Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Down Your Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Lancashire

It's a happy 50th birthday today to BBC Radio Lancashire. The station opened as BBC Radio Blackburn from studios in a converted motorcycle showroom on King Street in Blackburn. The signal was beamed out on 96.4MHz from a VHF transmitter at Hameldon Hill near Accrington covering Clitheroe, Colne, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Bacup and Darwen as well as Blackburn and Accrington.  A medium wave service on 351m was added in 1972 and the station expanded to cover the whole of Lancashire - hence its name change - in 1981. By 1988 the station had moved into custom built studios on Darwen Street in addition to the ancillary studio in Preston that had opened in 1980.

Like many of the local stations that opened in late 1970/early 1971 they made some unplanned pre-launch broadcasts. Long-time Radio Lancashire broadcaster Gerald Jackson remembers: "it was the bleak winter of 1970, with all the power cuts going on. We came on before Christmas with no furniture and no electricity, to give people the emergency power bulletins - news of when the power cuts were going to hit certain areas. We were running on batteries and standing in front of the microphones with clipboards and candles. But those bulletins were invaluable to listeners."

The original team were brought together under the management of John Musgrave and his deputy, programme organiser, Jack Thompson. Radio Blackburn went on air at midday on Tuesday 26 February 1970 with an opening announcement from the familiar voice of North Home Service announcer Tom Naisby. Naisby was Blackburn born and bred and joined the BBC in 1946 as a Manchester-based announcer and then head of presentation, retiring in December 1969. Tom died in September 1972.    

As usual the resources of the Radiophonic Workshop were called upon to provide a station theme. Radio Blackburn's was composed by Elizabeth Parker.

The first programme was the news magazine First Edition presented by Sue Cox. The first record played Ashton, Gardner and Dyke's The Resurrection Shuffle. On a normal weekday the station offered something different to the other BBC local stations with a what we now term sequence programming and at the time Musgrave called "one long programme" with a selection of different presenters. This was a radical shift away from the then accepted practice of more built programmes and there is the suggestion that the open plan office space created in the old showroom encouraged a greater exchange and pooling of ideas and production techniques.    

The tentpoles of the schedule were the breakfast programme First Edition, the lunchtime version Second Edition and at teatime, yes you've guessed it, Third Edition. In between these was Morning Mixture (9.30 am to midday), This Afternoon (2 to 4 pm). The early evening programmes were a phone-in Phone Forum and specialist music shows before joining Radio 2. First Edition remained as the morning show title into the 1980s, later becoming First Thing and then Lancashire Today. By the mid-70s the midday sequence was replaced by Grapevine and Newstime and the drivetime edition by Roundabout and a news round-up called Spotlight.   

Presenters listed in that first week included Stuart Whaley, education producer Dave Clegg, Ruth Prince, Keith Daniels, Judith Bunker, John Mills and Gerald Jackson. The news team consisted of the  editor Mike Hoskin (later manager of Radio Cornwall), Steve Ireland (now a partner in The Geeky Group), Allan Muirhead, Chris Bates and John Knight.

John Mills began his radio career as a volunteer on the Gilbert and Ellis Islands in the Pacific. On his return to the UK he joined Radio Blackburn in 1970. In 1976 he moved to East Anglia to produce and report on the VHF opt-out show Roundabout East Anglia. When Radio Norfolk started in 1980 he presented and produced a number of programmes as well as working for Radio 4's disability programme Does He Take Sugar? and for the World Service. John died in 2006.

Gerald Jackson has been with the station man and boy. He did a short spell over at Radio Leeds before joining the Blackburn team in late 1970 and has been there ever since. More recently he has taken on wider responsibilities as the Station Sound Manager for the BBC local stations and his weekly Unforgettable show with music from the pre-rock 'n' roll era ran for over thirteen years with his last show, before going into semi-retirement, airing in December. This is how Gerald's final Unforgettable sounded, though the show has continued with John Gilmore.   

Moving on a couple of years here's the schedule for the week commencing 6 January 1973.

One of the presenters of First Edition and Second Edition is David Broomfield. He was a former Home Service and Radio 4 newsreader/announcer who was then on Radio Durham before moving across to Blackburn and then up to Radio Carlisle.  

Another presenter listed here is Max Easterman who went on to work for the BBC in Manchester as a producer on the influential current affairs show File on 4 then later presenting Radio 4's Europhile and The World Tonight. He's now a media trainer and continues to write about and play jazz.

