Radio 2 kicks off 2024 in style with a treasure trove of live music and documentaries from some of the world’s best-loved performers, including a month-long Piano Room season in Vernon Kay’s show, more Sofa Sessions on Jo Whiley’s evening show, a Week of Wellness from Jeremy Vine, a celebration of country music at C2C, a brand new reggae series with Maxi Priest, the ultimate Clash of the Pirates with broadcasting legends Johnnie Walker and Tony Blackburn, a celebration of ABBA, plus the return of Top Brass with James Morrison and the sounds of gospel with Beverley Knight.
From Monday 29 January to Friday 23 February in Vernon Kay’s mid-morning show – the most listened to radio programme in the UK (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-12pm) – a month of Piano Room performances return, featuring 20 of pop’s most loved artists singing live accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra from London’s BBC Maida Vale studios. Each artist will perform a new song, a classic, and a cover version – and as well as being on BBC Sounds will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer from later that day. Vernon’s Ten To The Top quiz – which sees two contestants compete in a pop quiz – remains daily at 10.30am.
Helen Thomas, Head of Radio 2, says, “Since Vernon launched his new mid-morning show on Radio 2 in May last year, he has become a firm favourite with listeners, brightening up their days with his warm and funny show, which remains the country’s most listened to radio programme. Following his incredible achievement of raising over £6m for BBC Children in Need by completing his ULTRA Ultramarathon Challenge, I know he can’t wait for this next amazing line-up for Piano Room month.”
Vernon says, “Playing a wide variety of songs by so many different artists, from a variety of decades and genres, on my show is one of the many joys of presenting mid mornings on Radio 2 , so I can’t wait to meet and welcome some of them to perform for a whole month in the Piano Room at the Maida Vale studios.”
Monday 29 January: Bruce Hornsby, performing a Don Henley cover version
Tuesday 30 January: Beverley Knight, performing a Radiohead cover version
Wednesday 31 January: The Libertines, performing a Love cover version
Thursday 1 February: PP Arnold, performing a Miley Cyrus cover version
Friday 2 February: Gabrielle, performing a Lionel Richie cover version
Monday 5 February: Anastacia, performing a Whitesnake cover version
Tuesday 6 February: Olivia Dean, performing a Leonard Cohen cover version
Wednesday 7 February: Johnny Marr, performing an Iggy Pop cover version
Thursday 8 February: Shaznay, performing a No Doubt cover version
Friday 9 February: Rick Astley, performing an Olivia Rodrigo cover version
Monday 12 February: Texas, performing a Charles and Eddie cover version
Tuesday 13 February: Jalen Ngonda, performing a Beach Boys cover version
Wednesday 14 February: Valentine’s Day Special with Lisa Stansfield, performing a Lou Rawls cover version
Thursday 15 February: Crowded House, performing a Petula Clark cover version
Friday 16 February: Jess Glynne, performing a Fleetwood Mac cover version
Monday 19 February: Paloma Faith, performing a Tracy Chapman cover version
Tuesday 20 February: Delta Goodrem featuring special guest Gary Barlow, performing a Take That cover version
Wednesday 21 February: Elbow, performing a Louis Armstrong cover version
Thursday 22 February: Rod Stewart with Jools Holland, performing a Billie Holiday cover version
Friday 23 February: Artist to be announced at a later date
Jeff Smith, Radio 2’s Head of Music, says, “Radio 2 plays over 15,000 different tracks a year – giving listeners a huge range of songs to enjoy – and delivers an incredible range of live music, from intimate studio sessions to the vast crowds at our triumphant Radio 2 in the Park event in Leicester last year. The Radio 2 Piano Room month will feature a stellar selection of 20 artists from new talents such as Olivia Dean and Jalen Ngonda to established legends, such as Rod Stewart, who our listeners have loved for decades. We’re thrilled to offer artists the opportunity to be listened to and watched on the BBC by millions of fans, giving them a springboard to further success.”
Helen Thomas, Head of Radio 2, says, “In the coming few months Radio 2 has the perfect soundtrack to beat the cold Winter blues, from brass to country, gospel to musicals, folk to show tunes. Radio 2 plays timeless, melodic music from today and the past seven decades and I’m proud that this Spring sees the station offer such a broad range of content to our audience. We introduce listeners to the pop superstars of tomorrow whilst continuing to enjoy classic and new songs from some of the world’s most popular artists, so it’s only right that Radio 2 goes back to where pop radio started in the UK and I can’t wait to hear the special programme celebrating the anniversary of pirate radio with two of the station’s broadcasting legends – Johnnie Walker and Tony Blackburn.”
