Radio Manchester celebrates 40 years

Do you remember the launch of BBC Radio Manchester 40 years ago? Then the BBC would love to hear from you…

Forty years ago the voice of the “Baron” hit the airwaves as a brand new radio station covering Greater Manchester was launched.

The “Baron” was something of a mystery, who hosted a late night show “for the city’s groovers”. Now, as BBC Radio Manchester celebrates its 40th anniversary, it is looking for people who might remember the cult presenter as well as those pioneering days when it was the biggest local radio station in the country.

Radio Manchester began broadcasting on September 10 1970 at 6am and the station is looking for someone, somewhere in Greater Manchester who might remember that very first day. The first actual voice on air was Alan Sykes, who now lives in Spain, and the 10am news was read by Sandra Chalmers, sister of the TV presenter Judith.

Archive uncovered by the station on that day also gives a unique insight into how broadcasting has changed over the past four decades as well as how people’s attitudes now differ and what issues are important to them.

Features from that first day include an interview with the Lord Mayor of Manchester, UK and the Lord Mayor of Manchester, USA; one of the first songs played was a medley of I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts and I do like to be beside the sea; there was a feature with “Mr and Mrs Peniston” from Middleton about a ghost and an interview with the 50,000th RAF recruit.

Presenters can be heard getting merry on champagne and telegrams being received from Coronation Street’s Violet Carson and comedian Eric Sykes.

The station was also ahead of its time with a satirical sketch of a spoof “VIP launch” of BBC Radio Manchester at which guests get drunk, behave badly and throw a Bishop out of a window.

The station had regular features including “Down Your Pint” and a daily “Mini Manchester” programme aimed at children as well as the “Baron’s” cult late night show. There was also someone responsible for programming for blind listeners.

Managing Editor, John Ryan, says: “It may only be 40 years ago but listening to the station on that first day is a world apart from the way we sound now. Some of the content, such as an interview with a lamp lighter, is bizarre to say the least, but at the time the team was breaking new ground – there was no other local radio in Manchester.

“We have come a long way since the days of telegrams and being able to hear people puffing on pipes live on the air. We would love to hear from people who remember that first day and their thoughts on how it felt to be a part of something so new.”

The station will celebrate on September 10 with a range of programming including broadcasting the first two hours as they were originally broadcast from 6-8am; inviting Sandra Chalmers back to read the 10am news and recapturing memories with an interview with Alan Sykes on Beswick At Breakfast.

There will also be music from 40 different Manchester musicians and artists covering 40 different songs from over the years. Some of these will be showcased at a special BBC Introducing event at the Ruby Lounge, Manchester, on September 24 with upcoming band May68 headlining.

Leave a Reply