The great thing about local radio is that anyone can have a go.
National radio stations seem to have a semblance of order, a standard to keep up, they appear to vet all of the callers into their radio programmes so that there are no surprises, no nutters ringing up at 10am in the morning, no “Barry from Kippax and I am a Christian” for instance.
With my single days holiday booked for today I tuned in once again to BBC Radio Leeds to find in my enforced absence that nothing had changed, well, the mid morning presenter had but as far as I could tell the programme content hadn’t. The BBC local radio stations have a remit for discussion on local issues with a little music thrown in here and there for good measure, but certainly not wall-to-wall playlists, its a format I approve of.
When I worked from home earlier this year I listened to Radio Leeds every day and you certainly get to know the regular callers when you listen every day but particularly you get to hear some radio classic conversations.
For instance we had one very windy day last year when gale force winds were sweeping across the country with 80mph gusts across Yorkshire, not the sort of day to let your budge out in the garden for a fly around then.
A woman rang in to speak to Graham Liver, she was distraught and hysterical and when he had calmed her down finally managed to find out why she was so upset, she’d let her budgie out of its cage and it had flown out of the window and disappeared in the gale, her next door neighbour hadn’t helped much by telling her that with the wind speed and direction the poor bloody budgie would be in Middlesbrough (about 50 miles away) by lunchtime and unable to retrace its footsteps, or flight plan, as it were.
Poor old Graham Liver couldn’t help but start laughing and neither could I with visions of someone drawing back the curtains in their tenth floor Middlesbrough apartment to see a blue budgie flying backwards across their vision with a look of complete bewilderment on its face, the appeal went out and for the rest of the programme there were phoned-in messages from eager listeners to say that they had just seen the poor little budgie battling against the wind but being swept inexorably northwards, I think they were taking the piss and so did Graham Liver but to give him his due he kept the local story going all week asking people to ring in with information on where poor little bluey was now, at the end of the week he called the distraught woman to see if he had turned up at home again, “No” she said sounding quite normal this time, “I went and bought another one”.
Barry from Kippax was a local nutter who haunted the local radio stations some years ago, Barry from Kippax could always be relied upon to ring every phone-in programme every day on whatever the topic of the day was and whatever the topic of the day was then Barry from Kippax would always start his call the same way, “Hello” he’d start, “I’m Barry from Kippax and I’m a Christian…” and then he’d give the god fearing bible bashing version of whatever that days topic was usually ending in a row with the presenter in which Barry from Kippax would increasingly raise his voice until he screamed “Oooh you’ll be going to hell you will” and then hang up.
You’d just hang yourself in your garage if you were Barry from Kippax’s next door neighbour.
I of course was fortunate enough to be in at the start of the career of one of the country’s best radio phone-in host – James Whale at Metro Radio.
Metro was a fledgling station in the late 1970s when I moved up to live in Newcastle and James Whale was pretty much unknown when he took the late night job there but within weeks he became a legend at the job by winding up as many drunk geordies as he could, every night.
If you think that the residents of Newcastle tend to drink a lot of alcohol now you should have seen it in the 1970s when each street of houses had its own corner pub and the corner pub was where all the menfolk went every night to get absolutely blind drunk on strong brown ale and when they got home at 11pm they’d ring up James Whale and try to better his argument – they had no chance.
I’d lay in bed in my scruffy but cheap digs and tune into Metro radio at 11pm every night of the week to hear, “Whey helloo, is that James Whale, aye well look-er heyar man, ah think yow’re a big puff see cus youw’re alus wrang, aren’t yer ?” and he’d give them a few minutes to let off steam before laying into them with a well constructed insult that you’d only understand if you were sober which would always end up with the drunk getting even more angry and shouting and screaming abuse down the phone – Metro Radio didn’t seem to have any rules about how to handle drunks on the phone and James Whale didn’t seem to care much about rules anyway, those slanging matches went on long into the night until he’d cut one off and invite another even more drunken idiot on the air, my boss at work thought I was out living the high life every night as I’d turn into work the next day still half asleep, truth is I couldn’t switch the James Whale programme off.