Friday, 23 April 2010

When did that happen?

I have found myself listening more and more to Radio Two recently. Anyone who knows me, knows how big a fan I am of radio and in particular local radio. I believe that radio, when used well, is a medium that can get people to interact and be involved with it. This is why I fell in love with local radio.

When I was younger, national radio seemed distant. The music was important but so was the news, local information, the sense of belonging. Local radio always had competition winners from places that I had, not only heard of, but also possibly visited or seen on the destination board of a bus passing my street. Quite a big deal when you are seven.

I suppose at the time I was growing up, radio was quite a big thing. there was no breakfast television until I was almost in my teenage years, so when i was getting ready for school the radio was on and of course, it was the choice of station of my parents, staunch BBC lovers. I wasn't even allowed to watch Tiswas on a Saturday morning, I had to watch Swap Shop or play in the fresh air. So brought up on a listening diet of BBC local radio I learnt to love it, and Neil Diamond as well.

I still remember my first tranny. It did have FM and AM. It was a little silver thing and I used to go to my bedroom and listen to the local radio commentaries of Liverpool starting to conquer the continent in the late 1970's. No ISDN line to make the reporter sound like he was sitting next to you. You knew he was in some dark place in the middle of Turkey trying to pronounce the names of the Trabzonspor midfield. Occasional breaks in sound had you scrambling for the tuner wheel to see if you had lost the signal or whether the link between Sir Thomas Street and the Black Sea  was down. Being sent to bed wasn't a bind. After the local programming had finished, Radio Two took over and I could listen to The Grumbleweeds Radio Show.

At primary school I had often heard of alternative "commercial" radio stations that played all the best music but i would stand up for my BBC favourite. But my entrance into secondary school coincided with me dabbling with the dark side of radio. I can still see the look of hurt in my dad's face when, one lunch time, I asked if we could put JK JD on in the kitchen instead of the phone in. "We brought you up properly, not like the rest of the troglodytes that you go to school with," his eyes said. But the music was newer and more exciting. They still kept me up to date with live football, and Scully and Mooey were more than adequate replacements for The Grumbleweeds. More importantly, the names getting mentioned didn't just belong to people who lived near me, they belonged to people I knew, who I spoke to studied with and was bullied by.I really felt the connection with the station more than ever. Eventually, one lunch time in April, my name was mentioned in the same way as many of my friends before me. And it was my mum and dad that had organised it, I might even have the tape archived somewhere in Chez Stromi).

My first foray into radio presenting was, as with most aspiring DJ's was with a dancette record player and a collection of donated 45's. (anyone remember the 1978 hit for prog rock group Yes called Don't Kill the Whale? I had three copies given to me, by the same person, at the same time). This was the same record player that I put the speakers out of my bedroom window in 1982 and played the national anthem at full blast, just before going for a game of football.

In my time as a radio volunteer I have had so many positive memories. Interviewing Garry Christian from the band The Christians is one of my highlights. as was presenting a programme non stop for 60 hours, raising over £800 for charity, which was very substantial in 1992. I have also interviewed Charles Kennedy during the general election campaign in 2001, when he was Lib Dem leader, the manager and chairman of Burscough Football Club as they celebrated winning the most prestigious trophy in non league football, while they were still on the pitch, Michael Le Vell, who is apparently a star in a TV soap (we talked football) and the lead singers of Deacon Blue. I was also in charge of the hospitality when Take That appeared on a radio roadshow but that, my friends, is another story.

Hospital and community radio is where it is now (OK hospital radio may be on the wain but still serves an important community where it thrives). It can target its intended audience with appropriate programming. Locally we have an excellent student based community radio station that serves the student population incredibly well. But locally and regionally I feel that we have lost the way significantly. There are now hundreds of local radio stations on the dial. but how do you distinguish between them. They all have a very tight selection of songs that are repeated often, with the odd curve ball thrown in every now and again. Presenters no longer need a personality. Just the ability to not cock up when reading a card with the sponsors link or the stations tag line on.

So I have found myself returning to the BBC both locally and nationally. Locally, the BBC still provide excellent coverage of local events (sports wise my local independent are also excellent but that isn't reflected outside of larger conurbations) and still have presenters who can inject their personality, although even their music selection has contracted in recent years. Nationally, the BBC do very well, with having a number of national stations that cater for specific tastes. 6 Music has been threatened with closure and their listeners have started a campaign to save it. Radio 7 has some of the best talk based programmes in the BBC archive whilst radio 4 can boast some of the best commissioned audio work and contemporary talk features in the world. Radio 1 and 1 extra serve the younger end of the market whilst radio 3 caters for those with what is called a more discerning taste.

As I mentioned at the start, I have found myself drawn to Radio Two. I suppose it reflects my age in may ways as it plays the songs that I remember from when I was younger. It also has a fair few presenters that were presenters on the stations i listened to when I was younger. But it also has some of the best specialist and new music programmes I have ever heard. I am trying to work out when it was that I became a Radio Two listener.

And when will I own my own station?


  1. When will you own your own radio station, that's interesting, you could be famous one day perhaps..

    I'm not a radio fan, never listen to it. Have occasionally had Radio Newcastle on but it's always full of folks moaning about the economy and I need cheering up when I switch the radio on.

    CJ xx

  2. When will you own your own radio station, that's interesting, you could be famous one day perhaps..

    I'm not a radio fan, never listen to it. Have occasionally had Radio Newcastle on but it's always full of folks moaning about the economy and I need cheering up when I switch the radio on.

    CJ xx