Steve Marshall, veteran radio broadcaster, describes his days on Radio, from Radio Invicta in London, to Riverside 101. Read how he had to tell the Departmernt of Communications where to go, as they were outside their jurisdiction area, after crossing an international border line while attempting to raid them!
BEGINNINGS: Richard Branson is responsible for me getting into radio. When I was a teenager I used to shop in his record store in London. I spotted a copy of the now famous “Ten years of offshore radio”. I don’t know what made me buy it, one of those impulse things I suppose, but always being an inquisitive sort of guy, I wondered if these stations where still broadcasting.
I discovered there were land based pirates as well, one of which was Europe’s first soul music station, Radio Invicta. I first heard them in the summer of 1975, sent off a letter to their Kent address. A short while later I received a typewritten letter from station manager Roger Tate, inviting me to meet the fledging band of buccaneer broadcasters at a future date. A couple of weeks later, I met them at a Surrey pub, and looked around the studios of Radio Invicta then based in an unassuming housing estate near Tooting. I became involved first of all with the transmission side of the station, having used my dad’s tape machine to fool around with, I knew how that worked at least. Radio Invicta transmitted from tower blocks around London. I believe we were one of the first to do so, and within a short while we began broadcasting weekly for three hours on a Sunday. There were very few stations broadcasting at the time, so the then Post Office was not very interested, we were only there to play music after all! The transmissions involved hoisting a large and visible aerial on top of the tower block. We never had any problems with the law, although we had a caretaker who asked what we were doing one day. We told him that we were testing television reception for the then IBA, but he told us the tower block in question was already on the cable! We also had a very long Bank Holiday broadcast, live and uninterrupted for three days one year, at the height of the disco boom. Guest jocks included Chris Hill, who’s still packing them in Canvey Island.
In 1982 I moved down to Cork’s first so called super pirate, South Coast Radio, located in the very plush surroundings of the Metropole Hotel. Broadcasting staff read like a present day list of top broadcasters. We had John Kenny, Alan Reid (Henry Owens of Atlantic 252), Mark Lawerence, Pete O’Neill, Peter Madison and Keith York. The studios were great to work in, and everyone was really nice! I only stayed for around a month, as there were no full time positions available. I joined ABC in Waterford, with Andy Ellis, Clive Derek and Nigel Harris broadcasting from a caravan in Tramore, that was great fun too!
I moved back to England for a short while, and eventually joined ERI in Ballycotton in Cork, devising the format and slogans. The station was owned by 17 year old Joe O’Connor, who we all dubbed Rosko.he was quite a character. On the broadcasting side were Paul Graham, Stuart Scott, Eric Vaughan, and Local guy Tony Williams. We moved into larger studios in Cork City, and were joined by John Creedon(now with RTE), Liam Quigley, Don Allen, and Ian Richards. Newsreaders were Emer Lucy, Andrew Hewkin, and Sean O’ Sullivan, The station became very popular in Cork, and there were rumours that Chris Carey was to buy the station.
In Cork I also worked for Cork City Local Radio, and WKLR in Bandon.
In 1984, I took a break in Galway, on Ireland’s picturesque West Coast. I visited Atlantic Sound 1026, where I found Keith York and Don Stevens. I joined the station working with Richie O’Shea, Pam Wilson, Barry Williams and many more. We gave £1,000 pounds away that summer, and you should have seen the phones light up when we played those three records!
After about a year, Don had a falling out with the owners (squire!). We moved across the street and started WLS, which proved very popular.
Don left Ireland in 1987, so Keith, a few others and myself started Coast 103. We were joined later by David Shearer, Stuart Clark, and for a short while Tony Allan. We did some fairly mad outside broadcasts, and had a lot of fun doing them. The first was from Eyre Square in the centre of Galway, where Tony Allan proved once again what a professional broadcaster he is, with a live commentary on a race across the Square. In 1989 the broadcasting act came into force, and Coast 103 closed down, although for a short time we ran a station called Quinncential Radio. I continued living in Galway for a short time, doing local discos, and was involved in the application for the Galway License.
One day a letter arrived from Frankie McLaughlin, who I’d worked with for a short time on Radio Nova in Donegal. He said he had started a station called Riverside 101, broadcasting into Northern Ireland, so a few days later I grabbed my then battered suitcase and set off for Donegal. I put a format into the station, did the marketing and we put on a £500 give away. A short while later we moved to new premises nearer the border.
One day we received a visited from the DOC in Dublin (Department of Communications). The transmitter was located on a raft in a river, which straddled the border, although the studios were located within Derry City boundaries. The DOC turned up with their jeeps and Gardai, (The police from the Irish Republic who are paid from Dublin) only to be told by me that they did not have any jurisdiction in Northern Ireland. We called the RUC, (The police from Northern Ireland who are on the British government’s payroll) and the funniest sight was the man from the DOC trying to tell the RUC Sergeant where the Border was!
I was drivetime host and programme controller on Riverside 101. It became a successful station and we moved in plush new offices in Derry’s Waterside, linking via a BT landline to the transmitter. On our second day on the air from the new premises we received a visit from the RUC, who thought we were transmitting from there.
In 1992, I went to work for Sunshine 855 in Shropshire, and later worked in discos in Switzerland. I also worked with the Irish Spectrum Radio in London, Radio HMV, and did voice overs for Radio City in Liverpool. In 1995, I came back to Belfast to do a Journalism course, and moved back to Derry in the summer of 1996. Frankie McLaughlin had got the local broadcasting license as Q102, strangely on 102.9, which is a very successful station. I do a regular Sunday show there. For the first time in my life I’m settled somewhere I really love.
Many of the guys from England stayed in Ireland for a while after the bill came into force, but many have since went on to pursue careers elsewhere.
I still enjoy radio, and have made many friends doing it, it gets into your blood after a while, and working for Q102 is great fun with really nice friendly people, I wouldn’t live anywhere else!
I sometimes think what would have happened if I hadn’t bought that radio LP…….
(c) Steve Marshall 1997 <marshall[A T]iol.ie>