Tiggy Walker: ‘How I became my husband’s side-kick on his BBC Radio 2 show’
PUBLISHED: 12:01 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:25 10 July 2020
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Our new columnist Tiggy Walker tells us how she ended up sharing the airwaves with her husband DJ Johnnie Walker on his BBC Radio show
Dorset is my spiritual home. When I was 16, my mother took me on a day trip to Brownsea Island from next door Hampshire. I decided then and there that I would live in Dorset. As soon as I could afford to buy a cottage here, almost 30 years ago, I did.
It may be a little strange to start a new column in ‘lockdown’. Especially one called, “Life’s for Living”, as for many this is proving a challenging time. But for all the people I meet daily, while out walking Darcey (our elderly yet spirited working cocker spaniel), it is the opposite. To a person they all say, “aren’t we lucky”. Yes, indeed we are. Being able to walk around this beautiful county has made our hearts and souls soar; the sun has (mainly) shone and nature has blossomed before us.
For me there has been an additional blossoming. A serendipitous result of staying indoors. My husband, BBC Radio 2’s Johnnie Walker was told in March that for the foreseeable future his Sounds of the Seventies radio show, which goes out every Sunday afternoon, would not come from the studio at Wogan House in central London, but from our home in Shaftesbury. There would be no guests, just listener dedications and his usual 70’s themed banter. Johnnie, who henceforth I will refer to as ‘The Pirate’, has an uncanny sense of knowing what will or will not work on radio. Almost 55 years of surfing the airwaves means he has learnt a thing or two.
Having loved the Afternoon Delight radio show I did for Abbey 104 FM in Sherborne, he asked if I would lean in on his show, thus providing a bounce and another voice. I’m a dutiful, supportive wife. I’m also a closet performer. So, my answer was out before he’d finished his question. YES! His producer and exec approved the move, and at the end of March I became his on-air side-kick – just at the time when radio audiences are growing.
I love show day. There’s a different energy in the house as we set up our Dorset studio. A thick red blanket is spread on the dining room table before The Pirate sets up our individual mics, mixing desk, digital recorder and iPad to see Lee (our producer). I add a lot of cushions around us, against the glass doors and under my mic to absorb any echo.
Next comes the requests from listeners. I get given a pile to read which I go through, cutting out any superfluous bits and enhancing the punctuation to help me read them out on air. The show made from home is far more organic than in the studio. The Pirate is taking even greater care with the music, and I get some of my tracks in the mix too. We try to balance the pace and mood of music led mainly by the greatest number of requests.
I confess that I was a little concerned about how his loyal listenership would react to this slightly posh sounding interloper joining him. The Pirate is loved by men and women alike. He is responsible for the soundtracks to their lives; all its ups and downs, they’ve been through it together. They’re close. But just as he thought, his audience welcomed me with open arms.
After the first show, producer Lee said they had been ‘swamped’ with emails - all loving the chemistry. I was quickly dubbed ‘The Management’ and now I get requests sent to me.
Like so many, we’re stuck inside, but we have a laugh together and that’s what people want to hear. For a while I’m part of his big yet cosy Sunday afternoon club. I feel blessed to experience the love.
So yes, for me, life IS for living - even in lockdown.