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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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When they were young(er)

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 06, 2016 14:36:28
Many former Radio Leicester staff have moved on through the BBC to other roles for which they are now more generally recognised by the listening and viewing public.

Here are Charlotte Smith (now BBC1 Countryfile and Radio 4's Farming Programme) with Julian Worriker (Any Answers, You and Yours and BBC News presenter) in the BBC Radio Leicester newsroom in the 1980s.

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Roger Eames

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, November 06, 2016 07:23:12
In fond memory of our former well-respected Programme Organiser and friend Roger Eames, who passed away in September 2016.

Below is a photograph of the Radio Leicester Big Band performing for Radio 2 at the Hippodrome, Golders Green in 1980, with Roger on bass in the front row.

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When the DG came to town

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Wed, November 02, 2016 15:01:04

9 St Nicholas Place is a very colourful and flexible space for broadcasting. Here, on 23rd March 2007, is former BBC Director-General Mark Thompson live on the air and discussing community radio with students from De Montfort University and volunteers from community radio stations in Leicestershire.

It was the first -and last - time I held a microphone in front of a DG!

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Frank Gillard

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 18:04:12
Frank Gillard, pictured below on BBC Radio Leicester's opening day, was the father of BBC Local Radio, but Radio Leicester and the other seven centres which were in the first wave of stations, came at the end of a long and distinguished career.

In 1936, only ten years after the BBC had been created as a Corporation, Frank Gillard became a part-time broadcaster and in 1941 joined the BBC full-time. He became a war correspondent attached to Southern Command and witnessed the Dieppe Raid. In 1942 he went to North Africa to report on the campaign of the Eighth Army under Montgomery. He then reported on the Sicilian and Italian campaigns before returning to the UK ready for the D-day landings. He made many memorable reports, often under fire, throughout this period, including eyewitness accounts of the Battle for Caen.

From 1945 to 1963 Gillard worked in the BBC's western region, becoming its director in 1955. In 1964 he was made Director of Radio with a seat on the BBC's Board of Management. He saw the need to fill the gap left by the demise of pirate radio for 'pop' music. To do this he reorganised the BBC's radio into four stations, Radios 1, 2, 3 & 4. In 1967 he also created the first local radio stations.

He was awarded an OBE in 1946 and a CBE in 1961. Frank retired in 1969 when the Local Radio Experiment had been deemed a success.


In the autumn of 1997, Frank visited Radio Leicester to celebrate the station's thirtieth anniversary. At the time I was Acting News Editor, and feeling very ill-prepared and unqualified for the role. Frank had taken part in the Breakfast Show and came upstairs to the Newsroom just after 9.00am. I was at the News Editor's desk, sorting out the paperwork for the day. At that moment, the phone rang to say that a school bus had crashed on the M1.

Frank, who had been in 'retirement' for nearly thirty years, overheard my conversation and came over to talk. 'So your early morning team has gone to breakfast ... and your day shift isn't due in until later ... but you have a duty to tell worried parents that their children are alright ... You need to get your radio car out... but who's qualified to drive it?'

Frank knew and understood about news priorities, duties and management. He was right there and on the case.

Thankfully, the bus crash was just a bump and no-one was injured, but it reminded me in a very real way that in news and journalism there is no downtime.

The style of BBC Local Radio today is perhaps not quite how Frank Gillard envisaged it. He saw the service more as local extensions to Radio 4; but he understood that his staff in local radio were short on resources and had a strong sense of their role to impart accurate and objective news, and their 'closeness' to their audiences.

Stephen Butt

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Birthday Celebrations

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 17:23:03
Following the launch, the next big milestone (apart from the challenges of covering the floods in Leicester in 1968) was to be the decision from London as to whether the two year 'Local Radio Experiment' had been deemed a success.

The reaction of the staff to the news in 1969 that BBC Local Radio was here to stay was one of celebration, as this photograph, taken in the corridor of Floor 8 of Epic House clearly shows! They knew how to party!

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Long-lasting Herdle!

PeoplePosted by Stephen Butt Sun, October 02, 2016 16:51:45
Jamaica-born Herdle White came to Leicester over forty years ago. He has since established himself as one of the city’s most respected broadcasters – presenting and producing programmes for BBC Radio Leicester and BBC West Midlands. The charismatic host has interviewed everyone from Bob Marley to Courtney Pine and has also spent time coordinating Leicester’s mighty Caribbean Carnival. He is the longest-serving presenter on BBC Radio Leicester.

The presenter’s passion for music stems from his childhood in Jamaica, where he was brought up alongside the rhythm of reggae. Herdle arrived in Leicester as a young man, in the late 60s, and began working for an engineering firm. After being introduced to BBC Radio Leicester through his wife, Herdle’s trademark cheer caught the attention of studio bosses. What started as something he crammed into his lunch-break began to grow considerably in length and profile. When Bob Marley and the Wailers were booked to play Leicester Polytechnic, in the early 70s, Herdle managed to secure an interview. Although for perplexing reasons their conversation never aired, it set the tone for a career of high-calibre interviewees.

Herdle’s connection with the local music and festival scene picked up speed in the late eighties, during his stint as coordinator for Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival. One of his favourite acts to feature was Tobago-born singer-songwriter Calypso Rose.

Herdle’s professional encounters with artists have often triggered friendships. His conversation with Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate, just after the singer went solo in the mid-eighties, was one such moment. He has since interviewed other major artists, including ska singer Jimmy Cliff, American songstress Candi Staton and reggae stars John Holt and Maxi Priest. One of Herdle’s aspirations is to interview Fats Domino and while holidaying in New Orleans, the presenter stopped off at his house, to try and clinch it. Unfortunately, his hero wasn’t home.

Herdle’s Friday evening slot on BBC Radio Leicester, The Sound of the Caribbean, covers a range of music including reggae, soca and soul. He also produces Sunday show Caribbean Connections, which focuses more on news and culture. Herdle’s once lunch break hobby has gradually developed into a high profile career of cultural significance.

(Text Acknowledgement - Spectrum, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund)

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