My show on BBC Radio 6 is known for being eclectic and I’m always looking for interesting recordings. They don’t have to be conventional: I’ve had whales that sound like humans and cats that sing.
The theory behind my choices has always been simple. It’s about finding music that makes you feel good, and it can be from any genre, any era, any language, can have seen much success or have languished on the cutting floor for decades. To me its about sharing music that fills your soul, that in this sense, gives something back to those listening.
Now that the show has been officially announced as the most listened to show on digital radio, I am seen as someone who embraces this brave new digital world. Which of course I do.
Yet at the same time, I do wonder about the effect it will all have on us all.
I don’t know anyone of my generation who isn’t struggling to get their head around all the media forms we now have at our fingertips, let alone this ‘selfie’ trend, the pressure to photograph your own mug with everything, then post it online in as many formats as possible.
I know it’s the way of the modern world but it’s not my cup of tea.
The internet in particular is a frontier and we have no idea what is beyond. Sometimes I feel like my children are roaming around the Wild West with no-one policing it. I am far from alone with having parental restrictions on my computer at home, and I’m also far from alone in knowing that it is pretty pointless given that as soon as they leave the house kids have access to the most appalling sites on other’s computers and smartphones.
My children are 12, 10 and 5 and I handle this by trying to get them consider whether particular people on Instagram really enhance the quality of their lives. Perhaps it is too philosophical a question for a child to answer or grasp, but I ask regardless.
I want them to be able to question it themselves. I want them to start to think whether it is actually life enhancing to document everything or spend time tuning in to complete strangers broadcasting the most random elements of their lives, live on Periscope.
Kids today can’t imagine a world without this portal to their alternative virtual planet which is fine, but I like to encourage their interest in the real world – get their hands dirty, climb a tree, light a fire, skin a rabbit, abseil, throw an axe..
It may be a cliche, but I believe the best things in life ARE free and are about experiences, not shoes, cars or contouring make up. In this world, unfortunately, we are rarely reminded of how much goodness there is around us just for the taking – the balance is completely skewed.
That’s why I co- founded the Good Life Experience, a festival of music, food and the great outdoors that I am putting on with Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, this September in Flintshire.
At the picturesque Hawarden Estate, which is 10 minutes from Chester by car, the key ingredients are the usual good music, food and literature but with the added attractions of free activities, a huge dollop of the great outdoors. As well as the archery, vintage fair rides, wood carving, star gazing and wild swimming, there are butchery lessons, campfire cooking lessons, cigar rolling lesson and Cuban dance lessons.
The festival is in its second year, and one of the most consistent bits of feedback from last year’s event is how much the children enjoyed the campfires, and especially the fact that they could pick sweetcorn and then cook it on the fire. That simple pleasure is more memorable to them than any tweet or Instagram photo. This year we have a children’s cafe run entirely by children. Children will be running it and adults won’t even be allowed inside. I’ll have to report back on how that turns out! But its about letting them have freedom.
So as we speed into the future with our gadgets, I’m trying to offer an antidote with a weekend of slow, hands on life.
We’ve got our screens, we’re watching, following, working all hours in all places, yet the slow, hands on simple life of yore begins to look more appealing and more exotic.
Indeed it seems to be the zeitgeist now – that traditional crafts are appealing and interesting and you can see this in the success of programmes like The Great British Bake Off.
We all have to embrace digital as it is our future, but we must all take time to unplug too.
The Good Life Experience festival of music, food and the great outdoors takes place September 18 – 20th at Hawarden Estate in Flintshire, just outside Chester. For more information visi twww.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk