As I spent a large part of my career making business proposals in boardrooms, and presenting at Seminars to rooms full of people, trying to keep them engaged and interested, I often thought along the way, that I could do a radio programme. By ‘do’, I mean to present a music programme, as opposed to be a forensic cross-examiner of studio guests in the style of John Humphrys. I had been in BBC studios previously on Children-in-Need duties, and always enjoyed the experience – far more so than I imagined that I would enjoy TV work. But, as more than one person said along the way, ‘You have a face for radio’.
Younger daughter Alice had a contact at a radio station in Sunderland, and whilst this didn’t directly lead to anything, it did lead me into the clutches of NE1fm, the Newcastle-based community radio station, for whom I did a couple of early evening pop/rock tester programmes, which seemed to go very well. I played music I wanted to play, with a bit of chat around each song, about each song.
Having passed the initial test, I was asked if I would like to do a regular spot in the schedule. This wasn’t so easy, as I was working full-time, which limited the time possibilities. So, I said ‘yes’, but it would have to be 7-9pm on a Sunday evening, and I would be happy to do a classical music show, as NE1fm didn’t do one, nor did many other stations outside the two ‘nationals’ – BBC Radio 3, and Classic FM. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
12 February 2012 was show #1 FOR CLASSICAL NE1fm. Each of the ensuing 150 shows was 2 hours in length, with music from across the ages from the 15th century to the present day. My personal watchwords were that each selected piece would have to ‘carry a tune’ and cover solo vocal and instrumental, choral and orchestral in almost equal divisions.
I had a decent selection of classical music in my own collection to get the first programmes off the ground, but made contact with the major record labels, who were only too keen to ship their latest releases to me. I was soon submerged in CD cases, and lots of wonderful music from a whole raft of composers who were new to me, into the bargain.
I learned a few convenient tricks along the way to keep the show fresh. I had guests on occasion whom I would ask to bring a sample of works which were important to them. This hit their sweet spots – talking lucidly on subjects close to their hearts. Classical music performers, as I soon found, were never short of a few words – radio presenter’s Heaven! I even had a subset of the Chamber Choir from Sage Gateshead in the studio, to sing ‘live’. It was a crush but great fun.
I usually had a longer piece at the start of the second hour, which gave me the chance to grab a cup of something, and stretch my legs. I should add at this point, that I ran the whole programme. No producer, no assistants – just me in the studio, and I chose the music and I wrote the scripts. Blooming’ perfect, as I had total control!!! And I even worked out how to finish the last piece of music one second before the pips went for the news bulletins, on the hour, every hour.
There were a few technical ‘events’ – i.e. the station going off the air on occasion, my CDs not playing – but nothing which ever forced me to reconsider the role. I did pre-record shows from time to time, as I couldn’t be there every Sunday. My Apple Mac comes with a copy of Garageband, which is perfect for a pre-record. I could then send the file to the station, and they would play it out at 7pm, and no-one was any the wiser about my whereabouts.
It was always a treat to receive messages from around the world (NE1fm is an Internet station) – I had a regular listeners in N America and South Korea – and a friend mentioned that he listened for the whole two hours sitting on top of a cliff in Norway, watching the sun set to my dulcet tones.
I felt that I had achieved all that I wanted to with Classical NE1fm after 150 shows, so bid my farewell in March 2015.
A rare treat and a rare privilege to have been able to do this – and I gave away hundreds of the CDs sent to me, through charity shops, so that in turn others and the chance to listen to the music.