious mental breakdown (hard to discern in London, granted) or being someone to whom we are making love behind closed shutters. Steve Davis, for example, was simply handed his own programme (Sunday Service, 10 July, 4pm, 6 Music) to share his "massive northern soul and progressive rock collection live with the nation". Michael Heseltine ruminated on his "life in sound through the BBC archives", reliving old speeches and moments of pain (Meeting Myself Coming Back, 8pm, 9 July,
Radio 4).

On Private Passions (12pm, 10 July, Radio 3), Andrew Graham-Dixon intoned about his youth and Keith Jarrett, while George Michael turned up on Desert Island Discs Revisited (11 July, 1am, Radio 4 Extra): "I genuinely believe the purpose of what I do is a positive one." (Bravo, George! Let them have it!) On 6 Music Sam Taylor-Wood "shared her musical tastes and anecdotes" on A Month of Sundays (10 July, 12pm), while on 6 Mix "DJ and cultural icon Boy George shared again his music tips with Dave Pearce" (10 July, 8pm).

At such times - particularly as one imagines Marr and Melvyn ordering grilled sole as their bikinied companions suck pencils and flick lazily through a Sotheby's catalogue - only two things are cheering. Inhaling Freon from a baggie, and God. Sunday Worship. Sermons about crops and the Rev Gillean Maclean (so simpatico) standing on a cliff in Arran looking quietly out to sea. Now this, one feels the medium of radio cry, this I am cut out for. l

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 18 July 2011 issue of the New Statesman, India