My BBC Radio 4 ‘Word of Mouth’ interview

In July 2010 I got a call, out of the blue, from a BBC radio producer. An article I’d published way back in back in 2007, with the catchy title, In Praise of Jargon, had caught his eye.

He was working on an edition of BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth – a series about words and the way we use them. Having read my article, he couldn’t believe his luck – he was sure he’d found someone foolhardy enough to appear on radio and argue that business language isn’t nearly as bad as it’s painted.

He had, of course. And a few days later I found myself alone in a tiny, airless basement studio in BBC Brighton, with only a headset and microphone for company. Chris Ledgard (the presenter) was in a BBC studio in faraway Bristol, from where he would be conducting the interview.

I’m a big fan of Radio 4, and I often drift off to sleep at night listening to its podcasts on my phone. So it was a slightly surreal experience to find myself in this stuffy closet of a studio, listening to the restful sound of Chris’s voice coming through the headphones, while doing my damnedest to stay awake and focus on his questions.

But just as the interview was getting into its stride, the sound of drilling started up. I took my headphones off, and discovered the racket was coming from the other side of the studio wall. Chris called Brighton, and I went upstairs to see if I could help.

Eventually the source of the noise was traced – and the drilling came to a halt. An apologetic, and embarrassed, Chris Ledgard asked if I’d mind doing the interview again.

The second interview went even better than the first, and we finished it without interruption. However, just as I was about to leave, a barely audible voice emanating from the discarded headphones on the table asked me to hang on. Chris could hardly believe it, but apparently the sound equipment in Bristol was playing up and it looked as though our second interview had gone up the spout too.

It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. We were both a little tired, and going over the same ground for a third time took the edge off our conversation. On the plus side, the third interview was completed without incident, but it wasn’t a patch on the previous two.

Fortunately for me, the producer, Miles Warde, managed to cobble together the broadcast interview from rescued bits of the first two interviews. The programme was first aired on 10th August 2010 and the reaction to it has been very positive. So my blushes were saved – and my budding broadcasting career lives to fight another day!


  1. RON MARSH says

    Hi Martin, Just listened to the interview! I’m a fan of Radio 4 too and in particular the programmes which go out about the time of ‘Word of Mouth’ and this is a particular favourite. I didn’t get to hear the last series – it all depends on my driving home from work at the right time and this year was a bit of a dry one unfortunately so didn’t hear yours live. In spite of the weariness that you described on your website in that basement I thought your points came over well. One thing I expected of the programme which didn’t really seem to happen was that you would have been given a greater opportunity to discuss the world of business words with many examples of them along with their origins and contexts etc. Maybe the flavour of the programme has changed a little – I was used to Michael Rosen – but it can have done your business no harm I’m sure. I didn’t remember your voice I’m afraid but you came over relaxed and considered. A relaxed resonant voice is far better to listen to I find and you came over well on the radio. Let’s hope tha thaving ocme to their attention this will lead to your own spot!! Take care – best wishes ot you both. Ron Marsh (Cartooning student from when we were young).
    P.S. I am writing a book about my travelling days – the inner and the outer journey. The only wayI can think of to try to sort my self out a pension…..

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