Carolyn Hendry, Interim Director of the BBC Concert Orchestra, says, “I am thrilled that Radio 2’s Piano Room month is returning for its third year and look forward to 20 more collaborations between the BBC Concert Orchestra and a range of unique artists. As one of the UK’s leading orchestras, the BBC Concert Orchestra performs a vast range of music from classical to contemporary. With Piano Room, we get to showcase orchestral arrangements of some of world’s best known songs, heightened by the musical excellence of our players. I hope the audience finds it as inspiring as ever.”
Anastacia says, “I’m absolutely thrilled to be performing for Radio 2’s Piano Room! It’s an incredible opportunity to perform in such an intimate and unique setting, and I can’t wait to share some musical magic with everyone there.”
Beverley Knight says, “It is a joy to be asked to be a part of Radio 2’s iconic Piano Room. Excited to get in front of the orchestra and give listeners something very unexpected!”
Delta Goodrem says, “BBC Radio 2 has shown me incredible support over the past year, with my new song Back To Your Heart being their Record of the Week and the wonderful team getting behind it. I am delighted to be a part of their iconic Piano Room in 2024, and perform with the BBC Orchestra and with my dear friend Gary Barlow. Excited to share more new music with you all!”
Gabrielle says, “I am absolutely thrilled to be returning to Radio 2’s Piano Room. I can’t wait to perform in an absolutely iconic setting alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra.”
Guy Garvey says, “Elbow are overjoyed to once again be joining the BBC Concert Orchestra who helped the band achieve their favourite ever concert at Abbey Road Studio 1 in 2009. We will have something old, something new and a cover which is very deeply personal to me.”
Jalen Ngonda says, “I’m really excited to have been asked to perform a Piano Room session for Radio 2. It’s an amazing opportunity to play some of my own songs and a cover in a different way with my band.”
Jess Glynne says, “It’s such a privilege to be asked to perform at Maida Vale for Radio 2’s Piano Room month. Looking forward to singing in the iconic venue.”
Johnny Marr says, “Working on the songs with the orchestral arrangements for Radio 2’s Piano Room has been quite an experience and an interesting process. It’s an epic sound.”
Lisa Stansfield says, “I’m excited to be singing live on Radio 2 with the BBC Concert Orchestra, performing in the Piano Room at Maida Vale Studios on 14 February. It’s going to be a really special Valentine’s Day!”
Neil Finn of Crowded House says, “I’m delighted to be playing Radio 2’s Piano Room. Having the BBC Concert Orchestra strings on hand to elevate the songs will make it a special occasion for me and I will be doing my scales for the next few weeks to make sure I can play some magic piano.”
Paloma Faith says, “I’m delighted to have been asked to take part in BBC Radio 2’s Piano Room this year. Maida Vale Studios is such an iconic space and I can’t wait to perform my music, old and new, with the accompaniment of the amazing BBC Concert Orchestra.”
P.P Arnold says, “I am so looking forward to being a part of the next Piano Room series, which will be my first performance of the New Year. My wonderful son Kojo Samuel is MD and we’ve put together a very special show for you. Peace and Love, P.P.”
Rick Astley says, “I’m so excited to do the Radio 2 Piano Room. It’s the perfect place to try something new and work with amazing musicians.”
Sharleen Spiteri of Texas says, “We are so happy to be part of the Radio 2 Piano Room Month. Stripping back songs to their songwriting beginnings hopefully will give people the chance to hear something new in the melodies and lyrics.”
Shaznay says, “I’m so excited to have been asked to perform my first solo appearance on Radio 2’s Piano Room, and I’m incredibly honoured to share the stage with the BBC Concert Orchestra!”
The Libertines say, “We are really looking forward to the prospect of performing for the Radio 2 listeners in the Piano Room session. Not only do we get to perform the music that we love – but we get to do it with musicians that will broaden our overall musical spectrum. It’s going to be a great day!”
