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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sound of Summer

Those who have been waiting for the first day’s play in the Ashes Test Series against Australia were not disappointed. It was so dramatic I had to keep switching the radio off. For some of us, however, the summer game will never have quite the same resonance since John Arlott handed over his microphone for the last time. For thirty years Arlott’s warm Hampshire burr was the very sound of summer. His commentaries were more than about cricket. They were about the very essence of what it is to be human. One of his favourite quotations: “Who knows of cricket who only cricket know?” But many listeners who remember his sharp, rich and humane words may not have been aware of his other contributions to the worlds of poetry and the anti-apartheid movement. Arlott was an accomplished poet whose work reflected the man. But his lasting legacy was that of the radio producer who discovered, developed and provided work for the young Dylan Thomas. John Arlott and Dylan Thomas were great friends and John realised that he had to do everything in his power to keep the poet functioning even to the extent of loaning him money from his own pocket (and which, he later confirmed, was all paid back).
He was brought up in Basingstoke. The family lived in the gatehouse of the Holy Ghost Chapel (in the graveyard of which the unfortunate May Blunden was buried alive - twice). He attended Fairfields School (since the Basingstoke Drama Centre) and worked as a special constable in the town. He was a great connoisseur of fine wine. He later moved to Alresford and, finally, to Alderney where he died. He was a true liberal (with a small “l”) although he did once stand as a Liberal candidate.
John worked for the sporting boycott of South Africa and was instrumental in bringing the Cape Coloured Cricketer Basil d’Oliveira to England.
John Arlott was the greatest sports broadcaster ever, he was a fine poet and an important contributor to the world as a whole. And although he died in 1991 and his last broadcast was as long ago as 1980 we still miss him .
If you want to hear his voice click here and download the brief audio cliphttp://www.radioacademy.org/halloffame/arlott_j/index.shtml

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