Suffolk: Support grows for axed DJ

AXED country music presenter Brian Mann has thanked fans for their support after it was revealed his long-running weekly show was coming to an end.

The decision to end Mr Mann’s Suffolk Country programme on BBC Radio Suffolk has upset regular listeners – with one calling it “the death of country music in Suffolk”.

Mr Mann’s show will finish after 21 years at the end of March and be replaced by a syndicated country music programme broadcasting across East Anglia from Essex.

Last night, Mr Mann, 64, from Ipswich, said he had been overwhelmed by the messages of support.

“It’s very much appreciated,” he said. “It goes to show how strong country is in Suffolk. They know what they like and they like what they know.

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“I know how popular country music is but it’s nice to hear so many people saying nice things about my programme. They realise that they’re going to lose it unless something is done. It’s a nail in the coffin for local radio in Suffolk.”

Mr Mann’s show will be aired as normal between 4pm and 6pm on Sunday. It has been pre-recorded and station editor Peter Cook will explain the reasons for cutting the programme and replacing it with BBC Essex DJ Steve Cherelle’s show.

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The subject was the talk of Ipswich Country and Western Club at its last live music event in the town’s Bridge Ward Social Club.

Tim Albins, club chairman, said: “Brian is the voice of local country music. He’s almost an institution.

“The BBC wants him to go out with a whimper but we can’t let that happen.

“You can’t cover four counties and remain a local radio station. We’ll end up with a watered down version of what we already have.

“More than half our members listen to Brian, so audience figures will drop. We want the BBC to know the strength of feeling among us.”

Mr Mann said the decision was announced in country music magazines at the start of the year that BBC Radio Essex presenter Steve Cherelle would be hosting a syndicated country show.

The news was confirmed by bosses at the end of January that the 64-year-old from Ipswich, who has presented the programme since the station launched in 1990, was to be replaced.

His show once occupied two-hour slots on both Saturday and Sunday but in recent years has aired between 4pm and 6pm on Sundays.

Mr Mann this week said he would miss the show and highlighted the difference in musical preference between Essex and London’s taste for more upbeat music and Suffolk and Norfolk’s leaning towards more traditional music and Irish music.

John Spooner, who runs the Stour Border Country Music Club, called the move “disgraceful” and said he would no longer be tuning in. “Radio Suffolk have ditched us,” added Mr Spooner. “It’s a big loss to the county – which no longer seems to have a local radio station.”

The BBC said earlier this week that the decision had been a difficult one and that Steve Cherelle would continue to provide local gig and event information for Suffolk.

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