Charlotte Green – Swindon Festival of Literature 2017

“Swindon Town 3, Arsenal 1” – the second and rather happier of two historical locally significant football results that were read out off-stage to an expectant lunchtime audience at Swindon Arts Centre by BBC radio presenter Charlotte Green. It was a very fitting way to start this entertaining hour as that distinctive voice, known and loved by so many Radio 4 listeners in particular, wafted mellifluously through the auditorium before the less well-known face behind that voice appeared on stage to share stories of a life in broadcasting from her new book “The News Is Read”.

 

As a news bulletin reader and regular on such well-loved Radio 4 programmes as Today and The News Quiz, there were many interesting and amusing stories to tell. Charlotte has been a very popular broadcaster on national radio now for more than 30 years and is renowned for her clear, authoritative yet warm and comforting voice. This might come as something of a surprise to one of her early teachers who in a school report noted that Charlotte had a “voice like a foghorn” with rather more than a hint that she should learn when and when not to use it.

 

Over those years working in flagship programmes such as the Today programme Charlotte gave us an insight into the behind the scenes camaraderie and working relationships with such great broadcasters as Brian Redhead, James Naughtie, John Humphreys, Alan Coren and many more. Charlotte has a great and rather earthy sense of humour with something of a reputation for “corpsing” on air into uncontrollable fits of the giggles. There was one example of this in recent years when reporting on the earliest recording of the human voice when Charlotte completely lost it – a clip which became so popular that Radio 4 news programmes were asked to repeat it in later news bulletins (if you haven’t heard this clip it really is worth tracking down).

 

Another Radio 4 staple often read by Charlotte in previous years was the Shipping Forecast, which she particularly enjoyed reading given the inherent poetry of the familiar litany of shipping areas as loved, albeit with less riding on it, by land-lovers as much as those at sea who depend on it. For Charlotte there is often similar poetry to be found in the names of the teams she announces during the football results, which she now reads on Radio 5 Live, proud and pleased as a big football fan to be given the opportunity recently to follow in the footsteps of the legendary James Alexander-Gordon.

 

This was a very entertaining hour in the company of a very engaging, easy-going personality who clearly loves her job, takes it seriously, does it very well is very professional and yet allows her inherent sense of fun to shine through. With the relative anonymity of radio allowing her to live life largely as a private person, despite doing a very public job, Charlotte Green relishes those rare occasions when she gets recognised by her voice alone, but then as one member of the public pointed out to her recently “Don’t you sound awfully like yourself”.

 

Reviewed by Steve Cox

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