Monday 28 February 2011

Steve Allen live at the Mermaid

Steve Allen has been a presenter at LBC since 1979 and has built a considerable fan base over the decades. In recent times he has also taken to putting on a few stage shows a year around London.

He and his entourage held court at the Mermaid Theatre at Puddle Dock in London for two such shows on Saturday 26th February. Mr Allen started off with some entertaining observations on ITV’s current Sunday night extravaganza- Dancing on Ice. Like most of the audience, he is not against the show at all, but grates at the exposure given to some of the so–called celebrities that feature on it. After warming to the theme and berating the tabloid press and ‘celeb’ magazines, he introduced the first act of the evening.

This was the mind reader Graham P Jolley, an acquaintance that Steve bumped into on his Las Vegas flight last year, and he proved to be popular. People were selecting words from thesauri, names and numbers from phone directories, random numbers etc. and he accurately predicted what they had chosen. There were too many random audience volunteers for them all to be stooges, and of course, no obvious hidden cameras or microphones. 

Graham P Jolley is good at what he does, but like all these type of acts, I think it is sometimes a case of knowing the trickery behind the glitz and with that and enough practice, many more of us could do it. (N.B. added Summer 2011- He also went onto fool Penn & Teller on national tv in the UK so he is obviously at the top of his game and far better than I had appreciated- my apologies Graham!) 

He concluded with a clever number prediction act, which I have seen a street entertainer do in Covent Garden. But nice for this mature gentleman to be given this opportunity, and a fun act:

With Steve’s producer Amanda and two of his part time co-hosts, John Warrington and Paul Savory, handing out sweets in the interval, there was a convivial atmosphere for the second part of the show.

Steve showed just why he is a legend, or maybe that is a cult, with his sparkling chat (not to mention his three sparkly jackets), and seamless friendly chat about a wide range of issues- from the daft labels on some food ingredients (“Weetabix- contains wheat” etc.) through to his childhood days in Hong Kong.

A straw poll of the audience revealed who their favoured LBC presenters were. Personally I was horrified how many appear to find little wrong with the reactionary Nick Ferrari and James Whale. I was pleased that there was less approval of Steve’s adversary, the even more reactionary James Max (I believe they had a spat a while back when the ex-Apprentice candidate got an LBC slot?).

The name of my own favourite, Ken Livingstone, got a mixed reception but another of my faves,  travel guru Simon Calder, was not even mentioned.

Steve gave us a slide show of LBC’s history which was very good, nothing overly intellectual but a chronological run through of the station’s Gough Square days, and previous presenters such as Bob Holness, Therese Birch and Douglas Cameron.

We heard about Steve’s own start on the overnight show, through to the current day freelance contractual wrangles, and tales of his colleagues past and present. We came up to date with the current day operations and studio set ups in the Global Radio building on Leicester Square, which hosts other radio stations and holds 600 people.

All too quickly the show had reached an end. I was disappointed that the Q and A session alluded to at the start did not occur. My one big question before I went was “How much of the Steve Allen persona on the radio is Steve Allen in reality?”.

What we saw on stage was the same no holds barred Steve, railing against those non-deservers put on too high a pedestal. I believe that the real Steve Allen when relaxing with friends over a post-show breakfast, shopping for Jo Malone candles in the City or cooking Brussel sprouts in his Twickenham home, is not that much different. Hooray for that!

Steve Allen is live on LBC weekdays 0500 to 0700, Sundays from 0800. Plus the pre-recorded “In Conversation" on Sundays from 0600 to 0700. Worth waking up early for, or pay for the podcasts at the LBC website:

Over 500 photos from the February 2011 Mermaid shows at:  

Thursday 3 February 2011

World Radio Network and Prague farewell

Ending an era: Radio Prague signs off on shortwave - Radio Prague

"With the following special presentation, Radio Prague ends 75 years of shortwave radio service. As many of you know by now, austerity measures across Czech governmental ministries have forced budget cuts in many sectors, and public broadcasting is one of them. "

 I "tune" to Radio Prague now via the World Radio Network or listening to the Czech Republic online at:

I cannot recommend the World Radio Network  highly enough if you are wanting to listen to international broadcasting via the internet. It makes the perfect background accompaniment if you are having a work day at the computer (and are able to have audio on!) Radio France International, KBS World Radio from Seoul, Radio Netherlands, Deutsche Welle, and many more streaming through the day.

Ok, it's not the same as twiddling the knobs on the radio, but a good day time fix until you can get back in your shack and dedicate proper time to analogue radio.

Despite the above news, Radio Prague DOES still maintain a presence on shortwave in English, albeit a small one.

This is via WRMI Radio Miami International on 9955kHz, daily at 0700 UTC, weekdays at 1000 UTC, and weekends at 1930 UTC.  Jeff White, WRMI General Manager, said that "Radio Miami is happy to be able to help Radio Prague stay on the air, just as we did with Radio Slovakia International when its shortwave transmissions were scheduled to end last December 31. We have had close cooperation with Radio Prague for many years now, and we hope this cooperation will continue for many more years."

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