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The 50th Anniversary of BBC Radio Leicester is on 8th November 2017.

This unofficial blog aims to tell the story of Britain's first UK mainland local radio station, and to celebrate its achievements with the help of former staff, their families and our listeners.

Please register below if you would like to receive occasional email alerts and RSS news feeds. You will also be able to contribute posts and images.

Barry Norman

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, July 02, 2017 11:54:07
It was with real sadness that I heard of the passing of Barry Norman. When I was based at the Langham doing radio training in the early 1970s, Barry was a regular (daily?) inhabitant of the Langham bar. He was genuinely engaging and decent guy who would acknowledge us trainees. Not all 'celebrities did so. We felt so good after being able to chat with him over a pint. Positive, enthusiastic, professional, intelligent, knowledgeable ..... and kind.



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50th Birthday Good News

NewsPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, July 02, 2017 11:46:15
I am pleased to hear and pass on the good news that BBC Radio Leicester will be celebrating its 50th annversary in grand style with a special Varierty Concert at Leicester's De Montfort Hall. Tickets are now on sale.

The date is the actual birthday - Wednesday 8th November - at 7.30pm. Its the perfect venue. It was a full house for the station's 10th anniversary back in 1977!



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The Mk 3 Desk - More

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Wed, March 22, 2017 17:30:50
Further to the discussion about the BBC Mark III desk, we really had no excuse. We all had copies of this manual, commissioned by Liam McCarthy (Managing Editor) and compiled by Jeff Link who wrote the text and provided the artwork.


At the moment (March 2017) part of one of the Radio Leicester Mk IIIs is on display at 9 St Nicholas Place as part of the build-up to the 50th anniversary celebrations. The Sonifex cartridge players have been a subject of considerable discussion on social media.

A footnote to my earlier comments about the Mk2 desk - The first time I used one was at BBC Radio Bristol when I was operating for Kate Adie, then the presenter and producer of the mid-morning sequence. This was before I came to Leicester. She was very gracious in dealing with my operational inadaquacies.


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The Book

NewsPosted by Stephen Butt Mon, March 20, 2017 17:03:25
A group of former BBC Radio Leicester staff is helping me to write a book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the station and of BBC Local Radio.

The main chapter headings will be:

Preparation (before Day One)
Programmes
Progress
Pioneering
Projects
People



For the People chapter, we're looking for short memories, comments and anecdotes from listeners, former staff and present staff. This will be a major aspect of the book and will bring a really human element to the publication.

We would value your contributions. Please post them here on this blog, or email to contact@stephen butt.co.uk.

Very many thanks.

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As they were

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sat, March 11, 2017 15:54:35
When I was a student at Durham, I was able to listen not only to Radio Durham but also Radio Teeside and Radio Newcastle. Teeside had the edge in my opinion (but I was still a teenager then!).

This is a photograph from the website of the great country presenter Stan Laundon and marks the date of the change of name from Radio Teeside to Radio Cleveland.

There are two faces which have very close connections with BBC Radio Leicester. On the back row is the late Ian Judson who was to serve as Manager of BBC Radio Leicester after Tony Inchley and before Jeremy Robinson. At the front is John Watson, one of the early news team, and sometime acting News Editor at Leicester.



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Truly Great Local Radio

NewsPosted by Stephen Butt Fri, March 10, 2017 08:16:46
BBC Radio Leicester has covered many sporting events and achievements over the past fifty years, arguably none more exciting than Leicester City's amazing success last season, and none more surprising than the sacking of Claudio Ranieri less than a year afterwards.


As part of the comprehensive coverage of the events following the announcement, Radio Leicester's sports reporters Ian Stringer and Jason Bourne visited Ranieri at his home to present him with an open letter on behalf of fans and listeners.

A really imaginative way to present the story making full use of online and social media. Find out more by visiting the BBC Radio Leicester Sport Facebook Page HERE and the BBC Sport website HERE

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Congratulations on New Year Honour

NewsPosted by Stephen Butt Sat, December 31, 2016 06:50:56
Many congratulations to Jonathan Agnew, formerly of BBC Radio Leicester, on being appointed MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for his services to broadcasting.



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Christmas Greetings

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Tue, December 20, 2016 16:42:20
A few days to go, but time for me to send everyone my best wishes for a truly good Christmas. Let's hope that many of us can meet up sometime in 2017 to celebrate how our paths crossed (or nearly crossed) at BBC Radio Leicester.


No word of a lie - I took this photograph standing outside my house, and I haven't tweaked it in any way!


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The Mk 3 Desk

GalleryPosted by Stephen Butt Mon, November 21, 2016 07:52:14
The technical equipment in a radio station is often overlooked - except by engineers - unless it goes wrong. A major leap forward for BBC Radio Leicester was the upgrade to the Mark III configuration. It was a big change from the Mk 1 Peto-Scott desks which had served the station since 1967. It also heralded the gradual move from mono to stereo across the BBC Local Radio network.

