It can be hard work, moving on a popular and locally identified presenter. Trust me, I know. But on the week Professor Carl Chinn MBE issued the most polite post-sacking press release ever, we listened in to his final show.

Mr Birmingham

Mr Birmingham

Listened In is 2ZY’s weekly air-check blog. Every week we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHO    Carl Chinn


WHEN  23 June 2013

“I think you’ve left a legacy. You’ve encouraged a generation of people to get interested in local history … you’ve been a beacon in that sense, and now your show is passing into that history thing,” says a caller as I tune in. Carl thanks him and handbrake turns into the kind of non-sequitur that made his name “Now let me just tell you about the Walton Lions Air Rifle Club. They have a 4 in 1 open day and shoot.” Admission is 50p at the Great Barr Conservative Club, in case you’re interested.

You might not have heard of Carl Chinn south of Studley, but this former bookie turned historian has been on WM for nearly 20 years.

“Thank you to everybody, I’m inundated with messages about it being my last show on BBC WM today. “

Dave Evetts has ‘stopped driving his car to listen’. (Does the radio not work when it’s stationary?) Anyway, he thanks Carl on behalf of all the Bullring Traders, for his support over 20 years. “With your help, we have, in the last few days, been assured by the deputy leader that the future of the retail market is confirmed, even with the move of the wholesale market,” which is pretty good testament to the power Carl’s “Mr Brum” status. This is, after all, a man who the press tipped to be an elected mayor of the city had that happened.

Stuart and June are past members of the Brum St Georges Day Association, and text in. David Carson says “all the family are shocked and disappointed. My Mum and Dad in particular will miss you on the airwaves. I hope you’ll continue making young and old proud of their area. It’s a unique show.” Certainly it’s not the kind of thing you’d hear anywhere other than WM.

“And it’s been a unique show not because of me, but because of all of us. It’s our show, we’ve been together. Awww, let’s play some news (sic).

Pleasant Valley Sunday/Monkees

More texts, emails keep coming. From Hilda, Billy, Loz, Johnny Tucker and the St Josephs School, Irene and Bill, Wendy. “We’re all pals together. Thank you Gina, lovely words.”

TRAIL: Pete Morgan at Breakfast. Retrospective trail looking back at an OB the previous week. The only tease to tomorrow’s show is ‘I’m live in Tamworth.’ For any particular reason?

It’s getting more surreal. “Thank you to Ted in Shirley who says Carl, on behalf of the Romany gypsies of Birmingham, thank you for everything, and for helping me get a Masters degree in History at the age of 76.”

More; Sheila, Gerald, Bob, June – who’s been listening since the start. Ann, Dave who’s ‘devastated,’ Lou who says “sorry to hear about your show, but would you mind announcing that I’ll be hosting a fabric roll ends sale in aid of cancer research?”

ID: Willenhall, Yardley, Selly Oak, Wolverhampton and Sparkbrook. Haye your say across the West Midlands on BBC WM 95.6. (About what?)

Before the arsonist.

Before the arsonist.

Onto an interview, and a bit of a gem it is. The fascinating story of ‘Forward’, a bit of public art that’s inspired a new event. Forward was a famous statue in the city centre. Before vandals chopped off one of its heads, and youths set fire to it. Carl is talking to an artist who’s working on an event inspired by the work. “It was a controversial statue. Some people thought it was Stalinistic looking, but I loved it, it was all about our industry and moving forward,” says Carl, with some passion. And ever the historian, “Make sure you put a copy of the manuscript in the Central Library.”

TRAIL: Loving where you Live BBC bus tour.

“This is my very last show on a Sunday. it hasn’t been my decision, but you know, such is life.”


There aren’t many people who know more about Birmingham than Carl Chinn. £270 is a relatively hefty show fee, sure, but he was certainly well-networked, much-loved, and on-target for a network that goes after an audience “50 and over, who are not well-served elsewhere, although the service may appeal to all those interested in local issues. There should be a strong emphasis on interactivity and audience involvement.” (From the BBC LR service licence).

This particular segment was rambly and self-indulgent, sure, but the Forward interview shows what Carl’s capable of on a normal week, and despite being on a phone with no illustration, this was a fascinating interview.

It’s not even like the show was aimed way, way too old, or was too music-led for a speech-imaged station.  And even if it had been, most programmers will tolerate a show that they didn’t invent so long as it’s still doing good business, is not damaging the brand – and parked in a relatively innocuous part of the schedule. Even harder to fathom when the station is embarking on a marketing campaign to sell its local credentials (aka parking a bus in a windswept shopping centre).

Dispensing with the good Professor’s services is a shame and a risk. Especially as in the choppy waters of the WM refresh, he provides a bit of driftwood for traditional listeners to cling on to. Floating, presumably, next to the ever-shrinking Doolan-shaped piece.

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