Tuesday, February 1, 2011

AWIL Listener Letters of Support

The campaign is still going with some interesting developments in the planning.

In the meantime please read below letters from one of A World in Londons regular listeners Stephen Ashmore - published with kind permission!
Letter One to David Robey:
Dear Mr Robey, I am writing to you about your decision to axe 'A World in London' in favour of yet another phone in program. I & my partner are both disabled and virtually house-bound. We are both avid listeners of 'A.W.I.L', it helps us to keep in touch with what is happening within the diverse ethnic cultures in and around London. Over the last few years this program has in our opinion gone from strength to strength. The high calibre of guests has kept us informed and entertained.

We implore you to revise & reverse your decision to axe what we believe  is a flag ship program for your radio station. There is nowhere else for us to go to listen to culturally diverse music that is specific to the diverse ethnic communities in and around London. In our opinion DJ Ritu has taken up the baton of the late (& great) Charlie Gillett & taken this program to new heights. 

We are not from an ethnic background, however many of our friends are & this program opens up it's listeners to all the many & varied communities in & around London & helps us to understand their culture & music. In our humble opinion it fosters understanding & inclusion whatever your cultural & ethnic background. The music DJ Ritu plays & the guests have helped to expand our limited horizons.

       I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this email, we do hope you will reverse your decision, this program is a lifeline into the 'world' around us in which, because of our disabilities we cannot physically join in. It will be a sad day for Londoners if the plug is pulled on DJ Ritu's excellent program........
Yours Sincerely
             Stephen J Ashmore 

Letter Two to Roger Bolton:
Dear Mr Bolton, I am so glad to see the return of your excellent program. I have no one else to turn to. Radio London boss Mr David Robey has completely ruined my life by removing A World in London & DJ Ritu from the Radio London's schedule & replacing it with a "youf" orientated phone-in program presented??? by an Asian married couple who were the STARS????!!???? of a reality??Whose?? TV show. We managed to listen to seven minutes of the first program till we had to turn off the radio & go & stick pins in our eyes to lesson the pain & trauma.

         I have written to Mr David Robey twice & received one reply. They are below, the contents of which will be self-explanatory. I implore you to take up this cause on my partner's & my behalf. We both have MS and Mr Robey's decision to axe DJ Ritu's wonderful cross-cultural music program, has had a detrimental effect on our health (boo hiss!!!!) We now feel unconnected to the world music scene in London (double boo hiss). I also feel that in the light of The Human Planet, The Music Planet & the Olympics in 2012  that Mr Robey has shot BBC Radio London in the foot.

I thank you in advance for reading my complaint & I look forward to your hopefully positive response. Thank you also for an excellent program, keep up the good work you do for us listeners of Radio 4. You & your program are a credit to the BBC...         
Yours sincerely,
Stephen J Ashmore

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Impact of Losing A World in London

So now that DJ Ritu's A World in London has been axed what are the consequences?

  • DJ Ritu is the ONLY UK representative of the influential EBU World Music Panel. Without this show on the BBC, London/UK musicians will not have a wider voice in Europe
  • Without the 'brand BBC', London artists will have little or no wider mainstream exposure
  • Musicians, will lose out on airplay and royalties as well as publicity for upcoming gigs 
  • Venues will have less places to promote, potentially impacting on audience attendance
Feedback from listeners/supporters 
  • AWiL (and Charlie Gillett's The Sound of the City before that) provided the best portal there was to help me discover more and more of the different varieties of ethnic/world music represented in London
  • It also helped me enormously in better understanding and appreciating different communities. It's always been an education as much as it has been hugely enjoyable entertainment.
  • It  [AWiL] was their best and only real hope [for exposure or airplay]
  • It means world music lovers will listen to the BBC less and less
  • That my local BBC station is moving to be mostly speech-based, when LBC have already cornered that market.
  • We need to have different ideas on the culture of all people, we need to know, to hear, to feel the mix of culture that put our society in a rich social system and world music is one and part of this important way to bring people and mind open   
  • If AWIL goes, this will break a system that contribute greatly to UK economy and cultural image around the world 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Are you missing A World in London?

Following the axing of A World in London, this weekend saw the new schedule bought in on the airwaves. In place of the long running programme, we were faced with two reality show personalities instead of the legendary DJ Ritu.

