Happy birthday

Les­ley Dol­phin is cel­e­brat­ing an im­por­tant ra­dio mile­stone

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

I hope you won’t mind me in­dulging my­self this month, but we’re cel­e­brat­ing a birthday at BBC Ra­dio Suf­folk – a half cen­tury of broad­cast­ing.

BBC Lo­cal Ra­dio is 50 years old and, al­though Suf­folk is one of the youngest sta­tions, we’ll most cer­tainly be mark­ing the oc­ca­sion. For me it is also a mile­stone be­cause I have been work­ing with var­i­ous BBC ra­dio sta­tions for over 40 years. I didn’t re­alise just how new and ground­break­ing it all was when I got my first taste of lo­cal ra­dio in 1975/76.

I grew up in the heart of the coun­try­side, here in the east, so it was a whole new world when I found my­self at univer­sity in Brad­ford in 1975. Ra­dio Or­well had ar­rived in Suf­folk in 1973, but Nor­folk didn’t have any lo­cal ra­dio. So a lec­ture by Anne Hunter, of BBC Ra­dio Leeds, had me fas­ci­nated and I blagged a re­turn visit to their stu­dios. I was im­me­di­ately hooked, not just by the ex­cite­ment and im­me­di­acy of broad­cast­ing, but the fact that this was ra­dio be­ing cre­ated by com­mu­ni­ties for their com­mu­ni­ties. Most of my ra­dio ex­pe­ri­ence had been of the na­tional Home Ser­vice or Light pro­gramme, so to be at the sharp end of a ser­vice that dealt with mat­ters con­cern­ing me and my neigh­bours was very ex­cit­ing.

I spent all my spare hours work­ing at Ra­dio Leeds, and I was lucky be­cause they took time to en­cour­age and train me. One of my univer­sity es­says was about the im­por­tance of lo­cal ra­dio to com­mu­ni­ties and my sand­wich place­ment (a year of work as part of the de­gree) was with Ra­dio Leeds.

The 50th birthday will be cel­e­brated at our an­nual awards event called The Gil­lards, named af­ter the man who came up with the idea of lo­cal ra­dio and then made it hap­pen. Frank Gil­lard was a war cor­re­spon­dent and had seen lo­cal ra­dio in ac­tion in Amer­ica and Canada. It was his per­sua­sive­ness, the demise of pi­rate ra­dio sta­tions and the ar­rival of VHF ra­dio that en­cour­aged the BBC to give lo­cal sta­tions a try in 1967.

As has al­ways been the case, fund­ing was an is­sue and the early sta­tions were paid for jointly by the BBC and lo­cal coun­cils. First to open was Ra­dio Le­ices­ter. Seven more swiftly fol­lowed, in­clud­ing Leeds in 1968. Suf­folk had to wait 23 years, while BBC Ra­dio Nor­folk opened in Nor­wich in 1980. I came home from Brad­ford in 1979, in time to get my first full time job at Nor­folk. It was an ex­cit­ing time, cre­at­ing a new ra­dio sta­tion where there was no lo­cal ra­dio at all.

Ra­dio Suf­folk’s first boss was Lavenham man Ivan Howlett, who was pas­sion­ate about giv­ing Suf­folk its own ra­dio sta­tion. He knew the county was an amaz­ing place to live and chose broad­cast­ers who lived here, in­clud­ing sev­eral who had worked for Ra­dio Or­well.

Since that day in 1990 we’ve been to ev­ery vil­lage in Suf­folk, re­ported all sorts of news sto­ries, in­clud­ing dev­as­tat­ing floods and the Suf­folk mur­ders, and run lo­cal cam­paigns, such as the build­ing of the EACH Tree­house Hos­pice. I like to think we re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.

There are 40 lo­cal BBC sta­tions across Eng­land and none of us are the same. We all re­flect the com­mu­ni­ties we live in whether it’s a north­ern in­dus­trial city or a ru­ral agri­cul­tural county.

I have seen so many changes over the years, tech­ni­cal and in the way the sta­tions are run, but at the heart of our broad­cast­ing are our lis­ten­ers. Where else can you get up-to-the minute travel news, a chance to com­ment on daily hap­pen­ings, and de­tails of lo­cal events? When there’s bad weather you can al­ways turn to us for the latest in­for­ma­tion.

There is nowhere else quite like Suf­folk and I be­lieve only lo­cal ra­dio and lo­cal news­pa­pers can truly re­flect our com­mu­nity. Where else would you hear the dul­cet Suf­folk tones of Char­lie Hay­lock, hear about the Wis­sett Trea­cle mines, chal­lenge your lo­cal politi­cians or be able to cham­pion The Trac­tor Boys?

So, I hope you’ll join me in wish­ing BBC Lo­cal Ra­dio, not only a very happy birthday this Novem­ber, but many more happy years to come.

Above: Mark Mur­phy and BBC Ra­dio Suf­folk col­leagues fly the flag for a Suf­folk Day. Pic­ture: CON­TRIB­UTED

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