Until quite recently, reaching 10 p.m. on a weekday night signalled a clear end to the day. The TV drama or Netflix film or football live stream was over. The options were to watch the TV news, which would be shite, biased and presented by muppets. Or to go to bed and read until sleep descended.
And then a friend told me she had been crying tears of laughter earlier that evening, listening on the Internet to the Richie Allen show. I had heard Richie now and again down the years, as I cast around for reliable forms of news alternatives, away from the growingly moribund, corporate-controlled mainstream. But I didn’t have much of a view either way. If a memory persisted, it was of a booming Irishman who sounded confident but polite as he talked to various people and tore apart what the TV and papers were saying.
From his dwelling in Salford, near Manchester, Richie puts out his show live from Monday to Friday, usually starting at 5p.m. I saw that the recordings were available later in the day on Podomatic, and so tuned in for the first time about six months ago. I didn’t know then that (if Richie is telling the truth, which he prides himself on) the show has the biggest audience for any independent European radio programme.
He has been a broadcast journalist for most of this century. It soon became clear that he focused on stuff that interested me. In particular, the sheer ineptitude of most news media. The endless number of well-paid journalists who lick arse and duck from asking the hardest questions. The frailty of our democracy. The corruption of global institutions. And, of course, Covid-19. Pulling the subject apart every night in a way that digs far deeper than the talking heads. ‘Covering the stories that the MSM won’t,’ is the show’s brand line.
Just as good, Richie likes sport and music. He likes ideas. And he tells jokes. He talks about his French partner, Carolyn, with an exquisite mix of love and wit. He talks about his friends, and his beloved Irish roots, alongside his despair at Ireland’s current situation. And he mercilessly mocks the people that run the world, without censoring himself or worrying about the PC/’woke’ communities. I like that about him more than anything else.
Generally, Richie talks for about 45 minutes, and allocates around an hour for his guests to talk. Every few weeks there are phone ins from listeners, often with unpredictably fascinating topics.
It’s definitely one of those shows that people will either love or hate. You cannot feel indifferent about the guy. Richie strives for balance, by lacing his show with a spread of fascinating guests, from all walks of life. His politics are leftfield, but he has no problem with talking to those on the right. As journalists should be, he is more interested in the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ rather than political choices. Take it from me though, it might be better to steer clear if you have fixed views or are easily offended.
I am anything but. Hence the last two hours of the day are looked forward to with relish. It has made the second half of this awful year so much more enjoyable.