Other broadcasters here include the late Fletcher Richardson, who, despite his Geordie origins, became known as Mr Radio Lancashire and appeared on the station from 1972 to 1985. With the sports coverage is journalist Keith McNee who also wrote for the Burnley Express, Lancashire Evening Telegraph and the Burnley Evening Star.

On Friday night is the programme aimed at Blackburn's significant Asian population Mehfil (meaning 'get together'). It was one of British radio's first programmes in Urdu and Gujerati and for many years was presented by Nasim Bajwa and Siraj Patel. It ran for about 30 years.  

Extract from 1977 BBC booklet Serving Neighbourhood and Nation

Other voices you'll have heard on Radio Blackburn in the 1970s included Pat Gibson (also on Red Rose Radio and Bay FM), Wendy Howard, Mike Smith, Graham Harwood, Trevor Hall, Ralph Elphinstone, Nigel Sharples, Steve Gordon (later on Voice of Peace, Caroline, Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova), David Turpin, John Knight, Anthea Boulton (ex Granada TV), Judith Roberts, Phil Smith, Phil Scott, Garry Selfridge, Brian Dean, Ian Cook, Nigel Abbott, Phil Ashworth, Pat Horton, Mike Marsh, Geoff Barratt (later at Humberside and Severn Sound) and country music presenter Bob Roberts.

Also passing through the station between 1976 and 1982 was local lad Nigel Dyson. As a student at Hull University he got his break into radio on Radio Humberside in 1974. After Blackburn he was later a producer at Radio Northampton (82-85) and Radio Cumbria (85-88). It was  back to Northampton as Programme Assistant and Assistant Editor (88-94) then up the management scale at Three Counties Radio (94-95), Radio Cambridgeshire(95-98) and finally editor at Radio Cumbria 1998-2012). Though he retired in early 2012 Nigel has continued to make occasional broadcasts on Radio Lancashire and Radio Cumbria.

At 8 am on 4 July 1981 Radio Blackburn changed its name to Radio Lancashire.

Here's programme schedule for the week commencing 8 February 1992.

On Sunday afternoon's at this point is the station's long-running music show On the Wire. This had started in October 1984 and Steve Barker presented it for the entirety of its 36-year run. The show featured long sequences of music that in recent years has been described as "the latest leftfield releases in electronica, ambient and dub/reggae" but could just as easily play soul, jazz, classical and country tracks. For many years the opening theme was Ravi Shankar Part 1 by Dub Syndicate as remixed by Adrian Sherwood. On the Wire was taken off ('rested' in BBC-speak) in March last year as part of the paring down of schedules for the coronavirus pandemic but seems unlikely to return. Steve continues to put together music on Mixcloud and playlists, archives and recent online shows can be accessed on the On the Wire blog.

Here's how BBC North West reported on  the station's 40th birthday in 2011.

Other voices you'll have heard on Radio Lancashire include Jacquie Jones (1992-2021), Russel Hayes, Paul O'Gorman, Sally Moon, Pete Edmondson, Jenny Billingsley, Ann O'Brien, Nick Miller, James West, Neil Pringle (later at BBC Sussex), Rob Norris, Simon Johnson, Julie Webster, Clare Bowles, David Jones, the late Norman Thomas, Steve Becker, Dave Sanders (also on Radio Humberside), Bernard Wrigley, Michelle Stocker, Sameena Ali-Khan, Sanjiv Buttoo, Andy Peebles, Richard Hammond, comedians Jim Bowen and  Ted Robbins, Tony Livesey (now on 5 live), Mike West, Alec Makinson, Sally Naden, Carole Turner, John Gillmore, Brett Davison, John Barnes, Alex Worsick, Steve Royle, Stephen Lowe, Northern Soul champion Russ Winstanley, Dave Swanton, Joe Wilson, Phil Trow (now on Radio Manchester), Sally Bankes, Alex Entwistle, singer Jon Christos, Keith Fletcher, Graham Liver (the current breakfast host and previously on Radio Cumbria and Radio Leeds), Leanne Bayes, Mike Stevens, Gordon Burns, Des Desai, Hussnain Hanif, Alison Butterworth, John Clayton, Sean McGinty, Maria Felix Vas, Nick Dow, Gary Hickson, Nishma Hindocha, Glen Hunt, Simon Brierley, Andy Bayes, Sushil Chudasama, Lydia Flavell, Dan Jewell, Shigufta Khan, Hayley Kay, Scott Read, Sharon Hartley, Gemma Ray, Nicola Adam and Emma Sweeney.