At a time of year that can be very challenging for our sense of wellbeing, Jeremy Vine presents a Week of Wellness in his show from Monday 15 to Friday 19 January (12-2pm) Every day at 1.30pm, he will focus on different aspects of wellness covering exercise, sleep, cold baths, mindfulness and music with guests including Dr Sarah Jarvis, Dr Michael Mosley and extreme athlete and cold water expert Wim Hof. A BBC Audio production.
Jeremy says, “January can be a miserable time of the year, so we’ll be looking at ways to banish the blues and get into a good state of mind for the year ahead. With our expert guests, and input from listeners, this will be an unmissable guide to improving your wellbeing.”
Singer Rick Astley – who performed at Radio 2 in the Park in Leicester last September and entertained BBC One viewers on New Year’s Eve – guest presents two episodes of Sounds of the 80s, sitting in for regular host Gary Davies (Saturday 13 and 20 January). He’ll be playing his favourite songs from the decade and welcoming a guest for the My 80s feature. A Listen production.
Rick says, “I’m thrilled to be stepping into the shoes of the legend that is Gary Davies for two shows in January! I had a great time co-presenting the show last year and can’t wait to go solo for two weeks. Expect some of my favourite tracks from that decade along with a few surprises….!”
Later this month, Jo Whiley’s show features Sofa Sessions live from Maida Vale from Corinne Bailey Rae (7-9pm, 17 January), The Vaccines (18 January) and Jacob Collier (24 January). A BBC Audio production.
Jo Whiley says, “My Sofa Sessions are one of the favourite bits of my Radio 2 show, chatting to these hugely talented artists and hearing their superlative sounds – what could be better!”
The Radio 2 Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe heads to one of the world’s greatest winter festivals – Celtic Connections in Glasgow – to bring music from its outstanding 2024 line-up to this special edition of the programme. Mark’s guests, in front of an audience at the BBC’s Pacific Quay studios, will include Grammy-winning Texan songwriter Sarah Jarosz and members of Irish folk legends The Bothy Band (9-10pm, Wednesday 24 January). A 7digital production.
Big Night of Musicals returns to Radio 2 (8-10pm, Sunday 28 January) following the BBC One broadcast (Saturday 27 January), and features incredible performances from the casts of West End and touring shows including Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, A Chorus Line, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, GREASE, Hadestown, Guys & Dolls and many more, recorded at Manchester’s AO Arena and hosted by Jason Manford. A TBI Media production.
Brit Award winning Norwegian pop star Sigrid, who shot to fame with her global hit Strangers in 2018, is a huge fan of Neil Young – as is her whole family. Her parents got together through a shared love of his music and, along with her brother and sister, have spent many years playing his songs together around the piano in the family home. In this exclusive two-part documentary for Radio 2 and BBC Sounds, Sigrid: My Neil Young Fan Story, she is now able to share with everyone her passion for Neil, who has been making music for over 60 years.
Sigrid says, “I wanted to make this programme about Neil Young because his music was such a big part of my childhood and he is still one of my favourite artists. Growing up in Norway, we had his music on the speakers at home, we listened to him in the car to the mountains and my dad would tell us all these Neil Young stories whenever he got the chance. Now that I’m 27 years old and touring the world, it is comforting to know that I can listen to Neil wherever I am – on a tour bus or in a hotel room – and still feel like I have a little piece of home with me. I’ve had a great time making this with some incredible guests and I’m really excited for the listeners to find out more as well.”
Alongside an incredible back catalogue of songs, including Harvest Moon, Heart Of Gold, Old Man and My My Hey Hey to name just a few, there are some remarkable stories to be told. There’s the time he was sued by his own record label for making music “not representative of Neil Young”; Emily Eavis tells how he had to pull out of Glastonbury in 1997 because he injured his finger making a sandwich, before he eventually headlined in 2009, and she also discusses how his songs have impacted climate change and politics; Jake Bugg shares his thoughts on Neil writing four of his biggest songs whilst he was seriously ill in bed with a high fever; and record producer and train aficionado, Pete Waterman, explains how Neil’s love of model railway saved a company who made them from collapse in the U.S.
Recorded in front of a piano, Sigrid – who performed a cover of Neil’s 1972 song, Old Man, for Radio 2’s Piano Room in 2022 with the BBC Concert Orchestra – also takes the opportunity to play a few of her favourite songs from his extensive repertoire, including Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World and Cowgirl In The Sand, whilst her good friend Will Taylor from the band Flyte joins her for a duet of Cinnamon Girl (available exclusively on BBC Sounds ahead of its Radio 2 broadcast on Sunday 28 January and 3 February). An Audio Always production.
