FEATURE: The Times They Are a-Changin’ Why the BBC Radio 6 Music Schedule Shift Is Good News




The Times They Are a-Changin’


IN THIS PHOTO: Mary Anne Hobbs

Why the BBC Radio 6 Music Schedule Shift Is Good News


THE expected disappointment, moaning and…


IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keavney

confusion has greeted the news that, from the start of next year, some of the much-loved BBC Radio 6 Music presenters will change to a new slot (and that, the moaning, was just from Shaun Keaveny!). You’d imagine people had lost their jobs and had been forced to drink toilet water in order to survive! One of the only complaints I have had regarding BBC Radio 6 Music is the rigidity and the fact there have been few changes since its start. It is great to see the same personnel and there is clear brand loyalty and passion among the ranks. I am thrilled we get to wake up and, through the day, hear from D.J.s who we know will put a great show together. That is alright for a while but can be a bit samey – you are listening to the same routines and songs at the same time of day. I can imagine, for D.J.s like Shaun Keaveny and Lauren Laverne, it has got a bit familiar and safe. I know Keaveny, especially, will enjoy some extra time in bed. He moves to the 1-4 P.M. slot; Mary Anne Hobbs, who usually presents the weekend breakfast show, comes into the 10:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. slot; Lauren Laverne takes Keaveny’s show – starting half an hour later at 7:30 A.M. Chris Hawkins gets an extra half-hour in his regular slot and RadMac (Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie) move to weekend breakfast (see the official BBC Radio 6 Music Twitter for all the changes and times).


IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne

Those who are used to Keaveny greeting the morning with his unique blend of suicidality and anger will adapt to him coming into a later time. Maybe he will be a brighter and changed person – delivering something more Chris Evans in terms of speed! That is unlikely but the man has been in the breakfast slot for over a decade and deserves some time to sleep in! I know he will appreciate the later start and things, apart from that, will not change too much. Matt Everitt is still by his side – not sure who they are getting to do the early music news?! – but all the usual features, I assume, will be in place (and the same jingles, beds and dynamics). It is not as though the show is having a complete face-lift and it is a new thing! Fans and ardent listeners will have to acclimatise but those loyal will come along and, in fact, realise change is good. Ironically or not, Keaveny has had to endure an early wake-up all this time and it is good he gets a later start. Laverne, children and husband an all, will get more time later in the day to be at home and bring her vitality, personality and stamp to the breakfast show.


IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt with Sir Paul McCartney

It will be good to wake up with her voice and see how she approaches her new position. I am unsure whether the BBC Radio 6 Music honchos will introduce new features for Laverne but let’s hope we get Memory Tapes, Desert Island Disco and The People’s Playlist. There is no physical or time-related reason why that would not work! The biggest shift and decision is whether there will be live sets during her show. Right now, she hosts musicians just after lunch. I do not know whether they are going to bring that with her when she does early mornings – maybe Keaveny will take that on?! I am pumped Chris Hawkins get an additional half-hour to his show because he is a warm and incredible talent who, I feel, does not get enough airtime. He is always hunting for great new artists and putting important work into the ether. I feel he has a lot to say and deliver, and so, when he is allowed some more time, that will benefit us all. The biggest change is the ‘demotion’ of RadMac to the weekend show. It is not really a bad thing as the weekend breakfast show is a great slot but it will mean they will not have their usual weekday show. I was surprise by the decision and would have preferred another D.J. to go to that timeframe.


IN THIS PHOTO: Chris Hawkins (left) and Stuart Maconie (right)

The fact they are still gainfully employed, as they say, is a good thing. Their partnership remains and I know their fans, myself included, will follow them with eagerness. The best thing to come out of this is the definite elevation of Mary Anne Hobbs to weekdays. She is always great when standing in for Keaveny or Laverne and has a definite hunger to bring the best artists around – championing female artists heavily –; it means we will get a more curated and personal playlist in the afternoons. Her sensual, velvet tones are a difference to the voices of RadMac but it will be a good thing for radio. There are so few female D.J.s in afternoon and evening slots so it is nice to see her there – the fact she and Laverne are both on during the weekdays is a great improvement. I have discovered so many different artists from Mary Anne Hobbs and cannot wait to hear her in a full-time capacity. The fact I am moving to Manchester – she is based in the Salford studio – is great and I can, I hope, get to see some of her local-promoted artists live and up-close. It is great to see two incredible female broadcasters being given new opportunities on the station. I think it will benefit them both and provide a stronger angle to BBC Radio 6 Music.


IN THIS PHOTO: RadMac with Maxine Peake

All the other runners and riders are unchanged and it is going to be some minor changes. There are complaints and those who are scared the station will blow up and suck but, in fact, these are necessary alternations. It is great, as mentioned, the same D.J.s remain there and love their jobs so much. Even the best shows can suffer or seem tired if they endure for years and moving them to new times can add something that will benefit everyone. The simple fact is they are not recruiting D.J.s and replacing those we love – maybe some fresh faces in other slots might be a benefit?! We still get to hear Laverne and Keaveny in London (although the latter will not hand over to the former or vice versa) and Hobbs’ more-regular appearance is a necessary reaction to the call for change – having more female D.J.s in the weekday, big shows. Maybe the sleep patterns and changes will impact some of the on-air talent, but the fact they are in new slots will add energy and a sense of the new. I am excited to see how Shaun Keaveny sounds with a bit more kip and time to refresh; what Lauren Laverne brings us for breakfast and how Chris Hawkins uses an extra half hour – hearing Mary Anne Hobbs five-days-a-week means we get to hear (with Laverne) some newly-championed artists and unexpected tastes the earbuds.


I wonder whether, between now and the start of January, there will be further plans to change slots. It might be interesting to see if they do bring in more D.J.s – female and it would be good to see greater diversity in terms of race – but the same lovable and dependable BBC Radio 6 Music is there. I am pleased and glad ‘we’ (the BBC Radio 6 Music family) are not losing anyone. It is sad RadMac have a reduced role but they are still with the station and it will be tough for them for a bit! A station that holds onto its staff is great but when the schedule is unmoved and unflinching for so long means there is a risk of losing some listeners. You need to change things a bit and try new ideas. I guess Laverne will have to cope with a bit less sleep but she is relishing the chance; I know Keaveny will still find things to moan about (got to love the guy!) and, with the latest RAJAR figures showing the station is growing and more popular than ever; the bosses have the consider how to keep that pace going and how they will move into the next year. The fact BBC Radio 6 Music continues to recruit new fans and grow – where other stations are stagnant or decline – is a sign of great music, wonderful staff and a sense of loyalty and love! That, in turn, will be thrown back to the brilliant D.J.s and producers who embark on new challenges. The rest of this year will see them carry on as normal but, as we ring in 2019, we will have a slightly changed BBC Radio 6 Music that is…


GOOD news for all!                               


ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES: Getty Images/Press Association/BBC Pictures