Radio Lancashire will marks its 50th during the day and on Sunday they broadcast a special programme with Graham Liver and Gerald Jackson. BBC Radio Lancashire at 50 is available to listen to again on BBC Sounds.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

The End of a Swingin' Affair

It seems that Radio 2 has had its fill of big band and swing music as it drops Clare Teal's Sunday night show (tonight at 10 pm). In doing so it brings to a conclusion five decades of programmes on the network devoted to the sound of the orchestras, musicians and vocalists of the big band period.

The programme The Big Band Sound with Alan Dell was first heard on Radio 2 in September 1969. Alan continued to host until 1995 and for many years also featured music from the British dance band era in the companion show Dance Band Days.

Malcolm Laycock picked up the reins in 1995 and by April 1998 the show moved to the now traditional Sunday night at ten slot. Clare Teal ("Clare without the 'i'. Teal as in duck") followed in August 2009. Between October 2013 and 2018 the show was expanded to a live two-hour show allowing more features and regular interviews in the second hour. The music policy may have broadened a  little too much at times - too many covers by pop artists - but it has remained popular. The BBC's decision to drop it is mystifying.

Those seeking the sound of the big band era can hear Johnny Beerling on Serenade Radio or listen online to Unforgettable Radio. Meanwhile Clare has promised "good news on the horizon". (Edit 5-1-21 Clare announces she is to join Jazz FM on Sunday nights starting on 24 January 2021)

From 6 June 1994 here's Alan Dell with an edition of Big Band Era to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

What turned out to be Alan's last ever broadcast was made on 7 August 1995. During the show Alan recalls the early days of the show which was the idea of BBC producer Denis Lewell.

There are links to dozens of Alan's show on the Music Nostalgia website.

Moving on to 21 January 2007 and this show from Malcolm Laycock. The first half features the dance bands of Jack Hylton, Ambrose, Henry Hall and the like. He also marks the passing of Gracie Cole.

From 30 March 2008 Malcolm features the music of Ted Heath.

Here's Clare on 1 September 2013 with an hour on the theme of Come Rain or Come Shine with music from Ted Heath, Tubby Hayes, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie etc.

In Clare's show from 20 July 2014 the guest is singer and trumpeter Georgina Jackson.

This is Clare's final Radio 2 show from 3 January 2021.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Down You Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Newcastle

Happy Birthday to BBC Radio Newcastle opening 50 years ago today.

Unusually for a station launch 2 January 1971 was a Saturday. Neighbouring Radio Teesside was also supposed to have started on the same date but in the end they squeaked in just a few hours before the end of 1970. The north-east was super served by BBC local stations as Radio Durham was still on air having gone live in 1968, though it would close in August 1972.   

Newcastle had a long history as a broadcasting centre with station 5NO going on air on Christmas Eve 1922. Three years later on 23 December 1925 the Corporation opened up its broadcasting centre at 54 New Bridge Street housed in a former maternity hospital. They remained there until the new broadcasting centre on Barrack Road, dubbed The Pink Palace, opened in 1986. The new radio station was originally based in Crestina House on Archbold Terrace (originally Archbold House) which it shared with an insurance company and a branch of the Midland Bank.

The first station manager was an old BBC hand Richard Kelly. Kelly has joined the BBC in 1948 and was a Newcastle based producer for the North Home Service whose credits included the variety show  Wot Cheor Geordie, Barn Dance and the ground-breaking Voice of the People with Harold Williamson. His deputy was programme organiser Ted Gorton, ex-Radio Sheffield who went on to manage Radio Oxford.  

Although the station officially went on air in January like the rest of the BBC local stations that opened that winter they had all unofficially appeared at intervals beforehand to provide public service on the weather conditions and power cuts. 

I've no Radio Times programme schedule for the start of Radio Newcastle but this is how  it looked in December 1971.

There's a very familiar name in the line-up, that of Frank Wappat with The Thirties Club. Frank was the station's longest-serving broadcaster until his retirement in 2010. The double Sony Award winning broadcaster is also remembered for Frank Wappat at Large, Songs for Singing, The Gospel Show and his show as part of the BBC Night Network.

An article for the January 1975 issue of Script magazine told us that Frank was a "leading light of the Al Bowley Appreciation Society and a leading expert in 30s music. The programme, covering music from the 20s to the mid-fifties, emerged from a memory lane spot and now is a twice weekly hour-long show. The club runs its own very successful twice weekly disco at a local venue, where members are encourage to reminisce. Title of the club Wappat stressed is The Thirties Club, not the over-thirties. In fact, over 50% of the club is under 30, having first heard the music on Frank's programme. The editor of the Al Bowley Appreciation Society Magazine is only 25. It's not treated as old music for old people, but simply good music, for all ages."  