Radio 2 marks the 65th anniversary since the tragic air crash on 3 February 1959 in Iowa, which killed Buddy Holly – along with fellow passengers Richie Valens and J.P ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson and their pilot Roger Peterson – and which became known as The Day The Music Died. Bob Harris presents Listen To Me, an hour-long show featuring Buddy Holly covers from The Libertines and PP Arnold specially recorded for this programme when they perform for February’s Piano Room month; alongside Sir Paul McCartney, Joe Brown, Hank Marvin and Tim Rice in new excerpts. It will also feature BBC Archive clips from Roger Daltrey, Mick Fleetwood, Keith Richards, Richard Ashcroft, Art Garfunkel, Don McLean (who wrote American Pie about The Day The Music Died) and Feargal Sharkey talking about Buddy and selecting their own favourite tracks of his (Saturday 3 February). A BBC Audio production.
Bob Harris says, “In Buddy Holly’s all too short time making unforgettable music, he left a lasting musical legacy that still stands the test of time. I’m so looking forward to delving into his life a bit deeper for this documentary and hearing from the many famous fans who loved and have been influenced by his music as it continues to inspire so many people to this day.”
In Maxi Priest: Reggae Got Soul, world-renowned and Grammy Award nominated artist Maxi Priest makes his Radio 2 presenting debut. Across three hourlong programmes, he explores the R&B and soul roots and influences of reggae’s most significant hits. His journey begins with Third World’s cover of The O’Jays’ Now That We Found Love and the iconic My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small, a reggae version of Barbie Gaye’s original R&B single. As your trusted guide, Maxi, brings listeners an unforgettable reggae experience in its purest and soulful form (12pm-1am, Saturday 3, 10, 17 March). An Unedited production.
C2C – the annual Country 2 Country festival – returns from 8 to 10 March 2024 and Radio 2’s coverage, as the official broadcast partner, will be bigger than ever before as the network’s coverage of the event expands. As well as the regular programming from the London and Glasgow events, hosted by Bob Harris and Edith Bowman respectively, there will also be coverage of C2C in Belfast hosted by Patrick Kielty. Bob Harris, the on air and on stage host in London, will be aided and abetted by some of the biggest global stars in country music, including Kane Brown, Carly Pearce, Brad Paisley and Old Dominion. A BBC Audio production.
Bob Harris says, “As the popularity of country music goes from strength to strength in the UK, I can’t wait for C2C to return and share the fantastic sounds of country with Radio 2 listeners, from the great stars to the exciting new talents.”
Diana Ross: The Fans’ Story programme marks the legendary star’s 80th birthday on 26 March. Her story is one of survival, rule-breaking, overcoming adversity, glamour, hair, Motown, disco, and more comebacks than any other living pop star. This hour-long celebration of her life, hears from a range of well-known artists who have been influenced by her legacy, whether by her style, ability to reinvent herself, her movies, live performance, her voice and her position as a black female artist through history, there is much to admire about Diana Ross’ story. Contributors include Nicole Scherzinger, Sir Cliff Richard, Leona Lewis, Billy Porter, Jane McDonald, Simon Le Bon, Michelle Visage, Trevor Nelson and more (Sunday 24 March). A Mostest production. The programme is available on BBC Sounds ahead of its Radio 2 broadcast along with Diana Ross At The BBC with Diana, in her own words in interviews from the BBC Archives telling the story of her youth, her years with The Supremes, the brave move away from Motown to launch her solo career, and performing with Stevie Wonder and Billie Holliday. A BBC Audio production.
60 years ago in 1964 Radio Caroline first launched on the airwaves and was where Johnnie Walker and Tony Blackburn both worked as DJs. Clash of the Pirates celebrates these radio legends and tests their vast knowledge of contemporary music across the decades and genres in this fun show featuring a series of themed rounds. In the blue corner is the juggernaut Johnnie and in the red corner it’s the towering Tony. These two musical heavyweights will be pulling no punches as they battle to become the ultimate King of The Pirates! Having both operated outside of the boundaries of traditional broadcasting as the original pirate radio DJs, both Tony and Johnnie used their freedom of expression to make real names for themselves. Now these Radio 2 musical maestros will go head-to-head selecting their ultimate playlists, making strategic song selections, using quick thinking and timely responses as each tries to come out on top. Who will be drawing deep, using their ninja knowledge to rock the boat and turn the beat around? Who will be the champion? Expect energetic performances and entertaining banter, but one thing’s for sure, the music will be at its absolute best and there will be escape, plenty of nostalgia, companionship and of course much laughter, across two joyous hours (Friday 29 March, 12-2pm). A Listen production.
