Mark Sandell aka “Old Grandfather Radio”


I’m the one to blame if you don’t like WHYS. 

  I came to the World Service after working at 5 Live , Radio 1, Capital and a station in Brighton then called Southern Sound. 

Nothing i’ve ever done has meant more to me – or made me prouder- than World Have Your Say. When we won the Sony Gold (below) it was a very happy night.

and , ok then, quite a drunken one too.


Ok then, about me :

* I support West Ham and have been a season ticket holder for the last dozen. One of my boys has “Paolo” as a middle name in honour of this bloke :


Here’s a piece i wrote for a Hammers blog. (if you don’t like bad language, don’t click on it!)

* I’m also a big fan of Essex CCC and still get down to Chelmsford to watch them when i can.


Left is Graham Gooch of Essex and England, one of my all time cricketing heros and fellow Hammer.

* The podcasts i never miss are : The Word , which is one of my favourite magazines, The Bugle, which is just bloody funny , Adam and Joe (likewise) Fighting Talk and This American Life because i love the slow-paced but beautifully produced stories.  In fact i’m not ashamed to say i’ve donated to help keep it going. It’s just excellent radio. 

* I first worked with Ros at 5 Live when i edited the Simon Mayo show.  Ros cloughGrahamWoodGet_146082twas the first person who ever said the word “podcast” to me and i was impressed by how much he knew and i didn’t. Our boss says we are the “Clough and Taylor” of radio, which will do for me, as long as i’m Clough.

It was Ros who christened me “Old Grandfather Radio” as i tend to go on about various events i’ve covered over the years (mainly Olympics and World Cups) and obviously bore people to distraction. People have been known to tiptoe out of the room when i’m in the middle of a rambling tale about South Korea or somewhere.

Below is how i see the Atkins- Sandell relationship working :


* Favourite WHYS moments : Where do i start ? The fact that our colleague Alan Johnston, while in captivity, heard the messages you sent to him on WHYS and it made a difference to him in his darkest hours.

The Sony of course and our first OB in New Orleans in 2006. We take our road trips almost for granted now, but then  it was an unknown. Below is the team that made it happen, from left to right, Fiona (who produced the show), James, Anu, O.G.R and Peter. Picture taken at the Preservation Hall.


My Radio Heros are (apart from Ros):

Alan Freeman, who was in charge the very first time i appeared on the radio (in a national pop quiz on Radio 1) and who later i got to work with at Capital, Kenny Everett   (likewise), Jack Di Manio  – the first radio voice i remember, and Douglas Cameron, a presenter with a brilliant voice on LBC, the station, along with Capital, that i grew up with, and the one that made me want to get into news. It was Brian Hayes on that station who got me interested in interactivity. Again, i’ve been fortunate to work with them both.

In sport, the voices of the late John Arlott  (the “voice of summer”)and the late Peter Jones can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Peter’s broadcasting at the Hillsborough disaster was a model of dignified, measured reporting in the midst of tragedy. Click here for some of his Cup Final commentary.

Oh, and Chris Tarrant , who i loved working with at Capital (reading the news), who gave me my only other nickname : “Igor” .igor

So if there’s anything else you’d like to know (which i seriously doubt), feel free to ask.

I am very proud of the community we’ve built up around WHYS and i know how privileged i am to travel far and wide to bring the radio part of the programme to you.




13 Responses to “Mark Sandell aka “Old Grandfather Radio””

  1. May 26, 2009 at 17:29

    Hi my dearest Mark… Here’s a question for you : Is there any place on this planet that you’d really love the WHYS programme to be broadcast from live but you just can’t make it happen in the near future ?! And also you didn’t tell us about your favourite music… Much love and blessings to you from Baghdad… Yours forever, Lubna…

  2. 2 Mark Sandell
    May 27, 2009 at 14:37

    Dear Lubna, where would WHYS be without you ?! Thankyou for posting (might have been embarassing if no-one did !) .
    In answer to your question s:
    a) Yes, i’d love to do a programme from Baghdad when it was felt safe enough to do so- and everyone on the team wants to meet you too..but i’ve always wanted not just to go to North Korea but to do a programme from there..
    b) I love Bruce Springsteen and the late Ian Dury but my musical tastes are very diverse from reggae (especially Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown)to newer stuff….Madeleine looked startled the other day when i was playing MGMT…at the moment The Script, Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol are my favourites..

    thanks Lubna and take care !

