Monday, 26 March 2012

The Viking Invasion - Part 1 - Testing, Testing

There were two Viking invasions in Yorkshire. The first sometime in the 9th century and the second, more precisely, in 1984. This was the year that commercial radio arrived in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire (carefully avoiding any reference to  Humberside).

The first nineteen independent local radio stations had launched between 1973 and 1976. The second phase kicked off in 1980, with a service based in Hull twenty-seventh on the list.

The first we locals know of the new service was in 1982 with public notices and flyers inviting anyone to attend meetings to hear about the radio application by a group calling themselves Humber Bridge Radio. I ended up going to the Hull Truck Theatre meeting, though regrettably I can remember virtually nothing about it.

Pre-launch the Managing Director was Ian Rufus, whose radio experience included working as a reporter at Hallam in the 70s and launching Mercia Sound in 1980. Six months before it was due to go on-air Roger Brooks was now managing the station, Rufus having returned to Mercia, which now had a new name - Viking Radio.   

Alongside Brooks, also ex-Hallam, was Programme Organiser Dave Jamieson, fresh from Mercia Sound.  Dave had been appointed by Rufus but decided to join Viking anyway when his boss moved back to Coventry. He was the first of the team to relocate to Hull and bought a house in Pearson Park, just minutes away from Viking’s first temporary offices at the old Rediffusion House on Beverley Road. Later they would de-camp to 62 High Street in the Old Town before moving into the newly re-furbished HQ in an old docks office building on Commercial Road.  Dave recalls that in his spare rooms at his house he had the MD, Sales Director and Presentation Department secretary all boarding with him for a while. Together with the MD he went through the audition tapes that had been sent in (they didn’t have to advertise) to draw up the DJ short list. They wanted at least one female voice on the team but none of the demos made the grade. A draft schedule and Presentation Manual with guidelines on the station ‘style’ was put together with a view to launch on 17 April.
Commercial Radio HQ pictured in 2011

Test transmissions started in mid-March beaming out on 258 metres medium wave (1161 kHz) and 102.7 MHz on VHF/FM. Initially tests followed the IBA-prescribed guidelines of a number of one-hour pre-recorded selections of music and formal announcements every 15 minutes. Dave Jamieson told me that he thought “this was a waste, because, apart from everything, the new team of presenters needed to gain experience using the equipment. So I rang the IBA and asked if we could do the test transmissions live, provided we stuck to the format.  After a bit of persuasion, they agreed, so we were able to give time checks and promote the programme line-up and so on.” These music tests started on 30 March and as far as is known Viking was the first and possibly the only ILR station to do live transmissions.

In this sequence of tests you’ll hear the official IBA announcement that I recorded on 27 March and then a whole host of programme trailers all recorded on 4 April.

In the next post: Viking Radio launches, meet the DJs and all about those wonderful opening jingles.

Thanks to Dave Jamieson for his help with this post. You can hear Dave every weekday afternoon on Spain’s Coastline FM.

1 comment:

qxr963 said...

Some lovely memories there - some will recognise the IBA's John Lovell (from Engineering Announcements) as the voice of that first bit. Only engineers ever referred to AM/MW as MF!

Could have sworn the 'Regional Executive' announcement included something about 'information about reception of this new service and ILR elsewhere in Britain'. In fact, they may well have been the source of the IBA wall chart I had showing station's TSAs with the likes of Viking and the two planned Kent stations (which became the twinned Invicta Sound) as 'On air soon'.

I think there was also something in the early live announcements about how tests 'may be interrupted from time to time for engineering adjustments', and full test transmissions (as opposed to 'trade tests') beginning on such and such a date.

Listening to Dave Jamieson's Sunday promo, I wonder who did the first Six of the Best type quiz on radio? They certainly popped up quite a bit, including on Quentin Howard's Saturday night Classic FM show - I imagine Wikipedia and Google render them more-or-less impossible to run, even if the listener's attention span were up to it!

Mark Allen, heard promoting the Viking newsletter, was also the voice of Viking's TV spots, which were ten seconds long with a slightly animated logo and one of the open front jingles.

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