His victory was broadcast to the masses on The One Show — let’s hope this brilliant musician will be further embraced by the mainstream
There is a sense in which the Mercury prize has benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic. True, the award ceremony itself had to be cancelled – cruelly depriving music industry bigwigs of their annual opportunity to talk loudly all the way through live performances by those nominees in which they don’t have a vested interest – but in terms of television exposure, it’s suddenly gone supernova. For years, the Mercury has been bounced around the schedules in a way that somehow suggested TV executives didn’t think anyone was that interested. It was hard to escape the feeling that, if things got much worse, it was going to end up on one of those weird channels on your programme guide’s outer limits that show back-to-back repeats of On the Buses.
But look at it today: the winner announced live on primetime BBC One, as part of The One Show. Clearly a step up, but one that posed certain questions. The One Show may be many things, but renowned for its commitment to music’s cutting edge isn’t one of them. Its dabblings in rock and pop tend to the mainstream: put it this way, if you want to see Geri Horner, nee Halliwell, performing her self-penned tribute to the late George Michael, get yourself over to its iPlayer clips archive pronto. Despite the presence of Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac in the studio, tireless in her efforts to interest the hosts in Moses Boyd’s role within the new wave of British jazz or in genre-defying classical composer Anna Meredith, the possibility of, say, Porridge Radio being announced as winner to a puzzled silence and blank looks all round seemed distinct.