I was sad yesterday to learn of the death of Robert Sandall. While he is most celebrated as a music journalist, I was more aware of him as a radio presenter.
In 2001, when I was discovering my interest in experimental music, I was advised by someone on a messageboard to listen to the Radio 3 programme Mixing It, which Robert Sandall co-presented with Mark Russell. As the title of the programme suggests, it was a genuinely eclectic affair. It showcased all manner of new (and sometimes old) music without discrimination. That’s not to say they weren’t critical — the programme’s catchphrase became “where’s the skill in that?”
I was hooked to the programme during my teenage years. When it was broadcast late on Sunday nights, it helped take my mind off the fact that I had school in the morning. When it moved to Friday nights, I was unusual among my peers. While most were developing their social lives, I was listening to Radio 3. Robert Sandall was my John Peel.
Nothing has shaped my taste in music more than Mixing It. The programme demonstrated how to approach all types of music with a genuinely open mind, no matter how outlandish or unpromising the premise of the piece may seem. The message was: you never know, you might like it — and if you didn’t like it, at least it was interesting to listen to.
In 2007, Mixing It was axed by Radio 3 having been broadcast since 1990. The word I read time and again about this decision is ‘criminal’. Mixing It was a genuinely unique programme. It was just the sort of thing you think the BBC ought to excel at. But it was disposed of — with little in the way of justification — leaving the programme’s fans angry.
Soon after Radio 3 stopped broadcasting the programme, it was resurrected as Where’s the Skill in That? on Resonance. Sadly these broadcasts were more sporadic, and I missed many of these editions as a result.
Since Mixing It ended, I have not seen the point of listening to much in the way of music radio programmes. Nothing offers the combination of eclecticism, inquisitiveness and humour that Mixing It brought. I am sad that Mixing It is not on the airwaves today, and I am sorry that we won’t hear Robert Sandall broadcast again.