The BBC has once again got the music industry up in arms following plans to axe the Scottish-themed Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering, a long-running music program on the regional broadcaster BBC Radio Scotland.
Global Gathering, which has been aired under a variety of different names, including Celtic Connections, for about 20 years, is dedicated to Scottish-influenced World Music.
Its multicultural repertoire ranges from indigenous traditional songs, innovative Celtic contemporary sounds to recordings targeted at Scotland’s large Asian community.
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But the May 8 edition, which is being recorded tonight in Scotland (May 1), will be the last. This follows a review and revamp of the network BBC Scotland by the governing body BBC Trust, a move that has angered the local music community.
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“Without Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering, BBC Radio Scotland will have no music program that adequately reflects the cultural diversity of contemporary Scotland, no female presenters presenting any of their specialist music strands and no specialist traditional music producers in their Glasgow headquarters,” declared the U.K.’s Musicians’ Union (MU) in an open letter to Jeff Zycinski, head of BBC Radio Scotland, the BBC Trust and its regional subsidiary BBC Trust Scotland.
According to Jennifer Hunter, the MU’s regional officer for Scotland and Northern Ireland, BBC Scotland plans to replace Global Gathering with a classical-music show, Classics Revamped. The classical-music program was itself being shifted and replaced by plans for more sports and speech-based programming, she added.
“By the time the changes take place, there will also be less music content on the station,” Hunter tells Billboard.biz.
In response, the MU has garnered more than 170 signatures from artists (including 2011 Mercury Prize nominee King Creosote), members of the Scottish parliament, several independent record labels (e.g., Fence Records), festivals, music publications and music teachers, decrying the closure plans.
Among artists championed by the program, according to the MU letter, are BRIT Awards winner and Grammy nominee KT Tunstall, Spanish-Celtic fusion band Salsa Celtica, Treacherous Orchestra, which specializes in 21st century folk music, and India Alba, which melds Indian classical and traditional Scottish music.
In the open letter, they also expressed their shock that the closure comes during a year when the Scottish government has been campaigning vigorously for a referendum calling for Scotland’s independence from the U.K. in 2014.
Mary Ann Kennedy is herself an established Scottish singer-songwriter. Her recent interviewees on Global Gathering include Nitin Sawhney, the high-profile British musician of Indian descent who has collaborated with Paul McCartney, Sting, Pakistani star Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and leading musicals composer Julian Lloyd Webber.
The Janice Forsyth Show, a music and entertainment radio show also on BBC Scotland, is also scheduled to go dark this July. The news triggered public demonstrations against the cuts outside the Scottish Parliament in February.
The fight to save Global Gathering comes about two years after the proposed closure of BBC Radio 6 Music, the rock digital radio station, was reversed following national outcry by music fans and professionals. BBC Asian Network, another national radio service featuring a significant amount of music content, also got a stay of execution. But its budget is said to have been slashed drastically.
“Just as we campaigned for both 6 Music and Asian Network, we hope this letter will force the BBC Trust and BBC Scotland to change their minds (about Global Gathering),” the MU’s Hunter says.