Great Midlanders: Richard Bacon

3 May

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I’m a big fan of Radio 5Live’s Richard Bacon. Apart from admiring his skills as a broadcaster – the affable and relaxed presenting technique masking rigorous research and a genuinely inquisitive mind – we have much in common. He’s from Mansfield; I’m from Mansfield. He’s young, good-looking and highly successful; I’m… well okay, all we really have in common is that we’re from Mansfield.

Bacon has tremendous range, as the following brief study of a week’s worth of his show indicates. (I also very much admire that he only works a four-day week.)

MONDAY Our man in the sharp-but-casual combo of T-shirt and blazer (check out the photo on the Radio 5Live home page) is sounding ultra-relaxed today, to the point where he talks over other bits of audio (news etc) twice. Great topics and guests – he talks fashion with Patrick Grant, satire with Rory Bremner and the Luis Suárez biting incident with a psychologist. He mentions Mansfield many times as Mansfield Town Football Club have won promotion back to Division 2, and speaks to a member of the club’s hierarchy: his loyalty to his home town is genuinely touching, not least because it’s one of the least trendy places on the face of the earth, and in the Midlands. (Northerners banging on about their roots are ten-a-penny.) He also manages to use the words ‘amygdala’ and ‘hypothetically gay’. Now that’s range.

TUESDAY He sounds a bit tired today. About 15 minutes in, he says that he forgot to mention at the top of the programme that writer Frank Cottrell Boyce is going to be a guest. In fact, he didn’t forget at all – he’s far too pro for that. Again the subjects up for discussion demonstrate Bacon’s famous range: for instance, can an independent Scotland keep the pound? He shows himself to be genuinely genned-up about the financial complexities of the situation as he engages in feisty debate with Scottish cabinet minister John Swinney (boo). I like his passion; that’s very Mansfield. And it’s great that he can express that passion without getting into a fist fight, which is less Mansfield. In another segment he argues for car parks over youth centres: he’s clearly not afraid to say the unsayable. Afterwards there’s a regular slot about TV programmes: Broadchurch (having concluded the night before) is the main topic of conversation today. Our host offers an innovative, art-housey way forward for the writers should they get the go-ahead for a second series.

WEDNESDAY The Wednesday show includes a regular feature known as the ‘Moan-In’. ‘Don’t make it about language. They’re boring,’ warns our man as he encourages listeners to get in touch to air their gripes and be crowned the ‘Moaner Lisa’. Before that he interviews someone about a report that the UK is becoming more peaceful – the absence of lead in petrol is making us less aggressive: FACT (possibly). He reacts to other big breaking news stories too: JLS are splitting up, he tells us, and laughs as he does so – nice touch. Then he chats to the author of a book entitled Men Love Pies, Girls Like Houmous and admits to liking the Gwyneth Paltrow food book. Apparently the guest has brought beer into the studio and our man says he’s going to try it during the show ‘because that’s how I roll’. He mentions Mansfield Town FC again (hurrah) and the fact that he goes to a gym, where he apparently does research (I think he asked exercising Liverpool fans whether they wanted to keep Luis Suárez at the club). Is this man never off duty?

THURSDAY Today his principal guest is Jay Hunt, head of Channel 4. They discuss music shows and Bacon mentions that he listens a lot to Classic FM before trying to get his guest to say that she wouldn’t mind being BBC director general one day. She refuses but it’s clear that she wouldn’t mind. That’s good interviewing, and he’s not thrown when he then he has to talk to some bloke about the dangers of fracking immediately afterwards, which he does without descending to giggly innuendo or smut: class. The show ends with Chart the Week, which revisits the weeks’ most talked-about news stories, including that TV drama Broadchurch again. In the process he gives away the identity of the killer (it was the husband of Olivia Coleman’s character wot dun it), but who cares? It’s the weekend. It is for Richard anyway – he doesn’t broadcast on Fridays.

FRIDAY Not only did he not take to the microphone today, he didn’t manage a Tweet either, although a message to his followers on Saturday reveals what he was up to: ‘Went to the Sportsman in Whitstable for lunch yesterday. Dinner at Street Feast in Dalston.’ I’m sure he fitted in some research in between indulgent troughing sessions, mind.

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