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Sunday, 28 October 2012

What does the Mike Harding early day motion mean?

On Friday the internet lit up with the news that an early day motion about Mike Harding's sacking from BBC Radio Two's Wednesday folk show had been tabled at the House of Commons by Kevin Brennan, who recently set about revivifying the all-party folk arts group.

An Early Day Motion is designed to draw attention to an issue without meaning that it will necessarily be debated on the floor of the house, though some EDMs have gone on to be discussed in that way.

The text of this particular EDM reads: "That this House pays tribute to Mike Harding for his contribution to folk music in the UK and his 15 years presenting on the BBC Radio 2's folk music programme; expresses dismay at the manner of his sacking from the programme; and calls on the BBC to review its commitment to showcasing the variety of folk music championed by Mike Harding."

I thought it was worth checking out what Brennan meant by the last part, as it could be open to a number of constructions. Reviewing one's commitment to something doesn't imply any particular outcome...

"Mike was shabbily treated by the BBC," Brennan said. "So I gave him a call. What I intended by that last part was that I hope the show will continue to have a proper diversity of music and not become some kind of middle of the road thing. It was as a result of a comment that Mike made, that he hoped that wouldn't be the outcome of all this. There's no point having a folk show if it becomes something you could hear elsewhere and that he hoped that the show would continue to serve the folk world."

Simon Mayo and Chris Evans have been known to play the odd folk track. But surely there's a case for having more than one show devoted to folk on the BBC, since the listenership has increased so dramatically on Mike's watch?

"Perhaps. But it's also only an hour a week at the moment. Maybe there's a case for having something a bit longer," said Brennan. "At the very least they need to at least keep the quality of what's there already.

"But overall my concern is less about the Radio 2 thing because they have genuinely been committed to carrying it on. And the folk awards have been very successful. When I spoke to Radio 2 they have been very keen to keep going.

"But what people I've spoken to in the folk world have been most concerned about is that there are fewer regional folk programmes than there used to be. It's difficult to nail down why this has happened but we need to think how to prevent it happening again in the future. It's an issue I've raised with the BBC.

"I'm not against widening the boundaries of the genre and there is also a concern about whether English folk music should get a better hearing than it does. We need to make sure that we're hearing all elements of traditional music."

All concerned - including Harding - seem resigned to there being no chance of his getting his old job back. "But I'll be writing to the BBC to formally express my dismay that it was really badly handled," said Brennan.

The EDM was co-signed by two Labour MPs - David Anderson (Blaydon) and Jenny Chapman (Darlington) - a Lib Dem, Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) and a Scots Nationalist, Pete Wishart (Runrig).

The challenge, then, is to find a Tory folky... The search goes on.

* Check out Brennan busking Heart of Gold here. If you have a folk-related issue that needs raising, he has invited you to write to him.

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  1. Point of information - Bob Russell's father was Squire of the Morris Ring.

    Whilst 100 % behind Kevin Brennan's efforts it would be even more impressive had he sung in a Uk accent of some ilk rather than an American one!

    The BBC treats folk music shabbily. But to say "....there are fewer regional folk programmes" is simply wrong.

    There are fewer folk programmes on the BBC is better. Community radio has been filling the gaps and will undoubtedly continue to do so. And depending which programme you choose there is a wide variety of music.

  2. Sorry because I should have declared an interest. "Thank Goodness it's Folk" - each Friday morning for two hours 10.00am - 12 noon 93.2 FM via the internet and podcast. It is therefore possible to listen to it at anytime and from anywhere in the world. I have a listener in Brazil, another in Australia, another in Canada and numerous ones in Europe all of who contact me.

    And I have been broadcasting (live) for five years - anniversary this weekend!

  3. Dave. I hope you'll get in touch with Kevin and set him straight. If you don't you haven't a leg to stand on - he's asking for guidance. No whinging please.


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