It’s an odd thing for me to end up on the other side of the mic. but that’s what happened when this writewyattuk scribe was a live guest of networking guru, magazine proprietor, MC, public speaker and community radio host Keith Bradshaw.
The station in question was Leyland Festival Radio, and I admit to a few anxious moments before, possibly even more than for recent interviews with a certain John Lydon (check back here next week) and Graham Nash a month ago. Yet, as with those latter two examples, there would be little to fear, the results well worth the pre-match tension.
I shouldn’t have been too nervous. I’d known Keith several years, going back to my Chorley and Leyland Guardian newspaper days, when he supplied athletics copy and came in to talk about his charity walking sideline, a covered in 2000’s Fundraising in the Foothills at Fifty (if you do the maths there, it’ll save me mentioning his age). With Keith was his good lady, Ruthie, also part of the morning crew at Leyland Festival Radio, and both looked after me, as did Brian Ashman, the man who disputed the fancy ‘station controller’ title I afforded him on air, but deserves extra kudos for making us a brew on arrival.
The thought of an 8am live spot suggested something of a rude awakening, but the commute was barely a mile from writewyattuk hq, and that fresh start at least gave my voice a little gruff presence (not a Welsh actor, surprisingly). Having given a few talks and readings for nursery and primary school kids, high school and university students and local business clubs in recent years, my main concern was of talking too much once I got going. But through Keith’s deft questioning and prior research it was all made to seem fairly effortless.
A couple of friends later observed how my early nerves made me sound more Northern, but I guess I did leave Surrey for Lancashire 22 years ago (with five years of weekend and holiday commutes before that). Besides, word has it that after a few minutes I sounded more myself, a little more relaxed. Incidentally, another good friend wanted to know if that really was Michael Parkinson interviewing me. Morecambe born and bred Keith couldn’t be drawn on that comparison with the esteemed Yorkshire chat show legend, but did admit his Grandma was originally from Barnsley, so maybe there’s something in that.
Keith asked me the previous day to choose a couple of songs that fitted that morning’s theme (I won’t say what, in case you’re about to listen in), proving something of a dilemma for this music fan. I eventually got down to a shortlist of around eight tracks – almost enough to fill the hour – finally deciding on one alluding to my recent interview with Duke Fakir of The Four Tops (a single first heard on the Reach Out album the year I was born), and a Nick Drake favourite from 1971’s superb Bryter Later.
What’s that? Nick Drake on early morning commercial radio? Well, why not? It is after all one of his more breezy numbers – at least musically – and gave me an opportunity to say something gushingly-positive about how we should make the most of our time here on Planet Earth (maybe I should have selected a Duran Duran track) while we still can.
I’ll confess I’m not one for commercial radio these days. I listened to Capital Radio in my youth, and have chanced upon a few golden oldie channels in more recent times, but the ads usually scare me off. My wireless fix comes from BBC 6 Music and occasionally Radio 2 and Radio 5 Live, and I find it hard to stomach much of what I hear my youngest daughter listening to on Radio Chicken. I won’t be more specific. It’s unfair to name the actual station, not least as I’ve visited, conducted an interview there, and met some lovely people. But I’m sure you’ll all know similar examples across the country, playing bland chart pop. Did we endure all that abuse from our Dads about those ‘freaks’ we listened to – David Bowie, Brian Ferry, Adam Ant, and so on – only to have to put up with all today’s commercial drivel? I don’t reckon so.
I’d experienced a little radio exposure before, albeit in the dim and distant past. I don’t mean mentions from the likes of Radio 1 legend John Peel (who said suitably lovely things about my mid-‘80s fanzine, Captains Log) or various moments in more recent years with BBC Surrey’s Jon Howick and Gary Smith, contributing to, sitting alongside or just listening in to coverage of my beloved Woking FC, home and away. Nor do I mean past interviews with the likes of esteemed BBC 6 Music presenters Mark Radcliffe and Tom Robinson.
