When I first started writing for the Rust I was concerned whether there was a sisterhood advocating feminist values and was pleasantly surprised that Jane Shillingford and others do not bang the drum of woman’s rights.
Feminism reigns at the BBC. Sue McGregor is a brilliant presenter, it matters not her gender. She now presents one of the best radio programmes The Reunion where people look back on a particular event in which they were once involved and some influenced. She used to present A Good Read which was a great source of reading recommendation for me. I recall the Archbishop of Wales recommending The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Callaway which was a fictional work based on the siege of Sarajevo and the cellist who played Alberini Cello adagio at the spot where citizens queuing up for bread were slaughtered by an explosion. It’s a superb inspirational read.
Sue McGregor has moved on and the programme is now presented by Harriet Gilbert who headed up a book programme on the World Service. It attracts comedians of whom I have never heard or fellow BBC presenters. In the present series there has not been one book which I wanted to read. There are misery memoirs and such like. The contributors seem to have no love of literature nor understand the title of the programme is A Good Read. Harriet Gilbert does her best even when her choice was mauled by Vaneesa Feltz and compared to excrement. I’ve known Vanessa for many years and she did read English at Cambridge but she would terrorise and terrify most book clubs.
On a recent programme Harriet Gilbert recommended Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. When a male contributor plainly had not heard of her she asked if this was because she was a woman. I had heard of this writer, but not read anything which up till relatively recently was just one novel. She had been recommend to me by a male novelist Justin Cartwright. Not surprisingly her contributor was on the defensive.
I’m not qualified to comment on the promotion of female sport on the BBC. However whilst my partner followed the t20 final on SKY, I had the TMS commentary on the radio as I did my emails. Between innings I was looking forward to an analysis on why England performed so poorly with the bat and whether they still had a chance. Instead there was a long interview withe lady England finalists and an anguished observation by Agnew as to why there was no one there to watch it. And there lies the problem. Whether it’s reviewing sport or the arts, gender does not matter but the calibre of the person does. It’s not up to a public broadcasting corporation to seek to impose the views of those that work for it and thereby control the output.