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.

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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 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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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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Free Radio Protesters

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 17:09:39
The opening of BBC Radio Leicester was noticed by many folk in Leicester thanks to the publiciity campaign which the BBC had been running over the previous three months. One group who paid much attention to the event was the Free Radio Campaign.

As the staff calmed their nerves and checked that all was ready for the opening programme, and as the special civic, political and BBC guests arrived, the campaigners staged a protest in Lower Lee Street, outside the entrnce to Epic House.

The protest was prompted by the Marine Offences Bill which became law on 14th August 1967, less than three month's before the launch of Radio Leicester. The Bill saw the end of most of the pirate radio stations.

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Before 9 St Nicholas Place

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 13:49:03
In 1998, five years before the BBC took over the site of their planned new studios in St Nicholas Place, Malcolm Elliott of the Victorian Society (Leicester) recorded a short film for Leicester Cable Television.

Malcolm points out the mosaic tiles which were a notable feature of the frontage of the old building. These tiles were rescued and are preserved within the the BBC studios.

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An Epic Place

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 08:23:14

Epic House is a typical, if architecturally unimaginative, concrete and steel construction of the mid-1960s, standing at the northern end of Charles Street near to the centre of Leicester. It is a familiar landmark recognised by most Leicester inhabitants. The ten floor tower block stands about 120 feet above a two-storey retail store. It was built in 1965 and the local celebrity and national radio personality, the late Lady Isabel Barnett of the White House in Cossington, performed the opening ceremony. A plaque in the reception foyer above the lift entrances, now covered over by a later refurbishment, records that event.

The ground floor was originally occupied by a Safeway supermarket. Later the premises were used by a discount furniture retailer. The Wilkinson Stores group took over the shop premises in the 1990s and constructed a large extension on the former car park behind the tower on land bordering Clarence Street and Lower Lee Street.

The area where Epic House stands, between Belgrave Gate and Clarence Street, has been an ever-changing townscape since early Victorian times. Epic House was built on the site of the former Leicester (or Leicestershire) horse repository which was near to the old route into Leicester from Newark and Lincoln, Loughborough and Nottingham. Charles Street was constructed in 1932 as a bypass to remove traffic from the clock tower area of the city. Originally, traffic to and from the north would have passed this location en route to the Haymarket and the East Gate of the town near to where the Victorian clock tower now stands.

The original Repository - a building in the Victorian Gothic style - stood on a nearby site in Belgrave Gate close to the present junction of Charles Street, Belgrave Gate, Charles Street and Bedford Street. At one time, the junction where Belgrave Gate and Bedford Street meet, just a short distance from Lee Street and Hill Street, was the gateway into the Wharf Street area of the town. This was a network of small streets and courts where, in the Victorian era, thousands of people lived in poor conditions, in back-to-backs and in even more squalid tenements which could be reached only through dark alleys.

As a business, the history of the repository dates back to 1875. For twenty years before that, a paddock adjoining the ancient Bell Hotel on Humberstone Gate had been used for the same purpose, the buying, selling and stabling of horses. The building in Charles Street replaced this earlier repository when the new route avoiding the clock tower and Gallowtree Gate was created. It was completed in 1930 and opened formally on the first day of the famous Leicester Pageant. The newer repository was designed by the Leicester architect Clement Copeland Ogden, whose practice was located in Friar Lane. Its purpose may have broadened over the years, and one can imagine that at some time, the incoming stage and mail coaches would have changed their horses here. In a similar way to a modern services area, various ancillary businesses would have clustered around the repository including a public house which also offered overnight accommodation. This hostelry was originally called The Horse Breaker's Arms but later become The Repository Hotel.

In earlier times, Joseph Merrick, the 'Elephant Man' worked here as a boy of about twelve, hand-rolling cigars for a tobacconist in Hill Street, until his affliction meant he could no longer undertake the task with the required degree of accuracy and neatness. Merrick was born in the next street, Lee Street. The tobacconist's shop faced Hill Street which is now the pedestrianised Lower Hill Street and was located approximately where the reception entrance for Epic House now stands. Although the repository at that date was in Belgrave Gate, no doubt the tobacconist drew much of his trade from the men who stabled their horses there. The final owners and operators of the repository were Warner, Shepherd and Wade who were well-known auctioneers in Leicester until recent times, the original site having been purchased by George Tempest Wade in 1875. The later repository was finally demolished in March 1962.

In the summer and autumn of 2001 before the extension to the ground floor retail store was built, a detailed archaeological survey of the car park next to Clarence Street and behind the tower was carried out. The site lies to the east of the Roman town defences in an area previously identified with Roman cemeteries. The excavations revealed the most easterly remains of a Roman cemetery. Sixty two inhumations were discovered. A number of earlier Roman features were also excavated which included some substantial domestic and industrial pits. A later monitoring and recording exercise revealed a further 33 Roman inhumations and one earlier pit. All the burials were on a west-east orientation and the bodies had been laid in their resting place on their backs. They were lacking grave goods and a number were in nailed timber coffins.

Since BBC Radio Leicester's move to 9 St Nicholas Place in June 2005, most floors of Epic House have been unoccupied. Planning permission was granted for the conversion of part of the building to apartments, but the work has been somewhat sporadic.

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9 St Nicholas Place

BackgroundPosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 07:33:25
After thirty-three years at Epic House in Charles Street, BBC Radio Leicester and the BBC Asian Network moved to purpose-built studios at 9 St Nicholas Place near to the historic heart of the old town, close to the Cathedral, Guildhall and the site of the medieval High Cross.

The road junction of Guildhall Lane and St Nicholas Place is very close to the track of the Roman Fosse Way on its route through Leicester. No doubt, it was here that the latest news from the south would be heard from merchants and military travellers. In later times, the Town Crier accompanied by the town's leaders would gather on this corner to proclaim important news such as the death of a monarch, rumours of wars and new taxes. So this is a very appropriate location for a BBC local radio station.

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