Then, when I became a professional broadcaster in 1982 there were colleagues who I enjoyed both listening to and making programmes with. Still do, in fact.
At the BBC World Service in the late 1980s there was the Geoffrey Stern, working as a presenter alongside his London School of Economics lecturing job, who made my production shifts on the 24 Hours programme light up with his smile and energy. I remember him for his rumpled purple suits, the twinkle in his eye, and his (sometimes intentional) inability to talk to time. The latter made my production job all the harder because we knew the show had to end at exactly 29’15” past the hour; at which moment the short-wave transmitters to S.East Asia would switch off – and the ‘bye’ of his ‘good’ would be lost to millions of listeners.
Also at the World Service in the late 1980s was John Tusa, recently moved from presenting Newsnight on BBC2 to become the boss of the international radio station. He once rang the 24 Hours desk to tell me that he could hear us fine in Hong Kong on short-wave. I took that call at just after half-past seven in the morning (GMT) in the Bush House office on the sixth floor, whilst worrying about what I’d put in the lunchtime edition of the news show.
On the BBC North night network in the 1990s from Leeds there was the late evening end-of-the-pier innuendo of Martin Kelner and his characters Édouard Lapaglié (Tony Quinn), Mrs Merton (Caroline Aherne), and the Chinese takeaway owner. Not only was the content of his shows knowingly rude it was also highly listenable – I tuned in just in case Martin and his team said something which really was beyond the bounds of decency.
Then there was Bob Preedy, former continuity announcer for ITV Yorkshire, who presented his Saturday night ‘Hot Country‘ music show from our studios in York. I’d be chatting with Bob in the studio as a country CD was playing out quietly in the background. Bob would suddenly interrupt, and without changing the tone of his voice or the pace of his delivery would flick the mic fader back, give an informed link about the track just finished and add some pertinent facts about the next track lined up. It was laid-back broadcasting at its best. I was full of admiration, even though I couldn’t see what was so good about country music – what with all those stetsons, big boots and tight jeans.
On BBC Radio Leeds there’s Liz Green, a real force coming from the radio: It’s how radio should be.
Colleagues who are currently on air can be heard every day – and ‘listen-again’ online is also available. However, there’s a problem with some of these names of former presenters: their live work is ephemeral. What remains is memories.