The Daily Telegraph

As our nation mourned the world paid its respects

- Tristram Fane Saunders

One of the pleasures of radio in 2022 is its global reach. With one spin of the virtual dial, you can move from Catford to Kathmandu. I was particular­ly glad of this on Thursday, in the hours following the news of the Queen’s death.

Many broadcaste­rs – from Australia’s ABC Radio National to Jamaica’s Love 101FM – simply cut to the BBC’S authoritat­ive memorial broadcast. But others offered distinctiv­e tributes that showed the late Queen in a new light, reminding the listener of her influence far beyond Britain.

“When I was growing up, my grandmothe­r revered the Queen, as did so many in the Arctic… she would tell us stories about her,” Mary Simon, the Crown’s representa­tive in Canada, told CBC One. Hearing Canada’s first indigenous governor-general speak about what Elizabeth II meant to one Inuit family – and to her country as a whole – made the sometimes abstract idea of the Commonweal­th something deeply personal.

A few turns of phrase sounded odd to British ears (the Queen, we were told, has “passed”), but the CBC coverage was fascinatin­g – particular­ly the vox pops. I have a hunch that the average Brit speaks more frankly to internatio­nal interviewe­rs than they would to British media. CBC’S Briar Stewart collared a man called Adam, seen clutching a bouquet of sunflowers near Buckingham Palace. The Queen, he said, was “a source of warmth and hope in a dark world”. And what about her heir? He paused. “Looking back as far as Diana… us British, we bear grudges a little bit.”

Back in the UK, while every BBC Radio station (apart from Cbeebies Radio) shared the same memorial package, every Global station cut to a live discussion from LBC’S Andrew Marr and Shelagh Fogarty, who brought a more personal touch. “My cynical, flinty-hearted children are sending me very distressed texts,” said Marr.

“‘His Majesty – it feels a bit strange, doesn’t it?” said Fogarty, testing out the unfamiliar words. Marr kept us updated about other world leaders’ condolence­s: “Still waiting on Joe Biden. He’s always a bit slow, old Joe...” Their breezy, informal style felt mismatched to the occasion, and soon had me switching over to the news from Ireland.

Kate Egan’s bracingly unsentimen­tal RTÉ obituary emphasised moments in the Queen’s life underplaye­d in British reports: the IRA killing of her cousin Louis Mountbatte­n; her meeting with Martin Mcguinness; her momentous 2011 visit to the Republic of Ireland; and the symbolic importance of her addressing the crowd in the Irish language – a moment that perhaps laid the groundwork for the use of Gaelic in next Monday’s funeral.

‘It’s a sad, sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd,” sang Elton John on Isle of Wight Radio, which had defiantly stuck to its scheduled playlist of oldies. Other music stations struggled to find the right note. Kerrang!, usually dedicated to “Everything That Rocks”, ditched Metallica for Debussy. Poor old Jazz FM had planned a celebratio­n of its Jazz Awards nominees, who were revealed at 5.30pm on Thursday – but shelved it for an evening of minor-key restraint.

On Friday, a subdued Greg James told his Radio 1 listeners that he would only be playing “chilled songs, of course,” as a tribute to the late, chilled monarch. It was an echo of the death of Prince Philip, when cautious DJS similarly avoided anything upbeat for fear of giving offence, instead offering pap: nobody needs an instrument­al version of Candle in the Wind.

Radio 3’s Words and Music was a marvellous exception. It opened with the dry crack of a drum, for Purcell’s spine-tingling Funeral March for Queen Mary, then moved from the startling, crystallin­e freshness of Michael Tippett’s choral piece Dance, Clarion Air to the gentle humour of The Beatles: “Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl/ but she doesn’t have a lot to say.”

Paul Mccartney’s lyric isn’t quite true, as the “Words” threaded through the programme proved. The Queen’s words were presented without context – as is always the case on this show – which gave a real sense of intimacy. We met Princess Elizabeth the young Girl Guide comforting children evacuated during the war; we heard the Queen in her later years quoting Groucho Marx (“anyone can get old – all you have to do is live long enough”). I enjoyed the Queen’s mischievou­s account of sneaking out of the palace with her sister to watch the VE Day celebratio­ns (“I remember we were terrified of being recognised, so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes…”). Playful and surprising, this was the perfect tribute – and a reminder that respectful doesn’t have to mean dull.

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 ?? ?? Radio stations around the globe paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II
Radio stations around the globe paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II

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