Preston’s The Continental to host Steve Barker’s ‘On the Wire’ radio show celebration

Posted on - 17th September, 2021 - 4:22pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Broadgate, Music, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Recreation, What's On in Preston
Steve Barker and Bhajan Bhoy aka Ajay Saggar

The Continental is hosting a celebration for BBC Radio Lancashire’s Steve Barker this weekend.


On Sunday 19 September, from 2pm until 9.30pm, musicians will gather at the Preston restaurant for a night packed full of performances.

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The afternoon sessions, from 2pm until 5pm, are free and include label showcases from Preston record labels Them There Records and Concrete Tapes. The evening session, from 6pm to 9.30pm, includes sets from Dean McPhee, Bhajan Bhoy and Gwenifer Raymond.

Steve Barker’s On the Wire (OTW) radio show has been broadcasting from Lancashire since 1984 and weekly via BBC Radio Lancashire.

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OTW is the longest-running underground music radio show, but in the days when it was only available on AM/FM radio, OTW only sneaked over the Lancashire border on fine weather or was dubbed onto C90 cassettes.

In the last 20 years, the show has consolidated its global reach, with each edition being made accessible everywhere via the internet.

The outlier music featured on OTW has evolved over the years. Dub and roots reggae have been constant features, often from Adrian Sherwood’s On U Sound label, who also provided the OTW theme tune, Dub Syndicate’s instantly recognisable Ravi Shankar No 1.

Early on, Steve mixed it up with hip hop, underground rock, jazz, blues and R’n’B. More recently, he has concentrated on contemplative sounds, atmospheric electronic music, world music and guitar instrumentals.

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Steve always puts the music first, and listeners are often half an hour or more into an episode of OTW before he appears, or as The Guardian put it, ‘back-announcing eight or more records in a row with occasional gnomic comments’.

OTW disappeared from the Radio Lancashire schedule in March 2020 as part of the reorganisation of BBC local radio programming, which happened during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Since then, whilst being rested by the BBC, Steve and the rest of the On the Wire team have continued to post editions of the show to Mixcloud, with links being posted weekly via the OTW webpage.

Following a sustained campaign from fans, BBC Radio Lancashire reinstated On The Wire but only for a token four shows per year, although Steve continues to post weekly shows to Mixcloud. It is still unclear what the future will be for specialist local radio, but what is certain is that On the Wire will carry on whatever happens.

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The Continental and Tuff Life Boogie said they are delighted to be involved in organising the gig to celebrate the music that Steve has championed on the show recently and helped to persuade the BBC to return the show to its weekly spot.

Concrete Tapes will present Preston analogue techno-wizardry from Lorentzian, followed by one of the buzz electronica acts of the moment, the Warrington-Runcorn Development Plan, whose Ghost Box style presentation on the boutique label Castles In Space has won them plaudits.

Them There Records are bringing exclusive sets from The Universal Veil and Powders. The Universal Veil is a duo comprised of Sam McLoughlin (Twisted Nerve) and Folklore Tapes head David Chatton Barker. Their improvised live performances with their handmade ritual instruments are by turns meditative, trancelike, joyous and surreal.

Their latest 12” vinyl-only album Helios/Hind is a sonic artefact that unearths lo-fi cassette recordings from several years of past performances and weaves them together into a new whole, using an array of esoteric processes.

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The organisers said it is possessed by the same spirit of mystery and discovery that is present at their live shows, where unusual sounds are spontaneously generated, recycled and transmuted into a deeply strange, magical and psychedelic soundscape.

Powders are a new live project from Josh Horsley (Cello) and Carl Brown (Electronics). Their live set-up combines granular synthesisers and samplers with minimalist string repetitions to create lush drones that build and swell into walls of sound.

Kicking off at 6pm, the evening session features three purveyors of various shades of solo guitar, all of whom have featured heavily on OTW in recent years.

West Yorkshire based electric guitarist Dean McPhee plays a Fender Telecaster through a valve amp and effects pedals. He has been perfecting his art over the last 10 years, with occasional bulletins in the form of LPs on the Blast First Petite and Hood Faire labels.

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Expect fluid finger-picked melodies combined with atmospheric drones and trance-inducing loops.

Ajay Saggar, honorary Lancastrian and now based in Amsterdam, is an old friend of On the Wire, having featured on the show in various incarnations over the years: first with legendary Preston act The Dandelion Adventure in the late 80s and through the next three decades with Donkey, The Bent Moustache, King Champion Sounds, Deutsche Ashram
and The Common Cold.

The last four acts have illuminated various Tuff Life Boogie events at The Continental in recent years. Bhajan Bhoy is Ajay’s latest solo incarnation and moves on from the textured guitar of Deutsche Ashram. It combines with an arsenal of oblique strategies, found sound and atmospheric samples from the Brian Eno textbook.

Bhajan Bhoy’s debut LP Bless Bless received acclaim this year and looks set to be Time Lord Ajay’s most successful incarnation.

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Gwenifer recently put out her second album, Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain, on the acclaimed Tompkins Square label in Autumn 2020 and is one Jools Holland appearance away from being the next big thing in roots music.

Growing up in Wales and now based in Brighton, Gwenifer specialises in sparse American primitive instrumentals drawn from the roots music of Mississippi and Appalachia.

Steve himself will also be DJing in-between sets during the evening session, together with OTW contributor Michael Fenny Fenton.

For tickets, visit –

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