I am an X FM listener through and through (and occasionally BBC 6 music) but that was not always the case Once I listened to Radio 2 and in 2004 I wrote a review on my early morning listening habits for the other side.
I am very picky about who I wake up with. Only one person will do and that person is Sarah Kennedy on Radio 2's Dawn Patrol programme broadcast between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning. I cannot stand television at this time as it is too bright and I think it would be a distraction when I am trying to get out of the door on time. Nor can I stand hyperactive young breakfast show presenters who shout a lot, play noisy music and want to do wacky things such as shove jelly down their trousers.
The Dawn Patrol is none of these being a rather civilized affair including a mixture of music, news and Sarah Kennedy's gentle humour and slightly eccentric ramblings and anecdotes.
The music is not exactly cutting edge. It is a nice mixture of old favourites such as the Eagles, the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel alongside more melodic, middle of the road new stuff. Basically radio 2's daytime policy. The music can sometimes get repetitive with the same songs being played but at that hour of the morning I feel I just want something that I know well and does not wake me up too quickly by being uncomfortable on the ears. Kennedy also has a slot at around 7.15 called "its Showtime" where Kennedy plays a number from a musical or a film soundtrack as requested by the listener. This is usually well worth a listen and something different. Beforehand she had the Love hate slot where listeners requested songs that made them really cringe such as novelty songs or just ones that did your head in. that was sheer genius although often I could not get the song out of my head all day long.
At 6:15 we are asked to "pause for thought". This is the BBC and still tries to be a moral bastion. Luckily this being a multi cultural country those presenting the slot come from a wide variety of faiths. I do like this is it gives me a time to think although I do not adhere to any religion. Particularly Pause for Thought is followed by a short piece of classical music that is a breath of fresh air when you are fighting to open your eyes.
The show being an early breakfast show has all the usual features such as news every half hour, travel and weather. I like the news as you have headlines on the half hour and a fuller news report on the hour. I am not a driver but the travel does not seem to be too London centric and covers major traffic black spots. Another feature I like is Sarah Kennedy's review of the papers just before 7 o clock. She covers most of the major stories alongside some lighter ones from the full spectrum of the papers. She might be a bit biased when talking about political news but aren't we all. It is natural to put your view across.
Kennedy's style of presenting is an acquired taste and very much a love hate thing. The conversation in between songs is peppered with listeners' emails on cute things kids say and anecdotes of childhood misdemeanors. The conversation is also sprinkled with events from Sarah's Kennedy's immediate life. We get to hear about the much Beloved packing too many pairs of pants, floods at Kennedy Tower's in Gods own County (Warwickshire), how she slept last night and of course her beloved cats. Her cat talk really reminds me of those eccentric teachers I used to have who talked about their pets. Accompanied with twee cats mewing we get to hear all about hector, Vernon and co's latest adventures! You also get cute little noises within the travel report when she mentions trains etc. It really is rather strange and sometimes can be off putting. However in general I actually quite like this gentle banter.
Sarah Kennedy has been accused of being very old style Radio 2 being part of the old style uncool presenters. As said she is an acquired taste and not for everyone. I doubt many under 25s will like her. Those who like rather specialist music genres might find the play list a bit dull and predictable. However for those who like a quiet beginning to our days Sarah Kennedy 's Dawn Patrol is ideal.
I thought I would listen to Dawn Patrol one morning this week as a change from Alex Zane and nothing has changed. Show Time is still there as is the newspaper review and Pause For Thought. It is nice gentle banter and I will be listening every now and again for a change but all the time would drive me mad.
A few years ago, the format of our local commercial radio station changed dramatically, following a change of ownership, and many of the established presenters either left or were given their marching orders by the new regime, who clearly wanted to revamp the stations style to make it more appealing to the under 25s. Among the casualties was the breakfast show, which had been an entertaining mix of music, jokes, and banter between the presenters, the traffic reporters and members of the public, who took part in regular `phone in features. In its place came a brash, egotistical young presenter with little more than a few brain cells and a vocabulary to match, accompanied by a hideous noise, masquerading as music, which was guaranteed to wake not only us in the morning, but the neighbours on either side too.