In my opinion, Radio Leicester was lucky to have avoided the BBC Mark 2 desk which I operated occasionally at BBC Radio Bristol. I found the methods of selecting channels to groups (A-B,1-2) confusing. I never really worked out what 'clean feed' I was sending - or to whom!

Because the Mk III desks were designed by people who worked on BBC stations and knew what presenters and technical operators needed, and was built in the BBC's own Equipment Centre at Avenue House in Chiswick, it was a robust and easy-to-use desk which also had great flexibility of function.


I am not sure who took this image. It is of myself pretending I knew how to use the desk, and it is in the upgraded Studio 1 at Epic House, clearly sometime after we had begun logging broadcast music using barcode readers.



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Mr Juste

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 15, 2016 17:31:28
He won't like me for it, but having heard from Adrian, I was prompted to search the archives - and came up with this.


However, I am hoping that Adrian might like to reminisce about a certain Outside Broadcast from the Bewicke Arms in Hallaton, Leicestershire when we covered the annual Bottle-kicking Contest on the Easter Bank Holiday Monday. The bar opened at 8.00am so the precise details of the output are now rather vague.

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Famous Faces

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 13, 2016 12:54:31
Ten years ago, celebrating Radio Leicester's 40th anniversary, we welcomed friends and guests to 9 St Nicholas Place. Here, (right) with one of her acting colleagues, is local actress Rakhee Thakrar before she took over the part of Shabnam Masood in BBC1's Eastenders.


As a Director of the local youth theatre company Hathi Productions, Rakhee was a frequent visitor - and user of - the BBC Leicester Open Centre.

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Conkers!

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 13, 2016 08:14:12
In the 1970s, Radio Leicester launched a weekly 30' built programme for children called 'Conkers'. It was in part the brainchild of Station Assistant and then General Producer Greg Ainger. Greg went on to produce the original Talking Blues sequence and manage the Asian Network in its early years before moving to Local Radio Headquarters in London.


Here is Greg with a group of young programme participants. The location is one of the University of Leicester's Halls of Residence next to the Botanical Gardens in London Road, but the signficance of the rabbit has been lost in the mists of time.



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Speedway

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 13, 2016 07:26:44

BBC Radio Leicester was determined to cover all the sporting activity in Leicester, and that included Speedway, but the 1960s were lean years for Speedway enthusiasts and for the Blackbird Road stadium in Leicester.


Here are two photographs of Radio Leicester's Speedway Reporter, the very amiable Mike Holt, who always had a smile on his face, even on radio!

Across the country, many tracks had closed during the previous decade, and Blackbird Road was to follow suit. The Leicester Hunters under Mike Parker entered a team in the provincial League in 1962 but ended the season close to the bottom. Takings at the gate were low, and the team was transferred to Long Eaton for the following season. It was the Hunters’ final season. Although attempts were made in 1963 to reinvigorate the sport and the Leicester stadium’s fortunes, with the Pride of the Midlands individual competition, and open-licence meetings, and by bringing top riders to the track, attendance continued to decline and the stadium was closed in 1964. Stock car racing continued spasmodically at Blackbird Road with events in 1962 and 1963.



Blackbird Road reopened in 1968 under the leadership of Reg Fearman and Ron Wilson, and with the transfer of the Long Eaton operation to Leicester with a new name - the Leicester Lions. At the first meeting of the season the reinvigorated team beat Kings Lynn by a remarkable eighteen points. It was at this time that Radio Leicester began coverage of the sport.

The Lions were to continue to race at Blackbird Road until 1983 when the stadium was sold to Barratts Homes, and demolished to make way for housing.



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The Gramophone Library

GalleryPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 13, 2016 07:18:19
Even in the 1960s, the word 'Gramophone' was out-of-date and rarely used outside the BBC. Ordinary folk had 'record players'; but the BBC still had Gramophone Libraries.


This is a photograph of the original Gramophone Library at Epic House in August 1971 (according to the BBC Calendar pinned on the shelving). The Library was on the Charles Street side of Floor 8, and doubled as the Station Assistants' Office. When the station was upgraded to Mark III, this became Studio 2, and the Library was moved to the Lee Circle side of Floor 9.

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The Undercroft

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Thu, November 10, 2016 15:42:42
The BBC studios at 9 St Nicholas Place are located in the heart of the old town and close to the centre of the Roman settlement, so it is not surprising that a lot of interesting history lies beneath its modern foundations.


This undercroft, dating to the late twelfth century, was first discovered in 1844 (as far as records suggest) when the building which was demolished to make way for the BBC building was itself constructed.