Now in the interests of fairness we at SaveAWIL HQ listened to the show to see what was going to be offered and what could possibly replace a show of such quality and real diversity. The schedule says "Join Sunny and Shay as they talk about the rich diversity of life in London". 

However, it very quickly became perfectly clear that this was the most unprofessional piece of radio broadcasting that it has ever been my misfortune to endure. Starting from the totally inane 'introduction' by the two 'presenters' things rapidly deteriorated further and further.

We soon discovered that these two presenters have no real connection with London with little or no understanding of the city and its diverse nature. They are from Windsor which if I am not mistaken is not even in London (its outside the M25!). Shay apparently used to work in the "City", they don't know where Hyde Park is and their favourite spot is the Eros Fountain in Picadilly Circus.

Even allowing for the fact that this was their first show and of course technical errors will happen - there was NO excuse for the content. The main topic of conversation was pregnancy and high heels and is not a topic of interest to most people. It didn’t even create controversial discussion and involved sexist commentary, I wont go into one of the other running topic of the evening here in case there are people with a sensitive nature reading (look here if you want an idea although you have been warned!) The guest they had in, producer Uzma Hasan talked about a film from last year - The Infidel, the chat subjects were very gossip/celebrity/glossy mag style with nothing of real intelligence. The only culture mentioned was Asian culture, with 2-3 not recent Bollywood/bhangra songs played with the rest mainstream western pop. As much as I love the Eurythmics I hardly think it fits into the BBC remit which incidentally is supposed to target ages 45+. 

Where has the rich diversity of this great city gone?
The BBC claims to be committed to diversity (undergoing big strategy review now) and it's just been announced that Director-General Mark Thompson will be the new chair of the Cultural Diversity Network. Axing AWIL is hardly a glowing reference for either BBC Radio London or Mr Thompson.
The comments on our facebook page say it all.

At a time when the BBC are making cuts across the board, more money is being invested in this kind of output. With a whole production team backing them (producer/production staff/rehearsals etc) how can the BBC get away with broadcasting and justifying the expense of such nonsense? DJ Ritu produced/researched and delivered the shows on her own without a production team and no marketing yet still delivered a high quality output with a huge listernship. If this show has to stay then why can a replacement slot not be found? Especially as the current schedule on a Sunday is 2 hours of "Vanessa's best bits from the week"

We have also had many complaints sent to the BBC forwarded to us and have also seen the NEW inadequate standard response from the station head David Robey:
“Thank you for your comments, but I believe Sunny and Shay's programme will reach a broad-based audience with cross-cultural interests.  Their first programme featured an historian talking about London landmarks, film producer Uzma Hasan talking about her film The Infidel and a discussion on well being in pregnancy. I believe this reflects life in London in an inclusive way.
David Robey
Managing Editor
BBC London 94.9
T: (Nicole Alcee) 020 7765 0231
E-mail: david.robey@bbc.co.uk

Web: www.bbc.co.uk/london

Has he really listened to the show?

We need to maintain the pressure as the BBC expect us to just let this go. If you are missing a A World in London then continue to complain especially to the standard responses. Make sure you include mark.thompson@bbc.co.uk copy in save saveawil@gmail.com . Send copies to letters@timeout.com and also sign the online petition… it takes a few minutes. 

Keep the pressure up, its the only way we can get AWIL reinstated.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Campaign to reinstate BBC London’s only World music show is growing

Time Out, the Musicians Union, MP Andy Slaughter, and musicians Jah Wobble and Justin Adams are the latest to throw their weight behind a campaign to save BBC Radio London’s only world music programme A World in London (AWIL). Hosted by DJ Ritu, the two hour weekly programme showcasing multi-cultural London has been axed and will be replaced from this Saturday with a chat show. Station Controller David Robey is transforming BBC Radio London into a speech-based station, but the decision to axe AWIL has prompted an angry backlash from the show’s devoted listeners who claim the BBC is failing London’s ethnic communities and reneging on its commitment to diversity and extending choice.

AWIL was BBC Radio London’s only world music slot, as 90% of the station’s current output is speech based. Its last show was broadcast on Saturday and the sudden decision to axe the capital’s “most inclusive” radio show has shocked and incensed lovers of global music and culture and London’s ethnic citizens, prompting a huge outcry and a campaign to save AWIL. A Facebook page launched by fans just before Christmas has generated over 900 signatories and dozens of heartfelt comments about the importance of the show, while many have bombarded the BBC demanding the show is reinstated. London based artists have pledged to stage a musical protest and various notables have joined the campaign to save the show described as a “unique treasure that epitomises the best of multi-cultural London”.