We searched around for an alternative, and then my husband suggested we try Radio 2, the only station he was able to receive on the battered old radio installed in his clapped out works van. Hed listened to Sarah Kennedys breakfast show, known as the Dawn Patrol, a few times, and said that hed quite liked it, being similar to the kind of thing we had been used to. I must confess, Id never had any time for Game for a Laugh, the TV programme in which Sarah had been one of four presenters some years back, and which was the only time Id ever heard of her, but we decided to give the show a hearing. It turned out to be a good decision, and the bedside radio alarm is now permanently set for 6am, when Sarahs show begins.
The show lasts for one and a half hours only, relatively short for a radio programme, but as lots of people are getting ready for and travelling to work around that time, its unlikely that many would be able to listen to the whole show, were it to be on for a longer period. As you would expect from a breakfast show, there are half hourly news bulletins and a couple of traffic reports, which by virtue of it being a nationally transmitted programme, by no means cover every major train delay, or traffic hold-up, but many incidents around the country get a mention, courtesy of commuters who call in to report them.
I would say that less than half the show is given over to music, which tends to be rather varied, although inoffensive to the ear, and which is ideal for such an early hour of the day. You might find yourself listening to anybody from Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Rod Stewart and Van Morrison, to, at the other end of the scale, current hits from the likes of Coldplay, Keane or Robbie Williams, etc. For anybody under the age of, say, 25 or even 30, it probably wouldnt be anything like their cup of tea, but for me personally, theres very little to object to in this area. I dont know how much influence Sarah has over the choice of music, but I suspect that she has a certain amount of say in the matter. Obviously, the show is aimed at the 30 upwards bracket, and the music is naturally chosen to suit people in all parts of that group, with Radio 1 there to cater for the younger section of the population.
The remainder of the show is dedicated to Sarahs observations on current affairs, and on life in general, with numerous anecdotes about her cats, the Dearly Beloved, as she refers to her husband, and the children of various friends and relatives, regaling us with the many jokes and malapropisms uttered by them. The jokes became such a popular feature some time ago, with listeners sending in their favourite corny jokes, that they were compiled into a book, with the proceeds going to charity. Indeed, there is a huge amount of audience participation in the show, with Sarah, or Bunty, as she is known to Dawn Patrollers (I dont know the origin of this, but it suits her to a tee), regularly reading out letters and e-mails, from people commenting on her previous remarks and observations. Often there will be a long-running subject for discussion, one of which is Sarahs predilection with Brussels sprouts, and how soon you should start preparing them ready for the Christmas lunch. (The latest estimate, I think, was about mid- April.) She also has a large following among British ex-pats, who listen in via the Internet, and indeed, Sarahs show has recently been added to the BBCs listen again section of its website, which I find very useful if Ive dozed off in between the time the alarm goes off and the time I actually drag myself out of bed.
One of the regular features of the programme, and probably my favourite, is the review of the daily newspapers, which happens at around 6.45. Leaving aside the stories which she knows will be mentioned in the 7 oclock news bulletin, Sarah reads from all the major papers, both broadsheet and tabloid, highlighting and commenting on the serious items of the day, together with the more light-hearted articles from the red tops. She does her research well here, given the short time available, and although she tries to remain non-political, it isnt difficult to work out her where her allegiances lie. Its also clear that she has little time for the shenanigans of various public figures, who, despite claiming to be hounded by the press, probably couldnt thrive without the publicity. Her observations are wry, witty and more often than not, exactly what you yourself are thinking about a particular person or event, and shes not afraid to air her opinions, within reason. She has a wicked sense of humour, too, sometimes unexpectedly near the mark, recently remarking on the story of a famous cricketers lunchbox having been airbrushed out of a painting: What a shame, we girls found it quite promising! I say unexpectedly, because, convent-educated Sarah has an accent which makes you think of jolly hockey sticks and W.I. jam making sessions, and somehow this makes it all the more funny when she comes out with something a tad rude.
Whilst being somewhat outspoken in her views on life, Sarah does have a sympathetic side to her nature, something which emerges when commenting on the tragic events happening in the world, and its clear that her show is a source of great comfort to many people living alone, the sick, and those who have been bereaved, a number of whom write in simply to thank her for brightening up their day. She has a knack of making you feel that shes not really presenting a radio programme, but just having a chat with friends, and Im sure, from the things they write, that many older people regard her as they would, say, a favourite niece. Shell start a sentence with Do you remember when I told you about.... and you forget that shes actually talking to perhaps a million other people too, such is her conversational manner.