I’m referring to my sixth form days, spending a few weeks at County Sound in Guildford while wondering which path to take next, a spell of work experience leading to a further stint helping (or hindering, I can’t be sure, it was all a long time ago) presenter David FitzGerald with his evening and weekend shows. Fitz may be familiar to many from his Anglia Television and Sky News days, or scriptwriting for The Bill and Spitting Image, in the West Country through his BBC Radio Devon show and BBC South West’s Spotlight, and prior to that alongside station mascot Gus Honeybun – the highly-excitable rabbit who traded in bunny hops – on TSW, a claim to fame shared with Fern Britton.
Of course, the broadcasting landscape has changed in recent times, with a proliferation of internet radio stations and community ventures out there these days. And that has to be a positive progression. Leyland Festival Radio is just one, but knows its market and I found it a remarkably professional set-up, not least considering the fact that it’s tucked away above a small town centre charity shop. I hope that doesn’t sound patronising. It’s not meant to be, and the likes of Keith and his fellow broadcast regulars seem naturals on the mic. Because of the close proximity of a nearby market town where I worked in my early years in journalism, it would be easy to add a few Phoenix Nights-type ‘Chorley FM – coming in your ears’ quips, or even a couple of Alan Partridge lines from his Radio Norwich days. But there’s no real excuse for serious comparisons.
As for Leyland Festival itself, it’s great seeing such community ventures thriving in this day and age, amid a dearth of austerity measures, forced council cutbacks and negative Government approaches to creative initiatives that don’t make a stack of money for shareholders and financial institutions.
I can’t recall too many regattas and parades in my formative days in the South-East, although my elder sister – then 21 – was a particularly fetching Britannia on a 1977 Guildford Carnival float. But I was struck how such community events were integral to the local calendar in certain parts of Lancashire when I started visiting. That included Preston’s Caribbean Carnival (and later the Mela too) and the Adlington Carnival, the latter of which I reported on, interviewing top names like Bullseye’s Jim Bowen and Coronation Street’s Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall) and Ashley Peacock (Steven Arnold), while getting to wave to Mavis and Derek Wilton as they passed by in their open-top limo one year. Yep, I lived life in the fast lane at times.
It was a similar story when I visited towns like Bakewell, Derbyshire, during the summer months, yet when I first moved North, Leyland Festival seemed to be at death’s door, like the town’s ailing automotive industry at the time. But thanks to community champions like Keith Bradshaw and many more we’ve had something of a revival of late, and the vehicle procession alone is well worth a look. The fact that my daughters have been among those parading and starring at procession-end on Worden Park with their Double R Arts youth theatre groups is just one good reason to head along for this blogger. And if you tune into Leyland Festival Radio over the next few weeks you’ll be able to keep up to date with what’s happening on June 18th this year (with the official website here).
Back to my Leyland Festival Radio visit, and while it was a shame I had to put a pencil-line through other possibilities on Keith’s song theme – including those from Al Green, The Beatles, Ramones, Slade, The Undertones, and even another Four Tops choice – it would have been rude to take over. I wasn’t rehearsing for an imminent military coup, after all. As it was, Keith has good taste anyway, even though I couldn’t hear a word he was saying in our post-interview photo-shoot as I was wearing his headphones while fellow Surrey old boy Eric Clapton was telling Sally to lay down in my ears (so to speak).
There were a few more things I would have liked to cover during our chat, but I didn’t want it to sound like a blatant plug for my writing services. And overall it was a relatively painless experience from my point of view. In fact, I’ll be a little more positive and say it was highly enjoyable. I still prefer the medium of pen and paper or keyboard and computer screen. That way I can self-edit. But live radio proved to be a blast and I’d happily return to the airwaves.
So, barely an hour after I climbed the stars at No.21, Hough Lane (the home of The Good Rock Foundation charitable organisation, of which you can find out more here) I was bidding farewell to Keith and Ruthie (on to their Leyland Leader duties) then heading back to the day-job. It’s all over for now, but I’m guessing it’ll only be a matter of time before the Sony Awards people are in touch. I’ll keep you posted.