Thursday 31 December 2020

Down Your Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Tees


Today marks fifty years of BBC local radio on Teesside with the new station opening at 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve 1970.

The opening words came not from the station manager or the local mayor but from Selena Thirkell of Jedburgh Street, Middlesbrough, an usherette at the ABC in Stockton, who'd been selected at random from a bus queue earlier that day. The second voice was Alf Garnett ranting "I don't know where bloody Teesside is." Hopefully Mary Whitehouse wasn't listening.

The station's first manager was Allan Shaw, who'd moved up from Radio Leeds where he was a keen advocate of extended bulletins of local, national and international news, something that he brought to Teesside with the 15-minute Teesside Today (7am and 8am), Teesside at One and Tonight in Teesside (both 30 minutes). Allan relocated to Radio Manchester in 1975.

Shaw's deputy was programme organiser Jim Brady, also ex-Radio Leeds and the news editor Ian Hindmarsh. 

Radio Teesside broadcast on VHF only at 96.6 MHz, though Rediffusion cable listeners could also hear it on Channel B. The medium wave transmitter on 1546 KHz, or 194 metres, was added in 1972. In 1984 the station moved out its original studios on Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough to purpose built accommodation on Newport Road.       

On that opening night the first programme was Teesside Tonight introduced by sports editor George Lambelle and the news read by Jim Brady. George was an ex-Northern Echo journalist who'd worked for the BBC North Home Service. He stayed with Teesside/Cleveland for 30 years. One of the reports is by Eric Sumner who'd become familiar voice as a newsreader on the station. Another reporter, Jim Latham, would go to be news editor at Radio Humberside.      

Derek Hobson was on hand for the next hour or so to introduce some of the voices that would appear on the station as well as some special guests that included Warren Mitchell, Les Dawson, Michael Bentine and Peter Noone. Derek would present the breakfast show On the Move for the first year, then it was down to Birmingham where he presented ATV Today and New Faces though he did return to radio in 1979/80 filling-in for Jimmy Young, John Dunn and Pete Murray on Radio 2. 

Later on the opening night the station headed up to midnight with Dave Williams playing the music including a live contribution from The Fettlers, a phone call to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge and a report from Middlesbrough police station "are you expecting many villains in tonight?" There then followed a somewhat bizarre OB from the Fiesta Club in Stockton in which the planned entertainment had failed to arrive so broadcaster Mike Hollingworth and former Top of the Pops dancer Linda Cunningham provided the impromptu cabaret. Mike then proceeds to talk to some of the clientele where one bloke tells him to piss off and he asks a young lady "do you come here often?".

Fortunately a large chunk of the first night was recorded and is online (with thanks to John Foster):

In this blog post I am, in the main, recalling some of the early voices that you'd have heard on the station. For a great look at the station's early history can I also direct you to Stan Laundon's website here.

On the first full day of broadcasting, Friday 1 January 1971, presenting Diana at Large is Diana Lamb. At the time she applied for a job at the station Diana was living in Saltburn and very active in what was then known as the Confederation for the Advancement of State Education. Allan Shaw had read about her campaign work and remembered her name when her letter dropped on his desk. She'd already lived a colourful life: meeting her first husband on a march against Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and moving to Stockton where they were both active Labour campaigners. When the marriage broke down she eventually started farming single-handedly on a smallholding in Co. Durham. Her second marriage to Sidney Lamb, who worked at ICI at Billingham, also failed which is how she ended up on her own in Saltburn. Diana at Large ran four times a week until 1978 at which time she moved to Devon and later Cambridge where she continued her campaigning work against local authority decisions. She died in 2003.          

The breakfast show titled  On the Move continued throughout the decade but by 1981 was known as AM194. As well as Derek Hobson presenters in the 70s included Brian Smart (ex. Radio Merseyside) , Tony Baynes (also on Radio Durham now enjoying retirement in France), Keith Harrison (left in 1978 moving to Radio 2 as a producer e.g. Round Midnight, Two's Best and John Dunn then in-vision continuity announcer on Channel 4 and on  LWT) and Dave Eastwood (ex. BFN, Radio 1 Club, later Piccadilly, City, Luxy and Essex Radio).     

Other early shows on Radio Teesside included:

Country Time with Stan Laundon. A long-running country music show that ran until December 1992. Stan's history of the show is here. Stan presented and produced other shows for the station such as Time for Melody, the drivetime programme Home Time and Saturday Sport.  

Polished Brass dedicated to the music of brass bands and presented by Graeme Aldous, ex drama teacher and Technical Operator for the BBC in Belfast. Left in 1985 and ran an audio-visual production company.    

Focus on Folk was presented by musician Stewart Macfarlane, aka Big Mac, the frontman of the folk band the Teesside Fettlers. Stewart also broadcast on TFM and Century. He died last month.   

Housecall a programme of music together with listeners poems, letters and stories that ran for nearly 30 years. The regular presenter for many years was Mike Hollingworth, and then Bill Hunter until it ended in October 1999.

Page from 1977 BBC booklet Serving Neighbourhood and Nation

Some of the broadcasters on Teesside in the first decade included:

Larry Ottaway: presented some of the station's sports coverage and the contemporary music show Saturday Scene. Also founded Pipeline Records.  

Peter Hedley: initially the education producer then general production in the 70s, 80s & 90s.

Ann Davies: presenter and producer mid-70s with programmes such as Home Time and All in a Day's Work. Worked for the station in the 80s & 90s.

Paddy MacDee (pictured above): was heard across the north-east for five decades. He joined Teesside in 1973 presenting Saturday Scene. Moved up to Metro Radio in 1978 and re-joined the BBC at Radio Newcastle in the mid-80s. His Sunday Solid Gold show came to an end in March and he retired in July.

Peter Cook: sports presenter who was a former Look North reporter in the 1960s. Left in 1978 and in the 90s set up Now & Then regional magazine.

Ken Blakeson: ex-teacher who worked on education and children's programmes at Radio Bristol, Radio Teesside (e.g. Saturday morning's Helter Skelter) and Metro Radio. Later a drama writer with many productions on Radio 4.  

Julia Shaw: with the station in the late 70s including the afternoon sequence Here and There. Later on Radio Newcastle. 

Ian Charlton: presenter of Dad's Music playing the hits of yesterday. A show previously presented by Jack Leonard who also worked for Metro Radio. 

Mark Waddington: on Radio Cleveland 1977 to early 80s later a BBC tv announcer and promotions director

Keith Proud: presenter in the 70s/80s & 90s.

Colin Bunyan: the longest-serving presenter currently on BBC Radio Tees having joined Radio Cleveland in 1974 though he did appear on air before that, as a guest on Colin O’Keefe’s River Talk in 1971. He's presented Vintage Vinyl for 26 years.

 To mark the 40th anniversary of the station in December 2010 John Foster (pictured above) presented and produced this programme. 

In April 1974 Radio Teesside became Radio Cleveland, a name change to match the creation of the new Cleveland County Council. Staff had been given the chance to vote on the name change and Cleveland just scrapped through, though manager Allan Shaw later said he regretted the switch. The council name disappeared in the 1996 local government review but Radio Cleveland carried on to August 2007 when it became BBC Tees and, from January this year, added the 'radio' back to become BBC Radio Tees. 

From the Cleveland era comes this promotional leaflet from around 1982 or 1983.

This is the programme schedule for the week 10 December 1988 by which time local lad Mark Page was on weekday breakfast following his time at Radio Tees and Radio 1. On mid-mornings was ex-Radio Tees jock Graham Robb.

John Allard was the sports editor at this time and it was he that brought Alastair Brownlee to the station as a sports reporter and commentator initially phoning in away-game reports for the station in exchange for a free match ticket and a fee of £13. So closely associated was he associated with Middlesbrough FC that he became known as the 'Voice of the Boro'. He moved over to Century Radio when they acquired football rights in 1995 but he was back at BBC Tees in 2007 until his untimely death in 2016 aged 56. The station broadcast his tribute to him.   

Some other voices you'll have heard on Radio Cleveland/BBC Tees include:

Ken Snowden (ex. Radios Blackburn, Cornwall & York), Colin Richardson (ex. Radio Devon), Alison Lister, Ernie Brown, David Wiseman, Tim Ellingford, Alan Wright, Caroline Davis, Bob Fischer, Mike Hill, Alex Hall, Brigid Press, Harry Blackwood, Ged Robinson, James Mountford, John Caine, Mark Turnbull, Will Leitch, Pauline Armstrong, Roy Leonard, Matthew Davies, Paula Rogers,  Ian Edgar, Paul Frost, John Murray (now a sports commentator on 5 live), Anna Foster (now also on 5 live), Fiona Steggles, Colm Harrison, Jonathan Morrell (also on Radio Newcastle), Diane Youdale, John Gelson, Chris Baxter, Mark Seaman, Steve Phillips, Mike Green, Neil Green, Lisa McCormick, Katherine Hannah, John Foster, Steffan Peddie, Claire Kendall (news reporter), Antony Collins, Matt Bailey and Paul Goffy Gough.

With thanks to Stan Laundon, Colin Bunyan and David Ballard.

Down Your Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Solent


Happy 50th birthday to BBC Radio Solent. It launched at 6 pm on New Year's Eve (was anybody listening?) with opening words from Earl Mountbatten, the Bishop of Winchester and station manager Maurice Ennals. The first few hours of broadcasting saw the station undertake a Family Favourites-type link up with Australia and Cyprus and welcomed in 1971 with an ambitious musical journey from across Hampshire, providing a challenge for chief engineer Paul Gouldstone.

Launch audio with introduction by David Challis and then Earl Mountbatten.

Radio Solent was based in South Western House on Canute Road in Southampton. A former railway hotel built in 1865 it was requisitioned by the Navy in 1939 as HMS Shrapnel. Post-war it became the home of Cunard and the BBC when they opened a small TV studio in July 1958. Solent's broadcasts on 96.1 MHz VHF only were from a transmitter at Rowridge on the Isle of Wight. Medium wave broadcasts on 301m and a low-power relay on 188m from Grafton Road in Bournemouth were added in 1973. In November 1990 Radio Solent moved into the new Broadcasting House opposite the Civic Centre in Southampton.

The Solent radio car with engineer Pete Sillett,manager Maurice Ennals
and deputy David Challis

Three members of the Solent team were veterans of the BBC's first local station, Radio Leicester. They were manager Maurice Ennals, who left upon his retirement in 1976, programme organiser David Challis, later manager at Humberside and Ken Warburton. Ken had a three month attachment to the Radio 2 presentation department in the summer of 1970 before moving to Solent. He would later work at BBC Radio Nottingham, back in Leicester as MD at the ill-fated Centre Radio, programme controller at Radio 106 and one of the founding directors of Broadcast Media Services Ltd.

Thought the station officially launched on 31 December it had been making test broadcasts earlier in the month interspersed with live announcements advising anyone listening of the latest SEB power cuts.

Here's the programme schedule for the second full week of broadcasting in January 1971.

Robin Worman joined from Radio Leeds and worked for the station until the early 90s. He would become one of the regular presenters of Solent Today when that started a year or so later.  

Tony Brode was a former Southern Daily Echo journalist who left Solent to work in the newsroom at Bush House and subsequently was a poet and author.

The sports editor was Lawrie Bloomfield. Lawrie was a very experienced newsman who started off as a cub reporter in the 1950s on the Portsmouth Evening News. He made occasional broadcasts on Radio Newsreel and in the 60s ran a Portsmouth based news agency. At Solent in 1972 he replaced Peter Curwin as the news editor when Peter moved to the central newsroom in London and then was appointed Programme Organiser. Lawrie was Radio Lincolnshire's second station manager from 1982 and a couple of years later transferred to Radio Shropshire as launch manager. Retiring in 1994 he was awarded an MBE and continued to train journalists through the Thomson Foundation as well as working freelance for his old station. He died in 2014.

Bill Lyon was on through to 1981 followed by a short stint on Radio 2 as a newsreader. From about 1988 known as Katherine Alexandra Lyon. 

Jeff Link had joined the BBC in 1965 as a studio manager. After Solent he was a Senior Instructor in the BBC's Training Unit and spent a number of years as a radio producer and media trainer, running Linkmultimedia since 2002. Jeff was a regular contributor to Cardboard Shoes' Skues Me on BBC Radio Norfolk.

Others at the station at that time included Patsy Murrell, who presented Fair Deal the magazine show for women, Jean Thorpe, Keith Jay,  education producer John Saunders and David Freeman (later on Radio Oxford and Jazz FM).

The news team included Tim Hurst (later on South Today and Central News), Brian Collins and Chris Cramer (later in the newsrooms at BBC South and then London).  

Working behind the scenes as Gram Librarian was Seán Street. Seán went on to become a station assistant and then presenter on programmes such as drivetime show Home Straight. He left in 1976 taking up teaching poetry and drama before joining the new ILR station 2CR in Bournemouth when it launched in 1980. From 1987 to 2011 he taught radio production at Bournemouth University and has written extensively about radio and produced a number of poetry volumes, the latest The Sound of a Room published earlier this year. This clip of Seán interviewing Sir Arthur Bliss in 1973 has recently surfaced on YouTube.

The presenter of Link a programme "for, by and about blind people of the Solent area" isn't listed but one of the early presenters was  Peter White, one of the station's longest serving broadcasters. Peter has been reporting for and then presenting Radio 4's In Touch since 1973 and on You and Yours since 1999. He was dropped by Radio Solent in 2006.  

Moving on to the week commencing 8 February 1975 the main change to the schedule is the addition of a new mid-morning show Piper's Tune with John Piper. John left Solent in 1980 as programme controller for 2CR before retiring to Spain about 10 years later.

On Saturday afternoon is the station's long-running gardening programme Topsoil. For many years its presenter was Joe Backhouse but later it was presented by Pippa Greenwood, familiar to TV viewers form Gardener's World and Radio 4 listeners to Gardener's Question Time. Topsoil ended in 2006.

Presenting Beat 'n' Track on Thursday evening was Gethyn Jones. Gethyn was with Solent from February 1972 initially in the record library and stayed for 25 years presenting a number of shows including a rock programme and the weekday afternoon show. Later at Radio Victory and The Quay he's now a web designer. This is a short clip from a 1977 edition. You can hear a couple of 1976 shows on Mixcloud. 

A previous presenter of Beat 'n' Track was Richard Skinner who joined Solent in October 1971 having helped set up Portsmouth Hospital Broadcasting the previous year. Richard went off to Radio 1's Newsbeat in 1973.         

Richard Cartridge (pictured above) is another name long associated with Radio Solent. He first broadcast on the station in the mid-70s and in the early 80s hosted the mid-morning show Happening Now where his on air conversations with Sylv Willoughby were a programme highlight. He had a secondment to Radio 2 in 1981 as a newsreader and announcer but left the BBC in the late 80s to tread that well worn path over to 2CR. Back on Solent in 1991 through to 2006 when he, like Peter White, was also dropped. In February 2011 Richard was again invited back to Solent presenting a Sunday afternoon show until earlier this year. He retired in June and spoke to Alex Dyke about his life and career. He died just 10 weeks later. A Radio Solent Special Our Friend Richard presented by his daughter Lucy was broadcast last Sunday.   

Here's how the programme line-up looked in the winter of 1980 by which time Brian Collins, Pam Gillard (who'd also been on Radio Humberside), Heather Lynn (later a TV announcer for the BBC and TVS), Nick Girdler (34 years on Solent until he left in 2006 and remembered for the kid's show Albert's Gang) and Sandi Jones are listed. 

Sandi Jones started broadcasting with the British Forces Broadcasting Services team in Cologne which is how she ended up being on the German end of Family Favourites in 1970. By 1973 she was the main presenter at the London end, taking over from Michael Aspel. From 1975 she was also heard on the BBC World Service's request show which ran for ten years. She was on Solent from 1978 to 2001.

Sandi Jones is one of the people featured in this BBC South report on the station from January 1996.

In 2010 for the station's 40th anniversary Neil Sackley produced this retrospective:

Also on BBC Radio Solent were:

Julian Clegg: presenter of the breakfast show for 22 years who retired in December 2019. This is his swansong:

Debbie Thrower: newsreader on Meridian Tonight and BBC TV Debbie was on Solent in the early 80s having moved from Radio Leicester. She was Radio 2's afternoon presenter 1995-98 having taken over the show from Gloria Hunniford.

Dennis Skillicorn: a reporter with a special interest in all things nautical and presenter of the Open Waters programme. A tribute to Dennis (who died in 2017) by Neil Sackley is on the Radio Solent website here. 

Lee McKenzie: horse racing commentator (TV , radio and course) he was on Solent from 1980 to the mid-90s and for a few years co-presented Sunday Scene with Sandi Jones.  

Pam Spriggs: on Solent in the late 80s having previously worked for Radio Victory, Radio 210 and Southern Sound. Later on Three Counties Radio, Pirate FM and Radio Cornwall from where she retired in 2018. 

Blair Jacobs: on the early show in the mid-90s before moving to Radio Humberside.

Peter Gore: late 70s to 1981 then helped launch Radio Jersey, later on Radio Derby.

Bill Buckley: one of Esther's boys on That's Life he started regular radio work on Solent 1989-91 before moving onto South Coast Radio, LBC, Radio Oxford and other BBC locals. On Radio Berkshire since 2016. 

Kevin Greening: a station assistant he had a Saturday morning show in 1988. Left in 1989 for bigger things at GLR and then Radio 1.

Ricky Salmon: with the station 1995-99 having previously worked for Southern Radio and LBC. For 15 years a newsreader on Radio 2 and runs the voiceover agency Big Fish Media.

James Lush: mid-90s to 1999 presenter and sports reporter. Left (dismissed) and went on to form media consultancy business Great Beginnings Ltd.

Richard Williams: on the station for 18 years before leaving in 1999 to work for Ocean FM.

Jean-Paul Hansford: on Solent 1995-97 having worked at Radio York, Ocean Sound, Isle of Wight Radio, 2CR and Fox FM. After Solent returned to the Isle of Wight then Connect FM and Mood 92 in Jordan. Founded TIBA Radio in Egypt and Audioforte

Neil Sackley: worked at the BBC since 1997 having previously been on Radio Northampton, Northants Radio, BRMB and Xtra AM.

Jon Cuthill: on the station 1999-10 before presenting BBC South's Inside Out current affairs programme.

Rev Tim Daykin: presented the Sunday breakfast show 2003-2020.

Sally Taylor: had a Saturday show 2007-2011. Long time presenter of South Today.

Katie Martin: working for the BBC since 2006 and on Solent from 2009.

Alex Dyke: known for his Wall of Sound and Bubblegum and Cheese shows Alex has been with Solent since 2010. He's also appeared on Radio Victory, Luxy, Ocean Sound, Northsound, The Quay as well as working in the States. 

Richard Latto: came to Solent in 2006 having been at Radio Devon, Radio Jersey and Plymouth Sound. Presents Stereo Underground and has produced a number of documentaries for the station including the 50th anniversary programme broadcast today. Also runs Trophy Gold Media. 

Sasha Twining: on Solent 2009-19 previously KLFM, LBC, Sky News as well as BBC TV and ITV continuity announcer and Russia Today news anchor. Currently on BBC World Service.

One person who enjoyed two spells at Solent was David Dunning (pictured above at the Southsea Show). He grew up in Southampton and at the age of 8 was a bit obsessed with ITV. One day he said to his mum how nice it would be if there was a Southern TV radio. She told him there was and she believed it was called Solent. It was the obvious place for work experience when he was 16 and he ended up staying there moving from tape reclaimer to station assistant and presenter by the age of 18, leaving in 1987. During that initial spell he was asked to take a turn on Radio 2's weekend early show over four weekends in 1985, probably the network's youngest presenter. After Solent he moved north to Radio York where he presented the breakfast show for seven years. 

David returned to Southampton in 1995 for a couple of years as deputy editor and host of Solent Today. He was responsible for introducing the David Arnold composed LBC jingle package that had run in London in 1986 and was lying on the shelves. It was still in use ten years later. Then it was back to Radio York where he also presented the Late Night North and became news editor. He then worked for the York Press, as news editor at Minster FM and now at York Mix.

Here are some Solent jingles and idents from the 70s and 80s.

Recalling his time at Radio Solent in the 1980s David says: "it was a bit of a broadcasting museum with old Mark 2 desks and bays of telephone exchange plugs. There were many things that needed two people to operate like putting one call on air after another. Although South Western House was steeped in maritime history and had brilliant views of the port, it was not the perfect place for a radio station. However the range of programmes produced from there was incredible. Solent Today, a flagship news programme in the morning and current affairs at lunchtime with Viewpoint stand out in my memory as really ambitious".

"The news output in the 1980s was lead by first Steve Panton  (ex. Radio Nottingham and went on to manage Radio Solent and then GLR) and then Henry Yelf (who was later editor at Radio Berkshire) Solent News broke story after story and its coverage of the Falklands War was a lifeline to the various military families in the south. The BBC’s America Editor Job Sopel started as a Solent producer as did Special Correspondent Alan Little and PM presenter Carolyn Quinn".

"The presentation team were all easily of Radio 4 standard, celebrated blind journalist Peter White, already on that network too, amazing as he felt his way round the controls. A man who taught me so much about talk radio while I fed the calls through to him from the ops room desk. Gethyn Jones had an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and was my radio ‘older brother’ calming me down and helping me develop and understand that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” when it came to radio careers".

"Radio Solent was an interesting mix of Radio 2 and Radio 4 style programming during the day. There were blocks of all talk followed by entertainment shows. As an SA in the afternoon in the 80s you became a continuity announcer in the afternoon introducing diverse shows such as All One Family (religion), the fabulous Film Focus with Phil Molyneux and The 78s Show too, a trip way past the entrance to my memory lane. I also got to do my first news reading too in those days.  Literally ripping it off the printer and reading it. At 18 I sounded a lot older apparently.  My first proper chance to present a programme came when the stand-in presenter on the Heather Lynn show was delayed.  There was nobody else so I went on and bravely worked my way through a menu of items likely to interest the women of the south".

David concludes by saying: "I owe a lot to the team of 1981-87. Without them helping me, trusting me, guiding me and sometimes shouting at me I think my life would have been very different. I’m not sure it’s possible in today’s BBC to work your way up like that. And the support continued during my return as output editor which was stressful and demanding Without the wise words of Sylv Willoughby and Wendy Collins, a 32 year old me would have probably caused even more chaos than I did".

Some other voices on Radio Solent over the years include: Hugh Ashley, Jonathan Copus, Chris McLoughlin, Nikki O'Donnell, Stuart Norval (now at France 24), Kieran McGeary (now CEO at Cork's 96FM & C103), Grant Coleman (sports editor, later deputy Head of Sport for the English Regions), Nikki O'Donnell (now a senior news editor BBC East), Gerry Didymus, Andy Moon, Alun Newman, Lou Hannan, Pat Sissons, Paul Miller, David Allen, Lucy Ambache, Sam Fraser, Steph Newenhouse, Rebecca Parker, Steve Harris.   

To celebrate 50 years on air Radio Solent is broadcasting an audio soundscape at noon today.

With thanks to David Ballard and David Dunning.

Monday 28 December 2020

Step Back in Time

I guess we'd all rather forget 2020 so in this post I'm going back a little further for the annual reviews.

To kick off, just 30 years ago it's the annual wrap-up of the news as seen through the eyes of the Week Ending team. It was a year dominated by the end of the Thatcher administration and the Gulf War. Taking part are Sally Grace, David Tate, Bill Wallis and Jon Glover. Also featured in the repeated sketches are Russell Davies, Royce Mills, Chris Emmett, John Baddeley, Neil Caple, Ian Ashpitel and Alistair McGowan. Year Ending was first broadcast on 28 December 1990.   

Quote...Unquote is now in its 44th year and for the few years always had a Christmas special. The edition I've unearthed is from Christmas Day 1980 with the panel of P.D. James, Dick Vosburgh, Brian Johnston and Sue McGregor. As usual Nigel Rees is posing the questions. Reading the quotations is veteran announcer Ronald Fletcher.     

Friday 18 December 2020

Down Your Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Kent


Happy 50th birthday today to BBC Radio Kent.

The station started life as Radio Medway broadcasting on 97.0 MHz VHF (and on Rediffusion Channel B in Maidstone) from studios on Chatham's High Street. Test transmissions could be heard earlier in December 1970 broadcasting Radio 1's programmes interspersed with local news bulletins and the occasional music show. Recordings of some of these tests have survived hidden amongst the Radio 1 archive material that was taped at the time.

Most of the BBC local stations opened with a word from the manager or some local dignitary but not Radio Medway. It went to town with a gala night introduced by Henry Hall (he of Here's to the Next Time with the BBC Dance Orchestra fame), a soundscape of the Medway, a community sing-a-long, a classical concert and a link-up with Radio 2.

Station manager Harold Rogers - a producer with 30 years experience on both the Home Service and Light Programme - obviously called in a few favours to pull together the opening Gala 97. Alongside Henry Hall there was Peter Brough and Archie Andrews, Frank Chacksfield, Georgie Fame, Bruce Forsyth, David Kossoff, Vera Lynn, Tessie O'Shea, Dorothy Squires and Wout Steenhuis. A number of national BBC staff appeared too: Frank Gillard, Tony Blackburn, Alan Dell, Franklin Engelmann, Roger Moffat, Ray Moore, Keith Skues and Bruce Wyndham. The station's programme organiser was Denis Lewell, also a former Light Programme/Radio 2 producer, who had at one time worked with both Henry Hall and Peter Brough

The Medway - a picture in words and sound of our river, the port and the townships along its banks - was presented by Trevor Taylor, one of the station's news team. Trevor would go on to be a network radio producer and for many years produced Gardeners' Question Time.    

Sing Along With Us featured Reg Simpson at the organ and was produced by Geoff Leonard. Geoff's radio experience was all behind the scenes. He'd joined the BBC as a junior engineer in 1941 in the Birmingham control room, later at 200 Oxford Street, a Studio Manager for the Features department and attachments to TV presentation, TV news and the BFN as a producer before the move to Radio Leeds as a production assistant and then engineer. Geoff was at Medway from 1970 until his retirement in 1980. He died in 2004.

Medway's star name and host of the breakfast show was Jimmy Mack. Greenock-born Mack worked as a sales rep for an insurance company whilst helping out at the Edinburgh Hospital Radio Service which led to him joining the team on the LV Comet disc jockeying on the pirate Radio Scotland. Following the closure of most of the offshore stations he worked for the BBC in Glasgow as well as making occasional appearances on Radio 1 Club and welcoming Radio 1 and Radio 2 listeners into 1970 on Night Ride (co-produced by Harold Rogers). He moved down to Kent in 1970 for the launch of Radio Medway where he was the breakfast guy for six years and then on the mid-morning show for another two. He headed back north in 1979 to join BBC Radio Scotland, taking over the mid-morning show from Tom Ferrie. Jimmy also appeared on Radio 2 introducing shows with the Scottish Radio Orchestra and on BBC TV, STV and Grampian. Joining the newly launched Clyde 2 in 1990 he remained with the station for the next fourteen years, initially at breakfast (for 8 years) and then early evenings, weekend breakfast and lastly a Saturday night show. Jimmy died in 2004.

The first post-launch Radio Times schedule I've got dates from the week commencing 11 May 1974.   

No Jimmy Mack this week, presumably taking a week off. Looking after things at breakfast was Michael Lucas (is this the same Michael Lucas who would eventually head up Channel Television?). Michael also presented Playback on Saturday afternoons which reviewed the new releases on that cutting edge of technology, audio cassettes and cartridges. 

On weekdays we have an hour of melodic music - later that year the station would join Radio 2 at this time - and Playride, their version of Listen with Mother. The magazine show Talk of Many Things presumably didn't talk about that many things as it lasted just 15 minutes. The presenter, Coral Haddon, was a one-time regular contributor to Radio 4's Home This Afternoon.   

The programme at 11.05 on Monday's is fascinating as its presented by Ted Allbeury. If you know your offshore radio history you'll know Ted's name. He was the former British intelligence officer who set up an advertising agency and then got involved in running the sweet music station Radio 390 from the Red Sands Fort. His company, Estuary Radio Ltd, was successfully prosecuted under the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act. Allbeury went on to manage Britain Radio, renaming it Radio 355 until the Marine Offences Act came into force in the summer of 1967. By the time he was on Radio Medway he'd already written his first novel and went on to write over 40 spy stories and thrillers until his death in 2005. In 1979 Allbeury appeared on Desert Island Discs.  

The station's lunchtime bulletins, Midway, and teatime bulletins, Newstide, were under the editorship of Langley Brown. Brown had long been a print journalist, starting off in his native Yorkshire on the Halifax Daily Courier. In the 1960s he moved abroad to join the Rhodesia Herald in Salisbury, then later the Central Africa Post and Times of Zambia. He gained some radio experience with the Rhodesian Federal Broadcasting Corporation and Zambia Broadcasting Corporation. Brown became the news editor at Medway when it started. One of his programme ideas was the monthly M2KA, devised for and presented by Kent County Constabulary. This recording dates from December 1976.    

Notoriously Langley Brown was briefly suspended from his job following a complaint to the DG that he'd referred on air to PM Margaret Thatcher as an Ice Matron and mentioned that yet again she'd refused to do an interview with the BBC despite it having been cleared locally with her campaign team. He retired from BBC Radio Kent in 1986 and died in 2018.

Extract from 1977 BBC booklet Serving Neighbourhood and Nation

At 4pm on weekdays it was David Cornet who was on the station for nearly 20 years, in later years on at weekend with David Cornet's Weekend and Home in Kent. He joined Radio 3 in 1990 as a presenter and announcer and was still reading the news on the station until about 3 years ago.  

Brian Faulkner, listed here for Sunday Special, stayed with Radio Kent until the late 80s. He joined the BBC after founding Hospital Radio Medway in 1970.

Presenting what was possibly radio's only answer to The Sky at Night called Observatory was Peter Shoesmith. Quite how local astronomers looked at the night sky in sound only is unclear. Peter was a former tv announcer (both BBC and ITV) who would be a familiar voice on the BBC World Service throughout the 1970s as a newsreader and announcer. Fellow World Service announcer George Eason also appeared on Radio Medway.  

Medway's sports coverage, such as Weekend Special and Out and About, was under the control of sports editor George Pixley who was with the station for about a decade. Co-presenting Sportsround with George on Sunday morning was Dudley Moore, not to be confused with one half of Pete 'n' Dud.  

You'll spot the name of Colin Slade on a couple of programmes: Poster's Pick and the rock show Overdrive. Young Colin had got the job after initially hanging round the station making tea and doing tape reclamation. He'd studied at the Medway and Maidstone College of Technology and helped out at the local hospital radio. "My first broadcast came about because of a duff transmitter valve which put Radio Medway off the air, resulting in an hour's precious needletime in hand. I asked to do a one-off rock show to use up the needletime. That one show became a series that ran for over three year  and was really responsible for my broadcasting career". Colin joined Radio Hallam in 1974 in time becoming the Presentation Controller. He was then at Classic Gold, Planet Rock and Exeter FM until (albeit temporarily) leaving broadcasting in 2010. He's now a Devon County Councillor and Mayor of Tiverton. Unable to keep away from radio Colin now has a Sunday afternoon show on Radio Exe.   

There were a few Medway broadcasters who made it onto national radio. Colin Berry was with the station in the early 70s before joining the promotions  team at Radio 1 and then in September 1973 the presentation team at Radio 2.

Barbara Sturgeon joined in 1983 after winning a DJ competition on the station the previous year. She remained with Kent until 2004 except for the period from January 1992 to December 1993 when she hosted Radio 2's weekend breakfast shows. 

Sports commentator Bob Ballard joined the station in 1983 presenting the Saturday afternoon sports coverage Out and About as well as the weekday drivetime show. From Kent he moved on to Radio York, GLR, Sheffield and the local radio sports unit in London. From 1997 to 2012 Bob worked a sports reporter and commentator for Radio 5 live, since then he's worked freelance as RHB Productions Ltd and for talkSport.

Mohit Dutta, better known as Mo Dutta, joined Radio Kent in 1991 before Radio 2 beckoned in 1995 and where, for the next 14 years he presented the weekend early show.

Jazz broadcaster Helen Mayhew had worked at Radio Devon before shifting over to Kent in the late 80s. Helen joined Jazz FM when it started in 1990 and took over from Sheila Tracy on Radio 2's Big Band Special as well as presenting Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up (both 2004 and 2006). Currently Helen can be heard on Jazz FM's Late Night Jazz.    

Making the move from Radio 2 to Radio Kent was Don Durbridge. A Radio 2 announcer and presenter from 1974 Don had a couple of spells in Kent in the early 80s and again 1988-92. Read more about Don in my 2012 blog post. 

Nick Page, shown above in 1974 schedules as a co-presenter of the programme for "young people of Kent" Look Out would move to LBC, Radio Wales and then Radio 2 from 1979 to 1992.

Pat Marsh (Photo credit Alison Morton)

Radio Kent's longest-serving presenter is Pat Marsh who joined the station in 1984. Pat's interest in radio started in hospital radio in Dulwich then working providing shows for stores in central London and as a DJ on a cruise ship. Sending an audition tape to Radio Kent's manager Clive Lawrence he got some holiday cover for John Thurston and in time was given a Saturday morning show. That show continued until 1992 but by 1986 he was also on weekday mid-mornings and has continued to present a daily show ever since. More on Pat's website here.

Here's another 1974 schedule this time for the week commencing 2 November. There are some small schedule changes that mainly include the reliance on BBC Radio London to act as a sustaining service. So we get Richard Vaughan in the afternoons, Robbie Vincent in the evening and some of their specialist music shows such as Breakthrough and All that Jazz.  

On Saturday mornings Teen Scene the producer is credited as Rodney Lucas. Rod was with the station for about 15 years and in July 1983 had the distinction of being the last voice on Radio Medway and the first on Radio Kent. He's worked for numerous radio stations, BBC and commercial and his Best Smooth Jazz shows are syndicated worldwide. He founded The Radio School and the news agency Broadcast News.  

Other broadcasters who have appeared on BBC Radios Medway and Kent over the years include (and this list is by no means exhaustive so additions are welcome):

Peter Glanville: an education producer later on Radio Norfolk

John Thurston: with the station mid-70s to mid-80s before moving to Radio Norfolk. 

Howard Leader: actor and broadcaster on Essex Radio from 1983 and then Invicta, Radio Kent and Radio Lincolnshire from 2000.

Clare McDonnell: co-presented the breakfast show with John Warnett 2010-2014. Previously on GLR, 6 Music and currently on 5 live.  

John Warnett: on the station for 31 years, 23 of those on weekday breakfast, before retiring in October. Here's the last hour of his show on 24 October.

Dave Brown: on Medway/Kent 1980-87 presenting a number of programmes but best known for a night time soul show which had grown out of the earlier The Disco Scene. Also on Orwell, Saxon, Invicta and Vibe FM. Latterly on Solar Radio.  Part of one of Dave's show from 1982 is here on Soundcloud.

Kevin Steele: with the station throughout the 1980s with a long run on the weekday breakfast show.

Ian McGregor: with Kent 1988-97. Also on Channel Travel Radio and since 2000 the MD of Just Talking Communications marketing and PR agency.

Andy Garland (pictured above): joined as a broadcast assistant in 1994. Presented the Sunday night youth show The Alternative but is best known for Sunday Gardening in the late 90s and again from 2007.   

Dominic King: born in Kent he worked for a number of commercial stations in the south east before joining the station as a newsreader in 2001.

Erika North: with Radio Kent since 2014 having previously appeared on Heart (1995-2014) and winning a Sony Award for her breakfast show. Also on Classic Gold breakfast with Tony Blackburn.

Dave Cash: broadcasting legend Dave (pirate Radio London, Radio 1, Capital, Radio West, Invicta, Capital Gold etc) joined in 1999 presenting Dave Cash Country and The Dave Cash Countdown until his sudden death in 2016.

Roger Day: another ex-pirate DJ (also UBN, Piccadilly, Invicta etc) who was on Radio Kent from 2007 with his evening shows networked across the south east. Programmes dropped as part of the schedule shake-up earlier this year. Currently broadcasts from his studio in Spain on Caroline Flashback and Delux Radio.     

Daryl Denham: first on Radio Kent 1994-95 before moving to Hallam. Later on Heart, Virgin, Century, Real Radio, Smooth before coming back to Kent in 2015.

Julia George: mid-morning show presenter since 2010.

Matt Davison: sports presenter on Saturday afternoon coverage The Sports Hub 1995-2013.

Sean Rowley: Guilty Pleasures founder formerly on BBC Radio London before starting Saturday night The Joy of Music shows in 2009 which ended earlier this year.  

Some other voices heard on Radio Kent include Dave Austin, Graham Cooke, Julie First, Bill Dod and Jonathan Witchell. 

With thanks to David Ballard

Thursday 10 December 2020

Booked for Christmas

Booked for Christmas

Looking for present ideas for the radio enthusiast in your life or wanting to drop hints to your loved ones about what to buy you this Christmas, then here are some book suggestions published in the last few months.

A number of radio personalities have taken the opportunity of Covid-19 lockdown to finish their autobiographies and these have caught my eye.

Hey Hi Hello: Five Decades of Pop Culture from Britain's First Female DJ
by Annie Nightingale

The queen of Radio 1 celebrated fifty years on the station this year. Here she tells us about her 60s forays into journalism and broadcasting, her break into Radio 1 and the stars and musicians she's met along the way, from the Beatles to Billie Eilish.

Last month Annie spoke to Nick Grimshaw about her career and favourite music. She speaks to Zoe Ball on Radio 2 later this month.

Voiceover Man
by Peter Dickson

Self-confessed "announcer guy, voice of God, gob on a stick, vocal prostitute" offers this frank and funny review of his radio and voiceover career.

Here's Peter talking to  Jenny Kleeman and Luke Jones on Times Radio in September.

Kid Jensen: For the Record
by David Jensen

From Jensen's Dimensions and the Rhythm Pals to the Network Chart and the Flashback 40 the Kid has been on the radio for five decades. More recently David has been battling with Parkinson's disease and a share of the proceeds from each sale will go the Parkinson's UK.  Available from Little Wing Books.

The Kid spoke to Steve Wright this week.

Commercial Radio Daze
by David Hamilton

David has already written about his time on the nation's favourite in The Golden Days of Radio One and this latest volume takes the story further and recalls some of the dozens of other stations that Diddy has appeared on. Initially only available for Kindle its now out as a paperback from Ashwater Press.  

Earlier this year David spoke to Alan Jarvie about his book. 

Re-Run the Fun: My Life as Pat Sharp
by Pat Sharp

Don't be misled into thinking that this is Pat's autobiography, it only bears a passing resemblance to what actually happened purporting to be an 'untrue' book.  

Last month Pat, by the sounds of it sitting in his bathroom, spoke to Chris Moyles on Radio X.

Life's What You Make It
by Phillip Schofield

Although better known for the Broom Cupboard and This Morning the Schofe was on the radio in New Zealand and enjoyed a four year stint on Radio 1 (1988-92) including achieving his ambition of hosting the roadshow from Newquay where he'd grown up and watched the show as a teenager.  

Phillip spoke to Chris Moyles in October.

Utterly Brilliant!:My Life's Journey
by Timmy Mallett

Before the madness of TV-am's Wacaday, Timmy on the Tranny had started on BBC Radio Oxford then Centre Radio and up to Piccadilly. One-time helper on Timmy's show at Piccadilly Chris Evans (Nobby Nolevel) spoke to Timmy on his Virgin Radio show back in January. Interview on YouTube here.

Other books from radio folk published this year include:

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along: Shout Less. Listen More by Iain Dale

The Prime Ministers: 55 Leaders, 55 Authors, 300 Years of History by Iain Dale

How Not To Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind by James O'Brien

Finally, if you don't already have a copy then please consider:

Radio Secrets and Radio Moments both by David Lloyd

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