Thursday, May 1, 2003

Esquire: The Best Face for Radio

The presenter of our favourite radio show has a devoted cult following, so don't be put off by where you'll find her on the dial, says Keith Laidlaw.

Retuning your radio late in the evening, you may be surprised by what you find towards the left end of the dial. Initially beguiled by the sultry-voiced female presenter, you will be steadily introduced to an astonishingly wide range of music, including roots, contemporary, electronic, world, rap... and then you'll discover that you're listening to Radio 3.

"Late Junction is a programme that really covers everything," explains 33-year-old Verity Sharp, who shares presenting duties with Fiona Talkington. "But Radio 3's always been eclectic, so it fits in perfectly happily."

The concept behind the show is simple. "When you go home, you don't listen to just one kind of music, you have a whole load of things. So it was just an idea to make a programme like that," says Verity. "And when it first came out, the listeners were just... euphoric. No, honestly. There were so many people saying things like, 'This is the programme I've always wanted to hear.' It sounds like bullshit, but it's true."

The passion doesn't just come from the listeners. "To me, the music is everything," says Verity. "If I could just link all the music together and not say anything, I honestly would." Indeed, her background as a cellist and radio producer before she moved into presenting confirms her serious credentials.

And, as well as having the striking looks to finally lay to rest the old joke about "having a face for radio", she is someone who could happily talk about music all day. When asked for her Desert Island Discs, she quickly reels off Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (an Indian lap steel guitar player), Sibelius, Billy Bragg, Brian Eno and Gillian Welch, an American bluegrass musician. "Recently I'm really getting into bluegrass, which is... I never thought I'd see that day," she says, before trailing off wistfully. Neither did we.

'Late Junction' is on Mondays to Thursdays at 10:15pm on BBC Radio 3