  3. May 27, 2009 at 17:33

    Hi Marks,
    Thanks for sharing a section of your professional experience with the readers of this blog and the WHYS listeners.

    Ros calls you Old Grandfather Radio. I like to call you Maestro Mark.

    To my knowledge you have never presented any edition of WHYS show. Why do you prefer to keep a low profile by directing WHYS behind the scene?

    Although WHYS didn’t make it to Sony Gold , I think the prize you got in 2008 didn’t disappoint those who awarded it as the show has kept improving. Its openness on the world was manifest in its trips abroad.

    Now WHYS has a wealthy repertory. Each edition is distinct as each can have distinct contributors. As you said, you succeeded in building a community thanks to which people from different countries and persuasions can speak to one another. At least if they don’t agree on different issues, they get involved in a civilised manner.

  4. 4 Mark Sandell
    May 27, 2009 at 17:55

    Abdelilah, thankyou not just for posting but for being such a big part of the evolution of WHYS.
    I used to present on other stations but to be honest i wasn’t that good at it (the phrase “safe pair of hands” comes to mind)and i’d rather work with people who are good at it- like Ros and Madeleine and Rachel and Peter.
    I was on standby to present one Christmas but in the end, somebody saved us and you, by stepping in.
    Thanks for your kind and constructive remarks about the show too…

  5. 5 Tom D Ford
    May 28, 2009 at 00:17

    I like your WHYS, Mark, and one reason is that I think that anytime you get people talking or writing with/at each other it humanizes them, even if they/we disagree with each other. It is a kind of waging peace.

    Anyway, thanks.

  6. 6 Mark Sandell
    May 28, 2009 at 12:59

    Tom, thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I do agree there are times when the programme is very humbling because of the stories we hear and i also like those times – rare admittedly, but they do happen – when you can hear someone who’s had their mind changed because of somebody else’s argument or experience.
    We’ve only scratched the surface on where we can go with it.
    Very much appreciate your comments Tom.
    all the best

  7. 7 Jim Newman
    June 2, 2009 at 12:43

    Hello Mark
    I like WHYS even if you think that some of my comments are naughty. I think the concept of ‘waging peace’ is a good one.
    I’ll try to do more of it. If! it doesn’t mean that I can only comment on the things that I agree with. I suppose WHYS reminds me of where we’ve been and how far we’ve got to go so ‘Old Grandfather Radio’ isn’t so wide off the mark.

  8. 8 Mark Sandell
    June 2, 2009 at 15:20

    Thanks Jim for your comment – i think “naughty” is an interesting word. We try to make the rules clear and stick to them (though of course we don’t always manage it), so i hope you don’t feel unfairly edited. You take the trouble to post often and without people like you we wouldn’t have grown such an excellent community, so thank you.

  9. 9 Julia in Portland
    June 12, 2009 at 06:06

    Thank you for allowing me to participate in your shows from Portland and for your patience. It was exciting, fun, a bit scary and enlightening.

    I can now move through the rest of my life knowing I had, as Warhol put it, my 15 minutes of fame. Granted it wasn’t for anything as cool as discovering a cure for cancer or landing a plane on the Hudson, but they were my 15 minutes and I enjoyed them.

    WHYS helps me learn more not only about the world but, about myself. Thank you and all the WHYS staff, you bring the rest of the world in a little closer to home for us all.

    December 22, 2009 at 19:07


    You are the best. Contine to Keep the boat on course. This time Granpa, it’s really loaded but I trust your skills.

    December 23, 2009 at 07:20

    Hi Mark once again.
    I not yet through with soft issues – but why?

    I have wished Christmas to those faces that I was able to see among your team starting with the smiling ones. I know there ought to be more than these – sound engineers (Phil?), photographers, moderators, people that orgaize things and many others of qualities that I am not aware of; perhaps they see my name and I may not be aware they exist in the remote bacground.
    If the coming year is going to be a success story, its surely due to their valued input this year. I wish all of them a MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR TOO.

    My message to all of them is: THIS DEAL IS WORKING. TRUST MR DEAL.

  12. 12 vintner
    December 24, 2009 at 02:03

    So, you are one to thank if we think WHYS is the neatest thing since sliced bread? Keep up the good work teaching the younger folk “how to” & rest easy knowing you and Ros and the gang do more to help in the world than number of politicians you, or I, can name. I am only one of 7 billion; but I thank you as sincerely as I am able.

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