What the hell is going on? Broadcaster Jeremy Vine is looking for the answer to the question on everyone’s mind, writes Laura Burgoine…

With more than 30 years at the BBC, Jeremy has presented Newsnight, Crimewatch, Eggheads and Points of View as well as his daily Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2, the UK’s most listened to radio news programme. Now he’s coming to Blackheath Halls to talk about what he’s learned.

In a world overloaded with news –real and fake, Jeremy’s show aims to make sense of a world that increasingly makes no sense at all. “It’s a great time to be a journalist,” he said. “I guess we’ve all decided to do our own thing and we’re voting our own way and you’ve got Trump in America and the Brexit riddle…You cannot tell which way the ocean liner is going.”

The presenter’s career has been long and varied; he’s been shot at in Croatia, interviewed former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and strutted his stuff as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. Jeremy came up with the idea for this show after calculating that he had taken 25,000 calls on his Radio 2 show. “I worked out that I’ve taken about eight calls a day, on five shows a week, for 16 years. And I wanted to reflect on: what are they all saying? What does it all add up to?”

“We’ve become difficult to govern,” Jeremy said. “Experts have got it 100 percent wrong. With the internet and the fast sharing of stories and forums, if you’ve got Lyme disease you’re just as likely to go on a forum as you are to go to a doctor.”

“In a way it’s a fantastic time to be alive but it’s also very challenging,” he continued. “MPs have never been at a lower ebb. Once upon a time, the most important person in a town was the MP.”
Working as BBC’s Africa Correspondent during the late ‘90s, the reporter has seen the industry change dramatically as a result of the internet. “I think there is a real concern that we’ve shrunk away from news that’s hard to get to,” he said. “That’s always been an issue. No one covered the war in Congo which claimed the lives of a million people.”

Tech is a big part of this change, Jeremy said. “When the CIA went into Bin Laden’s complex and killed him, the first ten hours of film was from ordinary people on their mobiles. Then the journos arrived and were too late.”

Jeremy Vine at The Heights near Broadcasting House

Today, people have more outlets than ever. “The good side is that people who listen to my show on Radio 2 feel empowered to really be able to tell their stories now in a way they never could, and they’re taken very seriously,” Jeremy said. “On the downside you’ve got crazy science and public shaming. Anti-vaccine is a thing I was covering this week. If you want to sit in an echo chamber, you can convince yourself vaccines cause autism.”

Jeremy is touring this show around the country with “ten or twelve shows in the diary” at the moment. “I’m enjoying the chance to get out and see people; it’s so refreshing. I rarely get outside the studio. It’s nice to meet your audience,” he said. “People always say to me “what’s going on?” and I say “you’re going on.”

The journalist is enjoying being live in front of an audience. “I suppose it is performance. Journalists think we’re not front and centre but my brother is a stand-up comedian and my sister’s an actress so I suppose there is some desire to go on stage,” he said. “Perhaps somewhere in my Mum or Dad there’s a repressed show-off.”

Jeremy’s show What the Hell is Going On is at Blackheath Halls, 23 Lee Road, SE3 9RQ, on April 5 at 7:30pm.
Admission: £16.
Phone: 020 8463 0100.