Yeah, sorry, I don’t have any photos from last night’s Sony Radio Awards, so here’s one from 1995. Not so much has changed since then. Still held annually at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s actually-real Mayfair; still colloquially known as the “radio Oscars”; still sponsored by Sony (and have been since 1983, which is quite the media partnership); still based around a dinner; still a great opportunity to bump into old radio pals. There are more awards handed out, thanks to developments in digital technology – 37, I believe, is the current total – and Chris Evans has taken over from the seemingly irreplaceable Gambo and is doing a fine job of rattling the evening along, and shushing the increasingly restless mob while winners have their few moments in the spotlight with the roving mic. When Collins & Maconie’s Hit Parade won the Gold for Best Music Programme in 1995, and gratefully accepted it from Nick Heyward, the prizes were handed out on a stage to the side of the Great Room. Nowadays, it’s in the round, which mainly means that any ladies up on the podium in the regulation high shoes and unforgivingly tight dress have to live with the fact that their panty line is being inspected by at least half the room.
Anyway, I was a judge again this year, a gig that involves listening to an awful lot of radio and pays nothing except a Sony MP3 player to listen to it on, and a free ticket to the dinner. (I actually get quite a kick out of judging – you get to hear things you might not normally hear, and a lot of it is local.) I feared being sat on the judges’ table; not that there was anything wrong with my fellow adjudicators on the Best Feature category, I just really fancied being among my peers at 6 Music at this crucial stage in history, and with a number of nominations in our portfolio, there was more reason than normal to hope for a sprinkling of good fortune, and perhaps some hardware for the awards cabinet.
Anyway, thanks to Fenella at the Sonys, I found myself on one of the 6 Music/Radio 2 tables, very near the stage, which is usually a good sign. Jarvis Cocker and Adam Buxton were on the table, which was handy, as both won their category, Rising Star (I know, he’s 46, but he is a radio newcomer by definition) and Best Comedy Show. There’s a lot of table-banging at this type of awards show, especially – and understandably – from those who’ve travelled here from outside London and are ambassadors not just for their station but their region, a responsibility best marinated in cheap red wine. It’s a night for letting off local steam. (My guess is that the staff and presenters of Moray Firth Radio, who won Best Station with under 300,000 listeners, had the best night of all, especially the man in the kilt.)
We were so lucky that the Rising Star award, voted for by the public, went first, as it meant that Jarvis could eloquently defend 6 Music in front of the industry (if not the politicians and pen-pushers who are influencing its fate), without being encouraged offstage. The familiar disrespectful hum of conversation began towards the end of his self-defined “rant”, but by then his passion was well communicated. If it had been later in the evening, I fear Chris Evans might have had to hurry him. It was a cracking start to a long evening, lifted when Adam went up to collect the Gold he and Joe have long deserved, and again bigged up the network. Sadly, that was it for 6 Music, with Lauren Laverne and even more cruelly Steve Lamacq locked out of the love-in twice over. (What does Steve have to do to get a Sony, except kill Zane Lowe? My guess is that Zane would be impossible to kill, such is his sincere enthusiasm.)
Another big partisan “a-boo!” moment came when Richard Herring’s groundbreaking As It Occurs To Me failed to win even a Bronze in the Best Internet Programme, beaten by The Hackney Podcasts in a fatally mixed category. (Having already skulked for a while with Buxton, Observer radio critic Miranda Sawyer and Helen from Helen and Olly by the cloakrooms, I had sincerely wished Answer Me This well in the category, and they bagged a Silver, which is good for podcasting, I think. But not good for AIOTM on this occasion.) I had dressed for the night with Richard at 6 Music, post-pre-Sonys podcast, and walked down to the Grosvenor House with him on a bright spring evening, joining the rest of the gang for a monkey-suited pint, so keenly felt their defeat. (Of course, being in the top five is a serious achievement, but once you’re there, in the room, tanked and trussed up, and see your name go up on the screens, it’s utterly impossible not to pray for victory: as Bronze is read out, then Silver, and your name still hasn’t been, you’d have to be made of stone not to hope for the best in that split second.)
Anyway, Trevor Nelson’s Special Award was a worthy end to the prizegiving (he definitely didn’t know he was getting it), and it was cool to see Nihal get an award late on, giving Asian Network the same kind of crowd-pleasing boost we’d had earlier, and you can read the full results here. For my own part, I really enjoyed nipping outside for a fag with Steve Lamacq at half-time, where we reassured Chris Evans that he was doing a fine job, and I probably inhaled a cigarette’s worth of secondhand smoke. (Shallow as this may be, I enjoyed hanging out with the smokers – it felt slightly illicit.) I was also happy to run into the Down The Line gang, also robbed of a victory, including my old friend Simon Day. Good also to see Mark Radcliffe, and Mark Ellen, and fellow Naked City alumnus Johnny Vaughan (winner of Best Breakfast), and, in the urinal, Alex James.
I hopped it around 11.15 before the disco, having enjoyed a decent view (mainly of panty lines), soaked up some timely 6 Music glory and enjoyed a single bottle of beer to make up for the horrible red wine. To all of my friends who didn’t win: you was robbed. To all who did win: I knew you when you were nobody.