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Big shout out to Camden School for Girls

When will Radio 1 DJs learn that their audience isn't made up of gangstas?

At 7am on Sunday, the DJ Nick Grimshaw clocked on shift for the second day of Radio 1’s Big Weekend live from Swindon (9-10 May, all day, Radio 1).

“Hey, hello to Hayley on text, and hello to anyone pressing the red button,” he said, embracing his signature style of blustery northern delirium. “People do weird things on Sunday mornings. Why not come and show off on air, or give us a text? Usually you can give us a call but . . . looks like nobody’s bothered yet. Oh, hang on. Hugh in Wales says he’s scuba-diving with his friend Jamie.”

Then it was straight into a song by the Wombats, and a little montage of Radio 1 listeners expressing rabid love for the Big Weekend (“The Wombats were really, really excellent, but Dizzee Rascal was brilliant too!”).

It was followed by Grimshaw promising that Mother Jo Whiley was on her way to the site “in a Hummer with her massive” and a little clip of Lily Allen (“Hello, I’m Lily Allen and I’ll see you in Swindon”).

This resolutely positive account of life on “our national Radio 1” was then interrupted by a call from Jess. “What’s up, Jess?” asked Grimshaw.

“Arm . . . I’m a Year 10 geographer. We’re out doing some coursework. We’re in the Peak District! Ha!”

“Right . . . Good times . . .” said Nick, a little hesitantly. “So, who are your mates up there?” he asked. “Who’s in your crew?”


“Anyone you want to shout out to?”

“Beg pardon?”

When is Radio 1 going to accept that they are not broadcasting to any “massive” or any “crew” and never have been – but exclusively to the sixth-form of the Camden School for Girls and their brother Theo?

This might explain the increasing popularity of Chris Moyles, a man born to steal on to the No 29 bus as it travels through Kentish Town and up to Highgate – Copydex-complexioned, rheumy eyes that always look like they’ve just been corrected from being crossed – to perv over the leggy daughters of north London psychoanalysts and pottery designers as they nip off to smoke Marlboro Lights round the ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath, cruelly flashing him their knickers on the way down the bus’s stairs. To switch on his show is to permit him a glimpse of their pretty buttocks. He’s their gimp, see? 

“Oh, yah, arm, ha!” giggled Jess, finally catching Nick’s drift. “OK! Arm . . . Can I say hello to . . . Millie and Katie . . . and Katie . . . and Olivia. Just all my friends really.”

My heart went out to Jess. I could just see her colouring a little on her mobile, nervous and lovely with her tongue stud and nose like Ted Heath. I could just see her father sticking his head round the door of the minibus and tapping his watch. (“Jesus, Jessie, switch off this bloody drivel.”)

Then it was straight into a song by DJ Ironik and the rapper Chipmunk. At which point Max from Herefordshire called, about to do a triathlon with his hairy rugger legs. “Active!” sighed Nick, accepting, possibly – for accepted it simply must be – that he and Whiley and Edith Bowman and Zane Lowe and all the rest of them will never be cool.

“Pardon?” said Max, politely.

“I said, you’re pretty active,” repeated Nick, his voice an exemplar of caustic resignation.

“Arm . . . Yah.”

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Rock bottom