Art Beat: Channel 4 saved, Radio Foyle in the balance, literary success Louise Kennedy, Corrie's Michael Condron and a 'spare' thought for Prince Harry

Notes and musings from the arts scene in the early new year, by Jane Hardy

Jane Hardy


A protest in support of local BBC staff outside BBC Radio Foyle in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

ONE victory chalked up in the TV wars so far involves Channel 4 happily saved from privatisation, reversing a decision made by Nadine 'Mad Nad' Dorries while briefly Culture Secretary.

Now onto the current unhappy state of affairs at the BBC, which may affect Radio Foyle. As someone lucky enough to have occasionally commented for them on Brexit (fun) and hugging post-lockdown (also fun), I get this. Significant job losses have been mentioned with an implied downgrading of this excellent local radio station.

Why does it matter? Partly because Derry isn't Belfast. And journalism counts for a lot in regional radio. Remember when Liz Truss thought she'd get an easy ride being questioned by local radio journalists? She didn't.

Colum Eastwood MP, leader of the SDLP and prominent in the campaign to save his local radio station, says we've been here before.

"It's the third time the BBC has tried to cut Radio Foyle and if they succeed, it could be the end of the station. It's against the BBC Charter and matters not just because of Derry, but because it's also about the whole of the north west. When Derry was City of Culture, a lot was promised and hasn't happened."

Eastwood adds: "I enjoy [presenters] like Sarah Brett and Paul McFadden, they're fair and straight with no shouty-shouty stuff."

Artistic talent is often thought to start young (Mozart, Ed Sheeran) and be impossible to resist, but the story of Louise Kennedy, author of the coming soon to paperback novel Trespasses (Bloomsbury), suggests otherwise.

Author Louise Kennedy


After three decades working as a chef, Kennedy, who grew up here then moved south, only signed on to a writing class to please a friend. Apparently, they're still talking, as the friend also got into print.

Kennedy's debut caused a bidding war involving nine publishers. It also contains a semi-nostalgic portrait of Belfast during the Troubles, with a party on the Antrim Road and a performance of Philadelphia, Here I come at the Lyric featuring a player described as "a big man with a north Antrim accent" and "terrible anguish in his lines" who sounds suspiciously like Liam Neeson.

Life experience also influences actors. Michael Condron, ace actor (Mojo Mickybo etc) and our latest soap star, explains he drew on his Troubles upbringing to flesh out racist thug Griff Reynolds in Coronation Street.

This is a guy who indoctrinates young fellas like Max Turner and was involved in a bomb attack. Condron has said he's based this controversial character on historical Northern Irish figures, the terrorist godfathers.

"They pulled the strings, were behind riots and often got their subordinates to do their dirty work."

We're all going Spare about Harry and his Kardashianisation of the royal family, but sales of his memoir have been mental.

As Oscar Wilde put it, "A man's face is his autobiography." Well, it's on the cover.