Posts Tagged ‘BBC Radio Sheffield’

It’s early on a bright but cold Sunday morning, and I’m making my way to the BBC radio studios in the centre of London to be interviewed “down-the-line” by the legendary Radio Sheffield presenter, Rony Robinson about The Mango Orchard, and genealogy.

Outside the studio building are an anorak-wearing couple waiting for Steve Wright, who is on-air when I walk in to reception. I am shown to an empty studio, which in reality is little more than a padded cell with recording equipment. I put on some headphones and wait to be “dialled in”.


I hear some pops and crackles in my headphones, then they burst into life with the Sister Sledge song “We are Family”. Sly and the Family Stone then sing “A Family Affair”. .. all very cleverly linked in to the theme of the programme.

Rony has this lovely favourite uncle chuckle that makes you want to talk. I talk. After my interview, there’s a piece by his producer, Rav Sanghera, whose Indian great grandfather also had a secret family in Latin America, in Panama.


Rony starts to wonder if he’s the only person who doesn’t have a secret Latin American family. Then a woman phones in. She doesn’t have any family in the Americas. What, asks Rony, is her extraordinary genealogical discovery? It’s that she’s related to the former glamour model, Sam Fox.

If Rony is disappointed, he hides it very well. Amazingly, without it sounding in the least bit sleazy, he manages to get the caller to reveal that she, and her twin daughters, have all got similarly generously proportioned chests, and we go back to talking about lost families in Latin America.


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I arrive at Radio Sheffield to be interviewed by the legendary presenter, Rony Robinson.

The car park is empty and the lights in reception are off. I ring a bell by an intercom. It rings loudly for several minutes, then stops. I call the number of the radio producer and find myself listening to a recorded message about station opening hours.
I ring the intercom once more and am buzzed in by a bright-eyed production assistant who takes me to the waiting area.
Also in the waiting area are two people who are on-air before me. One of them, a sociologist, tells me that she is often on the programme to talk about equality issues.
“Are you a serial offender too?” I asked the person sitting with her.
It was perhaps not the most subtle of questions, as it turns out he has spent several years in prison.
When my turn comes, I am ushered into a studio to be greeted by Rony. He reminds me of John Peel, not just in the way he looks – close-cut greying beard and comfy cardigan – his voice too; has the warm gruffness that Peel had and he also shares that favourite uncle demeanour.
Seconds before we go on air, Rony says he wants to start by asking about my life’s turning point. I say it’s probably the moment that I discovered that my great grandfather’s secret family. “Okay, excellent,” he says and moves closer to the microphone as Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain comes towards the end.
“Or the moment when I set off on my trip,” I add.
He nods, his finger raised to indicate that he’s about to speak on-air.
Or the moment I return to Mexico with my grandmother, I want to add. They’re all turning points. You could argue that every day has its pivotal moments.
But by now he is in full flow, talking about how a son of Sheffield (that’s me) had come to be in the middle of Mexico. “Was this your life’s turning point?”
I say it was, and decide not to mention the dozens of others that I have thought of in the last few seconds.
We move on from turning points and I tell the story, Rony interrupting only to drum on the desk in excitement when I get to the part about meeting Tío Arturo for the first time.
The interview over, I head off to Sheffield Live! It’s a community station, the only one I have ever been to with an exclamation mark in its name. It’s also the only interview I have done that has started with the interviewer telling me how weird I am for not drinking tea or coffee.
Another of life’s pivotal moments? I wonder to myself.
It appears not, so I tell my story.

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