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Turn off the TV at Christmas: Radio highlights

Kenny Everett and Lionel Bart remembered, Bruce Forsyth turned into a 15-minute musical, and Michael Grade going in search of the ghost of the London Palladium are among the treats for radio listeners over the Christmas holiday, writes Nick Smurthwaite

For those who remember Kenny Everett in his radio heyday, nothing has ever quite lived up to his blend of technical ingenuity and comedy mayhem. As presenter Paul Gambaccini says in Wireless Kenny Everett (Christmas Eve, 7pm, Radio 2), “Kenny was a master of both preparation and spontaneity, he was the only one of us who used the studio instead of just tolerating it.”

Everett relished all “the fiddly bits,” his term for editing, sound effects, splicing, phrasing and all manner of stereo trickery. Within his music show, he created a spoof sci-fi serial, Captain Kremmen, based on the fifties radio adventure, Journey Into Space. He went on to become even better known for his TV shows, but Everett purists will be delighted by this long overdue tribute to his pioneering radio work.

Lionel Bart would have been 80 this year and to mark the occasion, his old pal Barbara Windsor hijacks Friday Night is Music Night (Christmas Eve, 8pm, Radio 2). Bernard Cribbins, Lee Mead, Bradley Walsh and others will join her to remember Bart’s work — from the early Cliff Richard hit, Living Doll, to the familiar score from Oliver! The show comes from the Hackney Empire, apparently Bart’s favourite venue.

A new series of Radio 4’s 15 Minute Musical kicks off (Christmas Eve, 6.15pm), taking Bruce Forsyth as its inspiration. Future pocket musicals in the seven-part series will feature The Queen, Ed Miliband, Fabio Capello and the Coalition.

On Christmas Day, Radio 2 brings us The London Palladium Story (7pm), marking the iconic venue’s centenary with a look back at its colourful history and an investigation by the soon-to-be ennobled Michael Grade into ghostly goings-on backstage (see also our feature in this week’s Christmas issue of The Stage).

Boxing Day’s must-listen is French and Saunders making their Radio 2 debut (5pm) with the first of three two-hour music and chat shows, featuring records from their personal collections. Their first guests will be comedian Miranda Hart and her real-life mum. French says, “I can’t wait to go to work in my negligee, kitten heels and no make-up.”

Also on Boxing Day (Radio 4, 11.15am), sixties pop star Sandie Shaw, now a psychotherapist, will be Kirsty Young’s guest on Desert Island Discs, and Australian-born comedian turned psychologist Pamela Stephenson, lately a rather impressive contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, will be Michael Berkeley’s guest on DID’s posh cousin, Radio 3’s Private Passions (12pm). Her musical choices include Joan Sutherland, Lotte Lenya singing a Brecht/Weill song, and a Balinese gamelan instrumental.

Former Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist Slash celebrates his Guitar Heroes on BBC6 Music (Boxing Day, 6pm) from Jimmy Page to Jimi Hendrix, while over on Radio 2 (6am), Aled Jones presents a pick of his Good Morning Sunday programmes, including Omid Djalili on the Baha’i faith, Geoffrey Durham on being a Quaker, Kate McCann on the power of prayer, and Lynda Bellingham’s comments about the trauma of domestic abuse.

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