Never mind the television programme of the same name. The “Real Voice” passed away this week – Peter Donaldson, former news anchor at BBC Radio 4. I was privileged to meet Peter on a 15 minute tube journey on the Central Line nearly 10 years back en route to Radio 4 to give an interview for The Today Programme with Martyn Shankleman.
I was not sure which stop I should be getting off at and noticed his BBC pass, so asked if he knew the way as I was in danger of being late. He was initially a little guarded as I had a guitar and I suspect he may have thought I was a busker. After I explained that I was going to an interview for the Today Programme, he piped up in his characteristic BBC voice “I’m Peter Donaldson, pleased to meet you”. I suspect he may have been out with some friends drinking wine at lunchtime 🙂 Listening to the tributes to him, my hunch may have been correct – red wine seems to have been one of his great pleasures according to my friend Fenella Fudge, a colleague of Peter’s and voice over specialist.
In our short journey to White City, Peter was gloriously irreverent about BBC management – a true maverick. Within minutes it seemed as though I’d known him for years – the hallmark of someone who was obviously hugely talented at getting on with people of all persuasions. It seems from the various tributes that he touched everyone he met with his sense of fun, kindness and wisdom. Fenella’s eulogy below sums up the man that I met in a brief encounter on a tube train:
“Far too handsome for radio, bearded in winter and clean-shaven in summer, he was the twinkliest man you could ever wish to meet.
Warm, mischievous, kind and wise … but streaked with the idiocy running through real radio people … Peter Donaldson was my lovely boss for 8 years, and colleague for many years after … I can still hear his magnificent voice in my mind, bellowing “Fenellamoo!” at any chance meeting – I called him “Guv”.
His passing makes me ache for a world where public service broadcasting was a vocation, where quality trumped audience figures, and innovation and daring created extraordinary programmes … where hope, joy, talent and ambition mingled, as the BBC invested in mavericks, misfits and above all, fun.
Radio is all about imagination and passion, and there are brilliant pockets where programme makers still duck stifling edicts and pointless corporate demands to produce appointment listening … but the staff are increasingly cowed and creatively neutered.
Peter fought management stupidity with every fibre of his being, he championed those he recognised as fellow wireless warriors, and lampooned the poltroons and buffoons who tried to turn radio into a numbers game.
He is an unmistakeable voice in any radiophile’s pantheon, one of a dying breed of instinctive selfless broadcasters, always striking the right tone, whether with humour or gravitas.
Foremost in his mind was the listener, because radio should be a conversation, not a tannoy.
And conversations with Peter are what I’ll miss – really, really miss.”
Click on the picture to hear the BBC’s own tributes to Peter from his colleagues:
Peter Donaldson R.I.P 1945 – 2015