The week in radio and podcasts: Lauren Laverne; Mary Anne Hobbs; Shaun Keaveny

With Laverne moving to the indie music station’s breakfast slot, it’s all change, and all for the better

New year, new regime. Radio 2 starts its big shake-up on 14 January, with Zoe Ball and Sara Cox sliding into their fresh weekday time slots of breakfast and drivetime respectively: expect tabloid coverage and on-air laffs. Radio 1’s Charlie Sloth bowed out from the station in October, with the young yet experienced Tiffany Calver taking over his 9pm Saturday night Rap Show slot, and Rickie, Melvin and Charlie, ex-Kiss FM, due to start in his weekday evening The 8th slot soon. Calver had her first show on 5 January, so I’ll review her in a couple of weeks; Rickie, Melvin and Charlie aren’t on 1 for a while, but should be just the ticket.

So shall we turn to 6 Music? All BBC national radio stations have been under pressure to change their rosters since Ofcom started overseeing the Beeb in 2017. It stated explicitly that the BBC should “reflect the diversity of the United Kingdom”. Oops, thought Radios 2 and 6, as they looked at their weekday schedules, utterly dominated, as they were, by straight, white middle-aged men. Luckily for 6 Music, it already employed great women DJs, so it simply embarked on a game of musical chairs. Since last Monday, 6 Music weekdays offer Lauren Laverne at breakfast, Mary Anne Hobbs from 10.30am-1pm, and Shaun Keavenyin the afternoons.

And off we go… To launch the new schedule, the 6 Music marketing bods came up with Hello Music Lover as a hashtag. A little naff, perhaps, but Laverne’s show certainly lived up to the label. Always one of the most wide-ranging of 6’s curators, her new breakfast show skipped from soul to strange electronica to Shirley Bassey. There was an up-and-at-em feel. (On Tuesday, she played Deee-Lite’s Groove Is in the Heart, followed by Planningtorock’s Beulah Loves Dancing, and then the Roots and J Dilla, almost stopping me from taking my daughter to school.) Music absolutely dominated the early part of her shows, Laverne speaking only to introduce, back-announce and involve listeners through social media shout-outs. Essentially, from 7.30am to around 9, Laverne was busy playing killer track after killer track. In this first week, she managed to squeeze in 40ish tracks per show, 10 more than the breakfast show used to play. Excellent stuff.

Later on, the show opened up, with Dr Hannah Fry talking science on Tuesday and listener Claire Marsden on Wednesday being the first phoner-in (on the new Social Recall segment). Live interviews - Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Steve Coogan – were handled with Laverne’s usual light hand. It will be interesting to see if we hear more from Laverne herself as the show settles, but anyone looking for a reason to get up and jump around the kitchen has got themselves a new programme for sure.

Hobbs, on straight afterwards, has made a bigger personal leap. Her previous weekend shows were eclectic, but with a slow, almost reverent, day-break atmosphere; and as a personality, she’s naturally more serious. Can she do upbeat weekday mornings? On this week’s evidence, definitely: she had a smile in her voice at all times and the interviews (a pre-recorded Idris Elba and Slowthai, possibly not done with Hobbs; Sharon Van Etten with her in the studio) were on the money. Hobbs occasionally needs to be less intimate with the mic, to turn it up a bit, but she’s well on her way, and the music choices are exemplary.

Shaun Keaveny.
The ‘freewheeling, offbeat’ Shaun Keaveny. Photograph: Leigh Keily/BBC/Leigh Keily

And Shaun Keaveny is completely at home in his new afternoon slot. Actually, it’s as though he’s always been there; his freewheeling, offbeat presentation style is great at this time. Matt Everett, Keaveny’s long-time show-crony, provides a funny foil, and the whole effect is not so far off Radcliffe and Maconie when they first came to 6 Music, though it’s wilder when it comes to presen tation and silly clips. There were those who found Keaveny too weird for breakfast (too many pauses, too much daftness). You have a feeling that they’d enjoy his new slot: just the thing to get you through these dark January afternoons.

Three shows about food

The Food Chain
This excellent World Service show examines the business, science and cultural significance of food and has loads of episodes. You could start with the celebrity ones (Madhur Jaffrey, Gordon Ramsay, Antonio Carluccio and, weirdly, Kelis all give you “My Life in Five Dishes”), or go to the more interesting programmes about food banks, abattoirs, chewing gum and the food tasters whose tongues are insured for more than $1m. The episode about how eating disorders are stereotyped – we think that only wealthy white women are affected: not true – is thought provoking.

All Hail Kale
A brand new BBC podcast presented by the clever Tim Samuels, All Hail Kale takes an entertaining look at the wellness industry, at what is and what isn’t healthy for us. Almost unbelievably, Samuels meets a lactose-intolerant milkman in the first episode, which examines whether we should be drinking cow’s milk. Nice scripting (“maybe it’s time to de-teat”), witty production and proper science make this a great listen. (NB If you’re on the lookout for a decent vegan podcast, I’m yet to find one, though The Reluctant Vegan isn’t bad.)

Table Manners With Jessie Ware
This immensely popular podcast, in which Ware and her mum, Lennie, invite celebrities round to chat, isn’t really about food, though it pretends it is. Actually, it’s a relaxed interview that takes place in Ware’s kitchen, where food is served. Guests are usually from the music world (Ed Sheeran, Stefflon Don, Tracey Thorn), though Paul Smith, Sadiq Khan and the My Dad Wrote a Porno crew have also made an appearance. Lennie’s asides – “Have you got a boyfriend?” “Why did you give up meat?” – are often the best bit.


Miranda Sawyer

The GuardianTramp

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