Time Out told its readers about the BBC decision in an article headlined “The end of the world” and has called on its readers to join the Facebook Save AWIL group. Rebecca Taylor, a major fan of the show and the magazine’s News Editor, said the BBC’s response “didn't explain why they want to axe the programme other than seeming to suggest they didn't want as much music...but [AWIL] was so much more than music and there really is nothing similar around.”

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter called the decision, “Another example of the dumbing down of the BBC, which seems keen to promote more bland shows”, while artist Jah Wobble said, “The decision to end Ritu’s show is clearly ill conceived, unjust and unpopular. In my opinion, it runs contrary to the mandate laid down to BBC local radio stations. I would like to see the decision rescinded immediately”.

The Musicians Union (MU) Assistant General Secretary Horace Trubridge criticised the BBC for axing AWIL and another specialist music show Folkwaves, broadcast in Derby, given there was “no consultation and very little warning.“ The MU has asked the BBC to reconsider its decision, claiming, “The loss of these programmes will be disastrous for musicians, who will lose out on airplay and royalties, as well as publicity for upcoming gigs.”

During the past four years, AWIL has lived up to its billing of ‘music from all 4 corners of the world’, featuring songs and artists from over 50 countries. Alongside championing unknown talent and music, renowned disc-jockey and BBC broadcaster Ritu has also pulled in some of the biggest music names on the planet, including A R Rahman (India), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Omara Portuondo (Cuba), Tinariwen (Mali), and Tarkan (Turkey), picking up listeners across the country and abroad. AWIL’s listener figures have grown continuously making the show the station’s second most listened to music programme after Jazzie B, out-performing both Gary Crowley and Tony Blackburn. When Ritu broadcast her exclusive two-part interview with Turkish star Tarkan, AWIL became the most listened to online BBC London show for three weeks running.

AWIL traces its roots to Charlie Gillett who started a weekly world music programme on BBC London back in 1995. DJ Ritu inherited the slot from the legendary presenter in 2006 when he retired through ill-health. Renamed A World In London to reflect its focus on the ethnic and cultural diversity of the city, the show has become a much-loved institution and is regarded as the BBC’s most inclusive programme. Those involved in the capital’s multi-cultural activities view AWIL as a meeting point, notice-board and a key catalyst in unifying London’s many communities.

Notes to Editors:

About DJ Ritu:
DJ, broadcaster, club promoter and A&R, East London born DJ Ritu began her career as a Pop music DJ in 1986, before moving into global beats at club ASIA in Islington. Gaining in reputation as a ‘bhangra expert’ she began touring internationally in 1991, often the first DJ to introduce ‘world’ sounds in many countries, while guesting at legendary global music clubs in the UK such as The Mambo Inn. In 1994, she co-founded Outcaste Records, signing Nitin Sawhney and Badmarsh (& Shri), as well as creating Club Outcaste, which was frequented by Bjork, Goldie, & Talvin Singh. She also became resident DJ at the UK’s first ever weekly bhangra fusion night, Bombay Jungle.

This long-time club pioneer continues to set new trends through her regular London club nights, including leading Bollywood night Kuch Kuch (10 yrs) and the Middle Eastern flavoured Hoppa (7 yrs). Artistic director of two bands, The Asian Equation and Sister India, Ritu has performed in over 30 countries, from Istanbul to Cape Town, Cairo to Riga and at major venues and events such as the Royal Festival Hall, the Big Chill, Sfinks, and WOMAD.

In 2006, she took over the Charlie Gillett’s weekly world music show on BBC London and for the past 19 years, she has broadcast  music programmes for  the BBC that are syndicated in Germany, Turkey, & online. DJ Ritu is the sole UK representative on the influential European World Music Chart Panel and also writes and compiles albums for The Rough Guides.  
For more information about Ritu, AWIL and the campaign to save it, please visit:
3.     http://saveawil.blogspot.com – includes the official (inadequate) response from the BBC

For media, please contact Ipek Ozerim at Prickly Pear, ipek@prickly-pear.org or 0777 623 0466 / 020 8988 7880
For campaign related enquiries, please email: saveawil@gmail.com