Above (right) is a photograph of the structure from 1844 next to (left) the same view in 2002/3.

Its re-discovery took place a few years before the BBC moved onto the site when the old building was being used as an antiques warehouse. The wife of one of the antique business partners was taken to A&E when the ground gave way above the undercroft and she fell down into it, breaking her leg.

When formal excavations began, the first archaeologist to venture underground was Dr Richard Buckley who was later to direct the team which found the remains of Richard III.

Read more about the undercroft and the ULAS excavations here.



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Programmes and People

EphemeraPosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 08, 2016 17:52:17
Here is a memo from April 1975 setting out who does what at Radio Leicester. Lots of names and programmes. Do you have contact with some of those who are listed, or memories of the progrmmes you produced.





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Sir Harold Wilson

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 08, 2016 17:41:10
BBC Local Radio broke down the psychological and physical barriers between 'us and them', between the electorate and those whom they had placed in power.

Before BBC Radio Leicester, the people of Leicester seldom heard the voice of their MP, or the Chief Constable or the other leaders of utilities and public services. But sometimes BBC Local Radio could even place Prime Ministers on the spot and give listeners the opportunity to challenge them.


So this letter is one of the most precious assets in my archives, It's not often a Prime Minster sends you his good wishes after an interview!

However, it wasn't quite like thst. At this time, Margaret Thatcher was in power and leading a very different Government. Sir Harold was in his retirement although he was often present in the House of Lords.

Perhaps most appropriate is his epitaph which is stlll relevant: Tempus Imperator Rerum - Time is the Commander of things.



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Roger Eames Obituary

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 08, 2016 16:10:58
It is so sad that our Programme Organiser for eighteen years Roger Eames, will not be with us in body to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary; but we can still celebrate his career and his friendly presence.

The following is from former Station Manager Owen Bentley for whom Roger was 'second in command' for twelve years:


Music and especially jazz is the thread that connects all parts of Roger Eames’s BBC career. He joined the BBC as a studio manager in 1962 and his skills in balancing such outfits as the NDO in Manchester led to his appointment as a music producer, a job that encompassed Music While You Work, Those were the Days, Victor Sylvester and Round Midnight but also sessions with young groups destined to characterise the sixties pop sound. An accomplished double bass player who had played jazz and formed his own bands since his student days he was soon the producer of Radio 2’s weekly Jazz Club presented by Humphrey Lyttleton featuring top jazz artists from around the world and new talent unearthed by Roger. He was proud of having introduced Jazz Workshop to Radio 3 despite the Controller’s comment that he “didn’t understand a note of it”. During these years he was the British judge at the Montreux Jazz Festival and served on Arts Council panels.

By 1969 Roger had a young family and wanted a more settled life and Local Radio beckoned. Following a brief successful attachment as Programme Organiser on Radio Nottingham he was appointed PO at Radio Leicester in 1970 where with interludes elsewhere, all music related, he would stay until his retirement in 1988. There his wide interests and amiable personality were great assets on and off the station and he always had time to talk and encourage newcomers. His love of music showed in the airtime given to local musicians, choirs and brass bands. His contacts at Radio 2 led to a memorable Local Radio 10th anniversary show which he produced featuring talent from all 20 stations broadcast on the national network and on all 20 Local Radio stations.

His Local Radio duties apart Roger was in demand as a musician and could be found on occasions in the pit of the Haymarket Theatre for the musicals for which that theatre established a national reputation. Together with his wife Christine, herself a talented composer and conductor they formed the Radio Leicester Big Band which went on to win major awards in Radio 2’s big band contests garnering welcome publicity and prestige for the station.

By the late 80s Roger found the narrowing of the programme focus of Local Radio increasingly irksome and took early retirement establishing a PR agency for public schools before moving to Spain where he and Christine took their music skills to a new audience.



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Before the Asian Network

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 08, 2016 12:03:15
It is true to say that BBC Radio Leicester pioneered broadcasting for diverse communities, and particularly the growing Asian community. With thanks to Dave Kirkwood, this image records the work of the station in this field in the early days.


In this photograph from 1968, Mr Nazim Muradali and his wife, Mrs Vidya Pooran-Muradali, from Trinidad, are with Station Assistant Dave Kirkwood and Rita Chapman, the producer of the ‘Programme for Immigrants’. Nazim Muradali was an MP in Trinidad and at one time a popular radio announcer. He still serves as a Justice of the Peace in his home country. His late wife was formerly the Principal of ASJA Girls College in San Fernando.



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More from the Morgue

GalleryPosted by Stephen Butt Tue, November 08, 2016 11:48:18
In the 1960s and 70s, the Morgue studio was a busy place with space for music recordngs and school visits as part of the station's education out under Hal Bethel and Paul Cobley.


Here are some young programme-makers from 1970, which may bring back some memories.



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