Books I don't listen to local radio. Although there has been an explosion of stations in Liverpool in the past couple of years, none of them seem to be working for my demographic. The commercial stations are basically chart stations offering the playlist, the personalities between striking towards the lowest denominator, a mix of competitions and sport and little else, the only regional identity on offer the accents which appear on the telephone lines. The other option is the BBC, but they seem to want to attract an audience over forty. So I generally put Radio Four on whenever I am in the house and listen to music from cd and that tends to be case wherever I travel in the country - it just seems easier somehow, a commonality. The central theme of Travels With My Radio is that actually if you're visiting a place that the best way to get a feel for what's around is to listen to whichever local radio station you can find, because amongst other things it reflects the community you're joining, however briefly - and gives a thoroughly convincing argument during its two hundred and eighty pages.

The writer, Fi Glover is currently the chair of Radio Four's Broadcasting House, but at the time of writing the book she was over a stint on the old GLR (original stomping ground of Danny Baker, Nick Abbott and Chris Evans amongst others) and was just off one of her first contracts at Five Live. In her career she'd always heard about these idiosyncratic local radio programmes, and after experiencing them once during some work she did for the BBC's lamented Travel Show, at a loose end she decides to go off and visit some of these stations she'd heard about and meet the presenters to see if she can get to the core of what they do. So in a style similar to the books of Dave Gorman, but without the financially crippling bets that he has, she sets off around the world and the book is the story of these travels. She initially plonks herself down in Brussels in the final week of a station whose main purpose was to entertain and educate visiting businessmen and politicians and from there she meets presenters in war zones and the wee small hours of the morning, in disaster areas and syndication.

It's an extra-ordinarily engrossing read. Rather than offering short essays about each of the stations, Glover also offers a sense of what the place is about, from the hotel rooms to the local food. It's a travel book with a point and film adaptation I suspect wouldn't look too dissimilar to Lost In Translation in places. The broadcaster shows her workings throughout - so in Las Vegas she utterly fails to meet a DJ who broadcasts from the a bunker in the desert and but we don't care because the story behind her not getting there is just as interesting. In places it's also impressively personal. I've been listening to Glover broadcasting for years and like many of her colleagues, based on the work, they have a reputation for being a voice of authority. I'd imagined someone older than me, I suppose. So it's quite shocking to find someone who would only have been a year older than me at school and who's actually a very genuine person who's capable of making all the same mistakes you are. On more than one occasion she realizes she may have done and said the wrong thing and her embarrassment in genuine.

Any fans of Five Live's coverage should read the chapter in which Glover visits the temporary radio station was set up in Belgium during Euro 2000, when one of the national FM frequencies was given to the station to offer traveling fans a more localized coverage. Any idea that this was a slick studio operation are shattered when we find out that much of the shows were broadcast from lofts throughout the country. Again the workings are seen as readily recognizable personalities from the station such as Peter Allen appear away from the radio getting pissed after the England defeat. It's funny, touching and for anyone who knows the station utterly compelling.

Overall, the reader draws three conclusions. That local radio in the US is crashing because syndicated shows such as Howard Stern are run instead of a programme tailored to the local market to the extent that in effect you'll end up hearing the same shows wherever you are in the country, eradicating the idea that you can get feel for a place from its radio. Secondly, the internet is opening things up considerably because local radio is often no longer listened to just in that area. I listen to a New York University radio station online sometimes because I like the music they're playing. Thirdly that in fact local stations are an important part of the community. In a great chapter Glover visits Montserrat and discovers how that station saved people's lives when the volcano flowed and brought the community back together. So local radio is something we should all be supporting. I just wish sometimes in Liverpool that they offered something I would want to listen to.

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