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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
At the heart of a heated debate
By Anita Anand
Presenter, BBC Radio Five Live

Anita Anand
Anita Anand: "The team brings honesty to work"
Anita Anand has only been in charge of BBC Radio Five Live's late-night phone-in for a few months but she's already put her own stamp on the show and has seen an increase in the programme's reach.

She talks about her passion for the show which she took over from Matthew Banister, and presents between 10pm and 1am on Mondays to Thursdays.

I've just been on a driving holiday which took me from Brighton to the Isle of Skye. Before I left, I announced my plans to the team.

"How awful! That sounds like a coffee table book I'd never read," one told me cheerfully.

And that is why I love this team. They bring an uncompromising honesty to work. Although of course I didn't say that at the time! You wouldn't print what I said at the time.

It was a very instructive trip for me, highlighting the rich difference in the perspectives of our listeners. This explains why so many of our debates get heated.

It's the light and shade that most appeals to me

Recently, someone rather sniffy asked me: "Exactly what is your show about?"

I told them it was like chatting with your mates about the most exciting news of the day.

Trying to make sense of the big issues. "We rarely agree but we always care very deeply... and sometimes we talk about marmite-flavoured ice cream too."

It's the light and shade that most appeals to me. We may talk about the release of a suicide bomber tape, the challenge for the Tory leadership, human remains being fed to cattle, why the 80s were so rubbish.

'Give us a break!'

Also, we might lean to play the bugle live on air. And it all happens on the same night. It's also a place where those whose paths rarely cross in real life get to face each other. I'm heartily sick of the "proper jobs" having a go at us for what we do.

BBC van
The show puts in the outside broadcast miles

Yes, I know that every poll says we are lower down the scale of evolution than the spirogyra and that "Democracy in this country has forgotten the people; it's all about the sound bite. Nobody's engaged. The media's fault. You lot just sensationalise!"

But please! Give us a break!

The thing is, when we do it right - and a horrifyingly honest team does try to do right every night of the week - then what we do is provide a place for people to speak to, and challenge, those they will never meet in real life.

Where else do you get a mother who has lost a son in Iraq, talking to a politician who says British troops have no right to be there?

'Potent mixture'

Add to that the voices of those who are now frightened to get on a train; those who are able to articulate the fear that the far away is threatening their here and now.

It's a potent mixture and I learn a lot. I'm very proud to say that this show is one that puts the miles in, too.

I hope we continue to be that table in the corner of the pub where everyone feels they have the right to draw up a stool

Thus far we have broadcast from a windowsill in Sheffield and a family kitchen in Leeds where one of our guests had to sit under an umbrella in the garden to avoid anaphylactic shock. He had a cat allergy; the family had six cats.

We've been in Liverpool as that city erupted after winning the Champions League Cup and we've been on the bridge of the largest ship in the British Navy.

So what exactly do I want this programme to mean?

Well, to tell you the truth, I'm quite a selfish cur. I just hope it remains as interesting as it has been so far. And that the listeners carry on being as funny as they have been.

No matter what we throw out, they come back with one-liners that I steal regularly and claim as my own.

And I hope that we continue to be that table in the corner of the pub where everyone feels they have a right to draw up a stool, and, when last orders ring out, we all drag ourselves to bed feeling that we have something new and important in our sleepy heads.




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