Away from the serious side, she has conjured up a repertoire of silly, but amusing nicknames for people and organisations, such as Kate Twin-Set, the actress, and Daniel Bedding Plants, the singer. Many of these have crept into our familys vocabulary and my children find it hilarious to ask us if were going to Sainsbugs for the weekly shopping. I was amazed to learn recently, when it was announced that Sarah had been awarded the MBE in the Queens birthday honours list, that it was she who had coined the phrase White Van Man I had assumed it had been around for years.
Other regular features of the show include the Pause for Thought slot, where prominent people from different religions speak for two or three minutes on moral and social issues, and this is followed appropriately by a short and usually well known piece of classical music, enabling Sarah to have a break from speaking before embarking on the rest of the programme. Towards the end of the programme there is Showtime, where listeners request a favourite tune from a musical or a film: this can either be current, or one of the classic show tunes.
For anybody looking for wall to wall music in the mornings, this programme will not appeal, nor would I expect young people to tune in, but I have reached the stage in life where I prefer to be gently coaxed out of my slumber by pleasant music and some intelligent, but not too serious patter, rather than being blasted out of bed by a loud noise, and the inane ramblings of somebody who can barely string a decent sentence together. I can appreciate that there are, perhaps, people who might find Sarahs style irritating, but I find that her views frequently echo mine, and I enjoy the gentle pace of the show, and the humour once youve been listening for a while, you get to recognise the little in-jokes, and the long running topics of discussion. Id recommend this show to anybody over the age of 35, who has a sense of humour and who doesnt take life too seriously.
Sarah Kennedy’s breakfast show on Radio 2, the “Dawn Patrol” has a huge base of adoring fans but is an over-cosy and irritating programme to many others. The format is typical Radio 2 day time stuff – a mix of old tracks from the 50s through to the present day, but focusing on pop rather than anything in the least bit interesting. The strength of the programme is Sarah’s humorous stories and snippets from the papers, and she certainly has a relaxed and friendly style. Unfortunately this is countered by her inability to operate her sound equipment, leading to many false starts, wrong tracks and late news bulletins. Many listeners send postcards to Sarah when they are on holiday, and Sarah likes to read out a selection of these during the programme. The effect of this however is rather sad: can you imagine going on holiday and taking the time to write to a Radio 2 presenter? Personally I’ve got better things to do when abroad. A typical Radio 2 presenter has of course got no interest in the music whatsoever, this being entirely incidental to their job of promoting themselves or coming up with a constant stream of inane chat. I wouldn’t mind this so much if they were good disk jockeys, but most of them (Sarah included) suffer from the Radio 2 presenters’ disease of failing to do tell you who was singing the last track she played, especially when its one of the few that interests you. At 6.50 every morning, Sarah reviews the morning papers. This is usually embarrassing as she insists on giving her own comments on the news, often revealing a complete ignorance of current affairs, and a pronounced anti-Labour bias. She fails to understand that papers like the Daily Mail have their own agendas and that in quoting them she’s not giving us “news” so much as pro-Tory propaganda. I am amazed that the BBC fails to get a grip on this. Earlier in the p
rogramme we get “Thought for the Day” which Sarah follow with a short “classical” piece. Typically however, this will be an Adieumus type piece with drums and a synthetic choir going “ahhh”. Sarah will usually forget to tell you what it is too, not that it matters very much. Radio 2 has a new reputation for being “cool” (ish), with programmes such as those presented by Paul Jones, Suzi Quattro, Mark Lamarr and Bob Harris, but at other times of the day, the music mix is incredibly dull. Does anyone really still want to hear Chris de Burgh singing Lady in Red, or Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi? Sarah Kennedy’s morning show is just the place if you do. The same week Paul Simon’s new album came out, this programme could be guaranteed to play Bridge Over Troubled Water. Eric Clapton has a great new album out, but yes you got it, Sarah Kennedy plays “You Look Wonderful Tonight”. Why listen to Radio 2 then you may ask? Well, like many people over about 29 years old, I don’t really turn on to Radio 1’s diet of hip hop, drum ‘n bass etc, preferring something a little calmer in the mornings. I suppose the best thing about the Sarah Kennedy show is when Sarah is on holiday and is replaced by Alex Lester. The difference is amazing. Alex is an ace professional compared to Sarah, and also genuinely witty, and I can’t understand why he’s relegated to the middle of the night slot when he would do so much better on the breakfast show than the amateurish Sarah Kennedy.