I had the privilege of acting as Radio 2’s Bard for the Day for their special event “2Day” in 2012. This was a promotional day when all their presenters took to the air at different times from normal for an hour. The idea being you got to listen to something different from your normal routine and if you liked it then, you might feel like searching it out at a different time.
It was a hugely exciting day for me, meeting genuine Celebs and the people behind some of the most famous voices on the air such as Sally Traffic and The Voice of The Balls. My brief was to observe, listen in and write a poem based on my impressions. There were live performances from guests such as Paloma Faith and Tom Jones and what I hadn’t realised is the scale of the day for the Station as well as me. I was there from 7am and watched the day unfold, awe struck by the stars and the professionalism of the staff as they dealt with a hectic schedule and switches from studio to live performance to outside broadcast. Late in the morning I started to turn my thoughts to the poem as I knew it would have to go through a couple layers of management vetting. I wrote, edited and submitted the poem and after lunch kept watching the shows and celebs.
I then became aware that is day was an extraordinary day for the station and the famous DJs. They don’t get together as often as you might think and to see so many of them in one place was a special occasion for them. As the DJs finished their one hour shows, they stayed around. These were heroes of mine, representing years of experience: Tony Blackburn, Simon Mayo, Richard Allinson, Bob Harris and Claudia Winkleman. Into this maelstrom of activity and energy calmly walked Terry Wogan after his hour on air. He was dressed immaculately in a dark suit, shirt and tie. He made his entrance, stopped for a moment to take in the scene and made a couple of wry comments about how did he get away with this stuff. What impressed me most was the way he picked his way through all the activity, heading to the corner where the kettle was and made his own tea.
The Head of Radio 2 saw all of these presenters together and said they should all get together for a photo. So they grouped up and then started stepping out to take a photo on their own phones. I offered to take them so that they could be in the photo and I ended up snapping pics for several of them. My wife, (a huge fan of Terry and a TOG) had issued me with an ultimatum: Get Terry’s autograph or don’t come home! I asked the producer who had booked me, if she would mind introducing me so I could get Terry’s book autographed for my wife, which she kindly did.
Terry was charming and said I should have told them I was the Poet in Residence. As I had dressed in a suit, they’d assumed I was a BBC Executive!
It was a brief meeting and Terry was friendly, approachable and as personable as you would imagine. He kindly signed the book and we chatted for a short while. Soon after, the crowd dispersed and I had to wait to broadcast my poem live on the Arts Hour with Claudia Winkleman (who was indescribably kind and lovely, making me feel at ease).
Afterward broadcasting live and leaving the station I was literally shaking with adrenalin. I found a place to sit down, call my wife and look at the text messages that had come in. It was an unforgettable day and hearing the news of Terry’ s death brought it all back to me. I can’t adequately capture my sadness at the news of Terry’s passing. For now I can offer this short poem.
RIP Sir Terry!
A Limerick for the Boy from Limerick
With heavy hearts we bid farewellTo a broadcaster who simply excelled
He made each one of us feel
Only the two of us were real
Thanks for being our friend Sir Tel
Keep writin' and recitin'
PS You can see the poem I performed for 2Day here