To mark Frank's forced retirement due to ill-health Michael Poulter introduced this special programme in 2010. Frank died in 2014. 

Co-presenter of Day Off on Saturday morning was Fay Watson who along with Dick Godfrey were the first voices heard on the station. Dick would later produce the contemporary music show Bedrock that championed local music.

With Fay on Day Off is Ian Gardhouse who a couple of years later joined Radio 4 as a producer (Start the Week, Stop the Week and Loose Ends)

Presenting the breakfast show First Thing is news editor Stuart McNeil who later was political correspondent at Tyne-Tees. 

Others on the station at this time were Iain Wilson, Richard Dunn, Lynne Vaughan, John Guilfoyle, David Bell, Chris Johnson, Eric Caller, Phil Penfold (an arts reporter also on hospital station Radio Tyneside and on Radio Durham) , education producer Cliff Kitney, Sylvia Horn (later on Radio Wales), Linda McCullough (later on Tyne-Tees) and Ernie Brown (also on Radio Cleveland).

Moving on to September 1972.

Presenting the Saturday morning children's show (obligatory programming for all the BBC local stations) was Phil Martin. Phil was an offshore pirate broadcaster at Britain Radio, Radio England and Radio 355 before joining the Daily Express as a journalist. It was working out of their Newcastle office that brought him to the BBC. In 1978/79 he hosted the breakfast show AM with PM before joining Tyne-Tees.

The Saturday feature Val  in which she "tells you about her week and introduces her friends"  is actress Val Mclane (When the Boat Comes In, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and founder of Newcastle's Live Theatre Company) and sister of Jimmy Nail.

Co-presenting Five-Nightly with Frank Wappat is Richard (Dickie) Pigg. He'd joined the BBC in the 1960s in the Transcription Services before becoming a vision mixer. With Radio Newcastle from the start he took part in one stunt to promote the new service that "involved an on-air parachute jump. After an extended training course, Dickie was fitted with a radio mic to provide a running commentary all the way down, later joking the engineers were more concerned about the safety of their precious kit than how hard he hit the ground".

Extract from 1977 BBC booklet Serving Neighbourhood and Nation

Other voices you'll have heard on BBC Radio Newcastle in the 1970s include Railton Howes (also long time presenter of Howes Fishing until 2012), Geoff O'Connell, Richard Swallow, Andy Craig (also on Metro and a Tyne-Tees announcer), Jim Gibbons, George Bayley (host of sports programmes), June Barry, Howard Cockburn (presenter of North Country), John Lavis, John Smithson, Gordon Briggs, Eileen McCabe (ex. Radio Durham, later at Tyne-Tees) and Mike Marsh.

Later broadcasters have included George House, Bill Steel (TV announcer also at Metro and Century), Julia Shaw (previously on Radio Cleveland), David Wilson, Lee Brewer, Gerry Jackson, Chris Jackson, Mark Eccleston(with Club X), Kevin Rowntree (also on Metro), Tony Cartledge (ex Radio Humberside), Bill Weeks, Nicky Brown, Paul Bajoria (now produces Radio 4 quizzes such as Brain of Britain and Counterpoint), Sarah Miller, Kate Maze, Francesca Williams, Julia Hankin, Matthew Davies, John Oley, Jonathan Morrell (two spells on the station), Colin Briggs (later a newsreader on Look North), Tony Fisher (currently on BBC Essex), Simon Pryde, Dave Porter, Helen Spencer, Martin Emmerson, Marian Foster (presenter of Garden Mania), Kathy Secker, Jamie Wilkinson, James Clark, Baz Khinda, Jon Harle (ex Radio Scotland), Ian Robinson, Gilly Hope, Mike Parr, Paul Wappat, Simon Hoban, Sue Sweeney, Charlie Charlton, Alfie Joey, Jonathan Miles, Anna Foster, Rebecca O'Neill, Peter Grant, Mel Crawford, Stephanie Finnon, Ingrid Hagemann, Anne Leuchars, Lisa Shaw, Michael Poulter, Nick Roberts, Fiona King, Simon Logan and Tamsin Robson.

And finally I must mention Paddy MacDee who was heard across the north-east for five decades. He joined Radio Teesside in 1973  then moved over 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 when the schedules were paired down to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and he retired in July.

Radio Newcastle is marking its 50th birthday with a specialone-hour programme with Simon Logan at 10 am today (with 3 repeats and also available on BBC Sounds).

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