Johnnie says, “Tony and I are great friends – we go back decades – but in this show I’ll have no mercy. Be ready Tony, this is the ultimate moment we decide just who is the Pirate King!”
Tony says, “This is going to be fun, pitting all my music love and knowledge against the great Johnnie Walker, but let’s not forget, he’s the mere whippersnapper out of the two of us so I reckon this win is in the bag for me!”
Later this Spring, Radio 2 celebrates the 50th anniversary of Abba’s Eurovision win in Brighton in April 1974. In April, a listener vote will launch to discover their Ultimate Abba Song, there will be a brand new series of the record-breaking Eras podcast focussing on the band, a special Abba themed Sunday Night Is Music Night concert recorded in Brighton, a new Abba At The BBC documentary, a Tracks of My Years special, and an Abba: Fan’s Story documentary. Further details will be announced nearer the time.
Already on air, Beverley Knight’s Gospel Revue is a new three part series with Beverley Knight returning to the network following her Christmas Day special, featuring some of the best gospel music from the last 50 years. Beverley shares an inspirational selection of classic and contemporary gospel from across the globe from gospel pioneers and future legends, showcasing the breadth of the genre from house and R&B to New Jack Swing and classical and even old African hymns. She tells how the music has sound-tracked various milestones in her life as she curates the music including classics, covers and modern takes with the message of hope being heard loud and clear (12-1am on Sunday 7, 14 and 21 January). An Unedited production.
Brass virtuoso James Morrison has returned with a new series of Top Brass, featuring brass music in all shapes and sizes, from jazz and Big Band, to rock and pop. In episode one, James introduces jazz from Steve Turre, Andrea Motis, and Roy Hargrove, a Big Band cover of Super Mario Bros from Mikey Votano, and a new piece for brass band by Cai Isfryn performed by the Black Dyke Band; episode two features Brass Against, Clora Bryant, Foden’s Band and the Los Angeles Trumpet Ensemble; episode three features Allen Vizzutti, the Spike Orchestra, Colectiva and Jazz at Lincoln Center; and episode four features Arturo Sandoval, Karin Hammar, The Neoteric Ensemble and Paul Cacia. Don’t miss the brassiest show on the airwaves (from 1am-2am on Saturday 6, 13, 20 and 27 January – and available on BBC Sounds). A Lonesome Pine production.
In February 2023, Radio 2’s Piano Room Month featured a star-studded line-up of artists, each of whom performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra live from Maida Vale studios. Performers included Stormzy, P!nk, Sugababes, Suede, Haircut 100 and Jake Shears feat. special guest Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. In December 2022, Radio 2 also treated listeners to a Radio 2 In Concert performance from double Brit Award winning singer-songwriter, Lewis Capaldi. Later last year, Vernon Kay welcomed Piano Room sessions from Def Leppard, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Grace Carter, James Bay, Madness and a festive edition from Gregory Porter.
BBC Radio 2 is the UK’s most-listened-to radio station, with a weekly audience of 13.5 million (RAJAR Q3, 2023). The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show is the most listened-to breakfast show in the UK with an audience of 6.5 million (RAJAR Q3, 2023). The network’s presenters include Michael Ball, Zoe Ball, Rob Beckett, Tony Blackburn, OJ Borg, Rev. Kate Bottley, Rylan, Fearne Cotton, Sara Cox, Jamie Cullum, Gary Davies, Paul Gambaccini, Angela Griffin, Bob Harris, Vernon Kay, Cerys Matthews, Scott Mills, Jason Mohammad, Trevor Nelson, Dermot O’Leary, Elaine Paige, Mark Radcliffe, Romesh Ranganathan, DJ Spoony, Liza Tarbuck, Jeremy Vine, Michelle Visage, Johnnie Walker, Jo Whiley, Phil Williams, Claudia Winkleman, Steve Wright and Owain Wyn Evans.