Wednesday 30 May 2012

BBC Radio York – Take 1

Question: When did a papal intervention change the course of BBC history? The answer, when Pope John Paul II visited the UK in 1982 and led to the opening, one year early, of BBC Radio York.

In reality it was a transient affair, just a little over 24 hours to allow coverage of the Pope’s visit to the Knavesmire, the racecourse at York, on Monday 31st May 1982. The Radio Times described the arrangements for the radio station as follows:

For the benefit of the citizens of York and over quarter of a million pilgrims expected to converge on the Knavesmire Racecourse, BBC Radio York is being opened up for a day – a year early. To cover the papal visit a team of experienced local radio staff are broadcasting on a temporary transmitter for which the Home Office has given special permission. BBC Radio York goes on air at 6.0 pm on Sunday and will broadcast its own coverage until 9.0 pm on Spring Bank Holiday Monday.  
Those local radio staff came from BBC Radio’s Cleveland, Humberside, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield, all of whom shared some of the coverage over the weekend. Heading the team was Mike Hollingworth (Cleveland) with Michael Cooke (Sheffield), Chris Hawksworth (Leeds), Jack Baker (?), Robin Pulford (Humberside), Harry Gration (Leeds), Liz Ambler (Leeds), Ian Wilson (?), Peter Byrne (Leeds) and John Cundy (Leeds).

Radio York’s coverage was transmitted on 666 kHz, or 450 metres, only and sounded a bit ropey 40 miles away in Goole where I recorded this tantalisingly brief snippet.

Radio York went on air for real on 4 July 1983.  

Radio York's Bootham Row HQ photographed earlier this year

Thanks to Dave Rhodes for suggesting this blog post.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Here Are the Results of the United Kingdom Jury

The Eurovision Song Contest exists in its own musical bubble, long since divorced from any pop music you’ll hear on the radio (was it ever?). And as for the voting, with all the block voting and old alliances it’s just as enjoyable, perhaps more so, than the efforts of the singers.

For many years the voices of Eurovision in the UK were Radio 2 colleagues Terry Wogan, Ray Moore and Colin Berry.

Colin was spokesman for UK jury at Eurovision over 25 years from 1977 to 2002, as well as popping up on the Song for Europe shows. In an exclusive look behind the scenes I asked Colin if he’d reveal some of the secrets of the jury room.

In the mid-70s the role of jury spokesperson had been in the capable hands (voice?) of Ray Moore but when he was asked to take over the Radio 2 commentary Ray suggested Colin’s name to the producers. 

The number of jury members tended to change over the years, in particular once BT televoting started. Colin recalls that “we had to have a smaller jury just in case the lines went down, but the jury votes never got used in my time. The figure sixteen sticks in my mind during the jury voting years. The jury was a cross-section of ages from 16 to over 60, from all walks of life. Many were selected from viewers who wrote in, or staff who had neighbours interested and so on.” If the jury vote was tied there was a show of hands for the disputed entry. As spokesman Colin didn’t get a vote but did have the casting vote on A Song for Europe “if it came into play…it didn’t!”      

On the day of broadcast the jury were assembled at Television Centre were they would watch the afternoon full dress rehearsal and there was a chance for them to hear any of the songs again if they wished. In the 70s and 80s the London end was under the control of Light Entertainment Organiser Tony James. Tony, who Colin thought “was a great ambassador for the BBC and did everything with great finesse.” He made sure that the jury members were well looked after, that all the introductions were made, providing a waitress-service dinner and having studio tours during breaks. When Tony’s team left in the 90s it was all “clipboards and vouchers for the BBC canteen.”

During the contest itself Colin also had a monitor and a lip-microphone should “Wogan’s line vanish and there was a need for me to continue commentary. It never happened, but got within thirty seconds of it one year.”

When it came to announcing the UK decision there was an agreed script but “as the years passed I deviated a bit to make it less formal. Others did too eventually, but they tended to overdo it sometimes, building up the part.” You can hear Colin’s first announcement back in 1977 on this recording at 1:46:00:

And his last appearance in 2002 by which time the event was twice as long. (The YouTube video of the full contest has now been taken down but this is part of the voting):

In 2002 the Beeb acknowledged Colin’s 25 years in the role and so threw him a lunch and presented him with a BBC inscribed microphone but at the same time they let it be known that changes were planned for the following year (as it transpired in the form of Lorraine Kelly) and that he’d no longer be required. This was despite supportive words from the King of Eurovision Terry Wogan who started his after-lunch speech by saying "I don't know why you’re getting rid of yer man....if it ain't broke why mend it?"

Mind you Colin’s relationship with Eurovision didn’t end there. Keeping it in the family, his daughter Marina made a bid for a place in the 2010 final as part of the girl group Miss Fitz. They didn’t get through to Oslo; the UK was represented by Josh Dubovie (who?) who came 25th.

So what does Colin think of this year’s UK entry from Englebert Humperdink? “I would be very surprised if he clinches it for us,” he told me. “We are running out of ideas to put us in the running. You just can't shake off the political voting I'm afraid”.

