TV favourite Phil Cunningham has revealed how his 30 years as part of BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay came to an end.
The trad musician has been a stalwart on the annual show alongside Aly Bain for three decades but the pair were not invited to join this year’s revamped New Year’s Eve show.
At least, Phil says, the broadcaster tried to soften the blow.
“We got a call to say that if we were offered a gig we should take it,” said Phil.
“I have no idea what the plan is, but it’s time for change in the BBC’s eyes and I’ll be interested to see what they do with it.
“I was also the show’s music director from 1991 until a couple of years ago, and a lot of heart and soul went into it – not just from me but the entire team.
“It does feel a shame not to be a part of it any more but there are other things to do. I just need to find out what they are.
“I’m a little disappointed, but change is inevitable. There is a younger and younger production staff coming through the BBC and a lot of them, I guess, won’t have even experienced a traditional Hogmanay.”
Phil said he was given no indication that change was on the cards, but his communication with the production team had been diminishing in recent years after he ceased being the programme’s musical director.
He said he will be interested to see the reaction from the public to the changes, which also includes Jackie Bird stepping down from presenting the show after 20 years.
“Aly and I have known for a long time there was going to come a point when we would leave it or be told we weren’t doing it any more so, while it didn’t come as much of a surprise, I’m still very saddened by it because I gave a lot of my years loyally to that programme.
“I worked very hard with the team to make it something people wanted to watch and wanted to be part of. We started to get really good guests, like Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, David Essex and Midge Ure, whereas in the early days you got whoever was left or whoever was willing to come out of the house on Hogmanay.”
Phil, who is about to tour with his annual Christmas Songbook collective alongside folk favourites like Eddi Reader and Karen Matheson, admits he isn’t sure yet what he’ll do on Hogmanay, but he hopes we haven’t seen the last of him on our screens at New Year.
“Aly and I have been laughing and saying, ‘well, what does one do on Hogmanay?’. We’ve never been anywhere else.
“Since 1976, I’ve been on some sort of Hogmanay show or another, whether it be STV, Channel 4, radio or BBC. This would have been my and Aly’s 30th year on the BBC.
“I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do instead. I was offered a gig in India in the last week of December and I thought that might be nice, because I’ve never been.
“But I could also go to bed and watch the Hogmanay show while peeping out from under the blankets!
“I hope to be back on screen again at Hogmanay because I do love it very much, but we’ll just wait and see what happens.
“I’ll be interested to see the direction the show goes in and I wish everyone very well in their endeavours.”
BBC Scotland is ringing the changes on this year’s Hogmanay show.
Broadcast on BBC 1 Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel, stand-up comic and former Strictly star Susan Calman replaces Jackie Bird as host.
She’ll be joined by roving co-presenters Des Clarke and Amy Irons, who’ll take in festivities around the country in the countdown to the bells.
Amy will report from the Fireballs Ceremony in Stonehaven and chat with Bryan Burnett, who is hosting Radio Scotland’s cèilidh, while Des will be out and about among the crowds of partiers.
Providing the traditional music in the studio will be young indie-folk group Elephant Sessions and two-time Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Julie Fowlis.
To bring in the New Year, a piper will play on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle to mark the start of the fireworks display on the stroke of midnight.
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