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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Days of gardening questions

I've always liked listening to Down to Earth on BBC Radio Leicester. It's the longest running gardening programme on local radio and has been broadcast every week for over 45 years, and that's no mean achievement.

Geoff Amos chaired the programme for many years, and Dave Andrews has been the popular presenter for the last decade. But this year, I've had a chance to present this programme too while Dave was away on holiday, and had some extra time off. It's been wonderful fun, and great to meet so many BBC Radio Leicester listeners out and about in the county.

Here's one programme in Huncote we made earlier this summer...on the panel left to right are :Chris Gutteridge, a garden designer who won a silver gilt medal at Chelsea last year; Ray Coombes, who is the most knowledgeable man I've ever met when it comes to seeds and vegetables and Josie Hutchinson, who is a former lecturer at Brooksby College and so warm and chatty.


They are just a few of the panelists who turn each week to either record programmes at churches, community centres, village halls and pubs, or to appear in the studio for a live phone in.
They're wonderful, all of them...Derek Cox is a former nurseryman who has been appearing on the programme for about 46 years, and still has a wicked glint in his eye as he teases other members of the panel, the audiences and me. John Smith owns a fuschia nursery and has also been on the panel for over 40 years, and the very helpful Mike Salotti from Brooksby Hall is another regular.
The two youngest on the panel are nursery owner Helen Osborne who has the most raucous laugh and a great sense of humour, and Ady Dayman, all round good egg and extremely talented cheeky chappie.
Another great stalwart of the programme is the sound engineer Maclolm Pugh who's been in charge of recording the outside broadcasts for over 30 years.


So as you might guess, I've had such fun presenting these programmes and learning so much about gardening from them all.

But there's another gardening programme which I love to listen to and that's Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time.

The programme is recorded each week in a different location, and about ten days ago, the team came to the University of Leicester . Eric Robson was in firm command in the chair,  Anne Swithinbank and  Bob Flowerdew were on the panel with Matt Biggs who received a large cheer from the crowd - he grew up in Leicester!)

 I went to watch with Ady Dayman...we were very interested to see how the programme was put together, and sat on the back row like naughty schoolchildren. Well, there was nowhere else for us to go, the hall was packed.

We noticed that as well as Eric chairing the programme with his posh script, there were two sound engineers and a producer....we only have one engineer, and I'm afraid I have to produce myself.

Apart from staffing, in essence, it's exactly the same as Down to Earth...those who ask questions are placed on the front row, they ask what they want to know - "Could the panel please tell me why...." and all the panel  seem to have different ideas on way to deal with a query or a problem.  Many of the questions cover similar topics to those in Down to Earth, such as squirrels in gardens and getting rid of slugs and snails , which seem to have been popular this year!
Anne Swithinbank radiates calm, Matt made everyone laugh and Bob Flowerdew became quite poetic about a certain plant..."When gorse is out of flower, love is out of fashion."
All in all, an enjoyable evening, especially afterwards when Matt Biggs, Ady Dayman and I went for a pint. If we're being pedantic, they had pints , I drank a mojito and we all had a great chat about gardening, broadcasting and more besides.


Today's track is an old favourite....beautifully paced, it's off the seminal album by Neil Young, "After the Goldrush."
 I wonder where my old vinyl copy went to? Still, the track has a very appropriate title which is "Tell me why"


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