BBC radio stars lead the nation in a mass singalong


Greg James, Demot O'Leary, Lauren Laverne, Dotty and Harpz Kaur

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Greg James, Demot O’Leary, Lauren Laverne, Dotty and Harpz Kaur hosted the broadcast from separate studios

UK radio listeners formed a nationwide choir on Thursday, as five BBC stations teamed up for a communal singalong.

For the first time, Radio 1, Radio 2, 6 Music, 1 Xtra and Asian Network all broadcast the same programme, designed to lift spirits during the lockdown.

“This is a unique moment,” said Radio 1’s Greg James. “Isolation doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.”

Songs were suggested by listeners, with choices including Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Prince’s Raspberry Beret.

Radio 1’s audience submitted Florence + The Machine’s You Got The Love, while 1 Xtra listeners chose Toast, an uplifting reggae-soul song by up-and-coming Jamaican artist Koffee.

“For anyone hearing this for the first time, I promise it’s exactly what we need right now,” said 1 Xtra’s breakfast host Dotty, calling Toast “the most uplifting song I’ve heard in years”.

“If you don’t know it, nod your head and raise a glass of orange juice”.

Asian network listeners selected Punjabi MC’s infectiously catchy bhangra anthem Mudian To Bach Ke – which presumably received its first ever airing on Radio 2 as a result.

During the broadcast, people were encouraged to film themselves singing along and post videos on social media; with several BBC presenters joining the fun from home.

Greg James kicked off the simulcast just after 09:00 BST, explaining: “Radio is brilliant at bringing people together, and at this time its power is magnetised.”

Indeed, radio listening has increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC says live streaming of its networks is up by 18%. Global, which owns Capital FM, Heart and talk station LBC; and Bauer, whose stations include Absolute and Magic, have both seen listening increase by 15%.

Lorna Clarke, the controller for BBC Popular Music, said: “In these challenging times, we know that many people have been turning to radio as a lifeline.

“The live broadcasts from our amazing presenters are providing people with a sense of community and some much-needed escapism at a time where many of us are feeling distant from our loved ones.”

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