Andy Garland: bringing radio home
PUBLISHED: 11:31 17 July 2018
Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland welcomes the increase of truly local content
As I continue my sojourn around far-flung parts of the BBC empire (hello from Worcester, by the way, very lovely, think Canterbury with a much bigger river running though it) my erstwhile colleagues back at the coal face in Tunbridge Wells are just in the process of reclaiming 15 hours a week of locally generated broadcasting.
And they’re not alone in doing this, with the all-England show between 7 and 10pm (up until very recently presented by Georgy Spanswick) being replaced right across the country with every BBC Local Radio station creating their own bespoke material for each of their respective geographic patches.
We have been here before, like many industries, trends come and go, old ideas are revisited and broadcasting is no different.
When I first started working at BBC Radio Kent, Ian McGregor was presenting the evening show, with Adrian John hosting the late 10pm-1am slot from our Chatham studios.
Now in the summer of 2018, my good friend, colleague and Littlestone RNLI crew member Dominic King is taking the helm between 6 and 9pm. You’ll know Dom already of course from his sterling work on Drivetime over the past 15 years.
The tone for this 2018 revival was set by none other than the Director General back in the autumn, as he rekindled the spirit of the founder of BBC Local Radio, the esteemed Second World War correspondent Frank Gillard who wanted a radio service that enriched local life, with, as he put it, the service “belonging to the people.”
Listeners, he hoped, would “come to regard their local station as our station... not as the BBC station in our town.” Tony Hall echoed that rallying call in a speech stating “I’m going to restore responsibility and accountability for the evening schedule – giving it back to local editors.
“Next summer  we’ll be ending the All England show. I understand why it came about, but it’s not local enough; and it limits creativity.”
So BBC Radio Kent, as is so often the case is ahead of the game with Dom already taking to the air, week nights, in this later slot with the new show bringing together the arts and life in Kent, along with live music and conversation rooted firmly here in the county.
Already the first week has seen contributions from Canterbury Poet Laureate Lemn Sissay MBE, historian Dan Snow and Kent Olympian Jack Green. Add to that fascinating stories about subjects as diverse as medieval art at Leeds Castle, the work of Folkestone animator Astrid Goldsmith and a theatre project that stages productions in village pubs for those who live in Kent’s more rural areas – with which, Dom, from personal experience is very familiar.
I caught up with him in the studio as he rehearsed for the new shows. “Launching a new radio programme is always exciting, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that several times and this one comes with a great opportunity to really connect further with the places in our area,” he told me.
“We’ve assembled a really great team to bring The Dominic King Show on air including fellow presenter Casey Heyburn who will be hosting The Kent Sessions, a daily dose of live music, featuring musicians from a range of genres. Excited is not good enough a word...I can’t wait to for everyone to hear it!”
On the mic: Andy Garland, Senior Broadcast Journalist. Programmes at BBC Radio Kent