Radiowaves Special Feature: The Radio 4U Story


Chapter Thirteen

Almost from the very start of Radio 4U we had a regular telephone caller. Darin phoned in at least three times a day.
Usually the phone went quiet for a couple of days after BT sent out the phone bills. During this phone bill aftermath a lot of people tried to cut down on their spending. But not Darin. He must have been the most faithful Radio 4U Anorak ever. His persistence was quite amazing and jocks even refused to answer the phone in case it was Darin again. If you can’t beat them, join them: the only way to stop him phoning was to invite him down to the studio. So the next time Darin got me on the line I asked him over. A few days later he showed up with his dad, Kevin. I remember that Darin seemed a bit disappointed by the simple Radio 4U set-up.

He thought that I was having him on. Such a crystal clear professional stereo station could not possibly come from such a simple-looking studio in such a shed. Even though the shed (the cottage) looked pretty good by now, compared to the state it used to be in. I already mentioned the work we spent on the inside, the outside too had got some paint and even the ground had got some gravel to make it suitable as a car park.

The yard at the Burnfoot studio as pictured in 2018

Nevertheless, Darin was not impressed. So I offered him the opportunity to do a programme. I spent a couple of Saturday mornings sitting in with him. Man, was he a slow learner!

I believed that I could tell within the first hour whether somebody has a gift for radio or not. I must have felt sorry for him in that I did not tell him to get stuffed. I guess I am an optimist and I must have seen something in him.
Darin was so keen, but useless and slow. I suppose I just let him continue for a while because he knew his music and I knew that he was able to handle the equipment once he’d got the hang of it. Ok, he could even say simple things such as: “Hello, this is Darin on Radio 4U, 100.8 FM in stereo,” but I should not have asked him to read a film review. Even his own mother switched off her kitchen transistor!!!

I spent a whole week fighting with myself. I knew I had to sack Darin the folowing Saturday to protect the station. I knew, also, that it would break his heart. I decided to give him one more chance, but without telling him that his position with Radio 4U was on the line.

On Saturday Darin’s programme came as a great surprise. I wonder if his Ma told him off or if he noticed himself, but what an improvement it was! Certainly not perfect, but greatly improved. I was not in a sacking mood and I am glad I wasn’t.

From that day on Darin got better and better, and within the next few months he became a really good and commendable little broadcaster. By March I had the pleasure to meet his school headmaster. Darin persuaded him to allow him to do two weeks work experience at Radio 4U. Afterwards I had to write a report about him: “Darin, what do you want me to write?”

Of course he had to tell about his work at school. I bet that he did his best to impress his pals. This experience shows what community radio should really be about.

But that’s not all. Whenever Kevin came to pick up Darin, he used to hang about the studio to watch Marie’s News Magazine. You could see that he fancied himself in the hot seat.

Like I’d done some months before with her, Marie asked him to read one item, then another one, and soon we had another part-time, relief newscaster. To the surprise of many listeners, Kevin was the closest NWCR sound-alike on stereo FM. Obviously, I am only talking about his accent!

In late autumn Daniel joined. He was an unemployed nurse, who was just back from Wales, where he’d stayed for the past few years. He was the only jock who did not mind doing the morning programme. Afternoons and early evenings did not present too much of a problem getting staff but mornings, forget it. Anyway, he was great. Just the right soft-talking voice which turns on the housewives. Unfortunately, though, after a few weeks he became a bit unreliable and the possibility of his presence became more suitable to be dealt with by betting shops than by Radio 4U.

His programme was first class though so I warned him once. But the next time he turned up late he was out. Very unfortunate on the one hand but inevitable on the other. Even the best were not allowed to take any liberties under Radio 4U rules.

Daniel’s exit left a slightly nasty aftertaste but at Christmas 1987 I was caught by surprise when the phone rang and Daniel was on the other end calling from London where he’d moved recently.
Who am I to keep grudges? Basically, we were a great team but every now and then it happens that you fall out with somebody. But, personally, I am in favour of forgiving and forgetting.

However, that does not mean that I don’t try to get my own back occasionally…