Friday, May 13, 2011

A trip down memory lane...

A chance find (above) sparked off a host of memories - most of which date to the late 960s and early 70s.

Sifting through a large envelope containing old papers, one of those temporary storage containers that almost achieved permanence by surviving countless moves and changes of life over the years, I came across the badge (above) of the Free Radio Association. Oh my! What an icon of my teenage years!

This brief reminiscence is a foretaste of a more detailed account on which I am slowly working, but for the meantime…

It was, in Britain and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the summer of 1970. I was fourteen (and three-quarters) years of age. And with many of my friends I was an avid listener to offshore radio. Those stations, pirate by popular acclaim, that continued to challenge the continuing refusal of governments (in particular the UK and the Netherlands) to allow free and commercial radio stations to be licensed.

Sadly (I was born too late!) it was just after the golden era of the pirate stations, which was the mid 1960s. The offshore fort stations were short lived, but to mention the big names: Radio London shut down in 1967, and Radio Caroline, which reincarnated in later years, went silent as a true independent offshore station in 1968. So what were we listening to? One station in particular. Radio Northsea International, broadcasting from the ship Mebo 2 in, yes, the North Sea.

(Oh, and there was also Radio Veronica, but that is another tale…)

(And later, Radio Atlantis, on which one, maybe two of my pre-recorded shows were broadcast…)

Where was I? Oh yes. Many were listening to offshore radio, but two of us at the same school, King’s Worcester, were actually emulating our nautical heroes and setting up our own land-based stations in the Worcester/Malvern area of the English midlands.

By the summer of 1971 two stations shared the same FM transmitter on alternate weekends, which gave us a two-mile radius. Norman Redfern voiced Superadio Enterprise in Malvern, and I presented North Worcester Radio in turn. All broadcasts were pre-recorded, an hour in length, and repeated as often as we dared. Were we busted? Not on FM, no, as the “authorities” of the time did not have efficient VHF trackers. But I was subtly stopped in 1972, having built an a.m. transmitter with a range of 20 miles. Yep! Centurion Radio didn’t last that long. (Chief Constable Hunt was one of my father’s parishioners, so that did help my case.)

As I said, I am working on the larger story, but in the meantime am happy to wallow in nostalgia. And perhaps to comment: In 2011, those who are 15 years of age shout, “Look at me!” In 1971, some of us at that age wished, “Listen to me!” And many did.


Saintly Ramblings said...

I also have one of those badges. In 1978, with a friend from Technical College, we broadcast "Radio Tango" to the eastern end of Brighton. It was short-lived and probably had a listening audience that could be counted on one hand, but it was fun.

T said...

Then my story, about to be written, is so similar!