After 25 years closely watching Eurovision Colin has his favourites. Of the winners he loved Take Me to Your Heaven by Charlotte Nilsson.

Of the ones that “got away” Colin felt “there was a huge voting mistake one year in the 80's on Song For Europe. Amongst the six suggested songs was So Do I from Mike Redway and Fiona Kennedy. It would have stormed Eurovision, but the regional juries put it in 6th place!”

The Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast this Saturday at 8 p.m. (UK time).

Monday 21 May 2012

Robin Gibb – Fraternally Yours

As a tribute to Robin Gibb here are The Bee Gees twenty one years ago in conversation with Nicky Campbell. As well as chatting to Nicky you’ll hear Robin, Maurice and Barry sing exclusive live versions of some of their best known hits.

The programme The Bee Gees – Fraternally Yours was first broadcast on Radio 1 on 1st January 1991. This is an edited version.  

Robin Hugh Gibb 1949-2012

Monday 7 May 2012

2 Day - Rewind

Time to rewind and hear the sound of BBC Radio 2 back in 1989.
In the week that the network shakes up its schedule as part of this Thursday’s 2Day here’s my own Radio 2 mash-up with a chance to enjoy Thursday 9 February 1989 condensed into 20 minutes.

That days programming went something like this:

0100 Bill Rennells with Nightride
0300 A Little Night Music
0400 Alan Dedicoat
0530 Chris Stuart
0730 Derek Jameson
0930 Ken Bruce
1100 Jimmy Young
1300 David Jacobs
1400 Gloria Hunniford
1530 Adrian Love
1700 John Dunn
1900 Wally Whyton
2100 Paul Jones
2200 Thirty Minutes’ Worth
2230 The Houghton Weavers
2300 Brain Matthew with Round Midnight
And how different it sounds to today’s station.  Under Head of Music Frances Line’s management Radio 2 had changed direction with a music policy aimed squarely at the over-40s and based on “melody, familiarity and excellence”. A year later Line issued the document BBC Radio 2:Into the Nineties stipulating that all daily sequence shows should include “film music, show tunes, accessible folk, country and jazz, strict tempo, popular classics, light music, Latin, brass and military bands, music of the Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties and Sixties; opera and operetta. More strings and less thump!”

So listen out for snatches of music from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Jo Stafford (no bad thing) whom you’d be hard pressed to hear during the week these days.

This year I’ve gone multimedia and posted the file on YouTube. OK, admittedly it’s not that exciting with added photos but it’s my first attempt. Incidentally John Dunn was sick on this day and taking his place was Charles Nove. For whatever reason I didn’t record Charles’s show.

Last year’s 2Day was on 22 June 2011. The station seemed keen to have Zoe Ball do the promotion and she featured on the cover of the Radio Times alongside Chris Evans. This is Zoe on BBC1’s The One Show.

And last year I gave you Radio 2’s output for 3 April 1980 distilled into just 12 minutes. Here it is again.
Radio 2 030480

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Sandi Jones Request Show

Good to see the British press celebrating the successes one of the BBC World Service’s shows. This article from the Daily Express is undated but my guess is I cut it out in 1979.  It reads: “One of the world’s most popular broadcasters is British, works in London and yet is virtually unknown in this country”.

It goes on to say “Sandi Jones a 34-year old housewife from Fareham, Hants is the unassuming hostess of one of the most popular radio programmes in the world.

Each Sunday the BBC World Service broadcasts live the Sandi Jones request show, a 45-minute musical mixture ranging from classical to pop, with the accent on golden oldies”.

Oh dear! “Virtually unknown”. “Housewife”. Well only if you ignore the fact that Sandi had been broadcasting for the previous decade and had hosted one of the most popular and longest running shows on British radio. Why she even had her own jingle!

Sandi had been in the Women’s Royal Naval Service before joining the British Forces Broadcasting Services team in Cologne. As part of the team working on the evening music and speech programme Time Out she soon graduated to hosting the German end of Family Favourites back in 1970. By 1973 she was the main presenter at the London end, taking over from Michael Aspel. Alan Grace’s history of the BFBS in Germany takes up the story:

Sandi can still recall her first Family Favourites link: “I didn’t have time to be nervous because Mike was so easy to work with. He had a wicked sense of humour and we just bounced off each other.” Later when Sandi met Michael in London, he said, “Do you know there are little old ladies across Britain who think you and I are having an affair!” The BBC were impressed with Sandi’s style and she was asked to stand in for Michael when he went on leave and this led to her taking over the programme when she moved back to England.
Whilst still hosting Family Favourites, she left the programme in 1976, Sandi became one of the main presenters of the World Service’s Request Show that started in late 1975. Also on the roster were Brian Matthew, Don Moss and later Tony Myatt. Sandi’s request show ran for the next ten years or so. In the meantime she was also working for her local BBC station, Radio Solent where she was regularly on air from 1978 to 2001. After hanging up her headphones Sandi worked as a guest courier with a tour company.

I've no recordings of Sandi on the World Service - if you have please contact me - but here she is with a Family Favourites revival from 30 July 1995.

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