Classic BBC Radio Theme ~ Down your way

Classic BBC Radio Theme ~ Down your way

Down Your Way was a BBC radio series which ran from 29 December 1946 to 1992, originally on the Home Service, later on BBC Radio Four, usually being broadcast on Sunday afternoons. It visited towns around the United Kingdom, spoke to residents and played their choice of music. It has sometimes been described as having portrayed an increasingly outmoded and rose-tinted view of Britain, concentrating on market towns with pre-industrial roots and ignoring industrial towns and New Towns, but it vividly evoked the local and regional distinctiveness as it roved around the United Kingdom.

It was initially hosted by Stewart MacPherson but in 1947 Richard Dimbleby took over its presentation until 1955, then Franklin Engelmann until his death in 1972 when Brian Johnston took over until 1987. In 1975, despite then being the second most popular programme on radio, it was taken off the air as an 'economy measure'. It was subsequently reinstated, after a storm of popular protest.

From 1987 until its demise in 1992 it had a different celebrity host every week, who would visit a place of significance in their own lives – effectively turning it into 'Down My Way' and blending it into the then-emerging celebrity culture.

Its well-remembered signature tune was called "Horseguards, Whitehall."

In the 1980s the show was satirised on the Kenny Everett Television Show as "Up Your Way", a saccharine television version presented by "Verity Treacle". In 1984, it was parodied by Radio Active as "Round Your Parts".

Links To Peel

Peel hosted two shows of Down Your Way in 1988. The first show broadcast on 31st January on Radio 4 FM had him guiding listeners around his local village Combs, Suffolk, including a pub where he speaks to the strongest man in East Anglia and the lady who taught Margaret Thatcher chemistry. Peel himself also drinks at the pub. He also speaks to two former members of the youth club in Great Finborough, which he and Sheila had organised soon after they settled in the village in order to provide some activities for young people. The episode was repeated the next day on Long Wave. The second show broadcast on 7th February had him visiting Wirral Peninsula near his birthplace and talking to local people, including visiting Liverpool Botanic Gardens, an RSPB bird reserve and a shrimp shop in Merseyside.

There was criticism in some quarters that feared Peel had become part of the establishment due to his hosting of Home Truths. One writer mentioned Down Your Way in the course of his argument:

"Meanwhile, modern Radio 4 presenters will introduce an interview with one of the landowners, aristocrats and masters of foxhounds who were recently “named and shamed” on Usenet with no specific reverence at all, treating them as just another part of British life, on no higher a level than John Peel (whose professional name earns a new irony in this context), rather than as anything special. 25 years ago, the divide between Peel’s Radio 1 programme and the official culture of Radio 4 – epitomised by such programmes as “Down Your Way” with Brian Johnston and the Wynford Vaughan Thomas-fronted “The Countryside In.” series – was such that you could not imagine it being bridged in your lifetime. Never, it seemed, would the man who was championing the Sex Pistols be acceptable in the context of the station that the hunting extremists, then still effectively beyond criticism within an Establishment context, regarded as their own. Yet now Peel has a regular Radio 4 show, the Down Your Ways of this world are vanished for good, and it doesn’t even merit comment, such have the perimeters for what is culturally acceptable within an “Establishment” context changed. There lies the root of the Real Countryside Alliance." [1]


  • Down Your Way (First broadcast on 31 January 1988, repeated on 01 July 2017 on BBC Radio 4 Extra)

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