Graham Ford memories

Graham Ford not reading the news

531 kHz transmitter

Geoff Rogers

I thought it was time to add some of my own memories of Susy Radio. I used to vist some of the earlier RSL's in Redhill and sometimes sit in on programmes. In 2002 I was in between jobs and  Colin Pearse of SSRG (Sussex Surrey Radio Group) which operated the station knew of my enthusiam and suggested that as I had a reasonble voice and very good diction would I like to be a newsreader? Well this was a good way to get a foot in so I agreed. So I did news bulletins mainly on breakfast and sometimes on afternoon drive. This way it didn't interfere with my jobhunting so that  kept the authorities happy.  Broadcasts were coming from the Oakley Youth Centre at Earlswood the studios being in the third floor attic. There was one complete studio (Largely built by SSRG/Susy Radio) and another large adjacent room which had a Teletext TV  and minidisc recorder. Bulletins were complied off teletext and pre-recorded so the news wasn't live but sounded as such.  I did the morning shift from 7am to 10am. We had a good system  and the use of minidisc meant that stories could be edited out and replaced and move up or down the agenda thoughout the day depending on the importance. My first newscasting also co-incided with the infmaous Soham murders so it was a baptism of fire and I was very glad we pre-recorded the news. I also on a couple of breakfast shows read articles out from the newspaper and tried to be a good support to the breakfast DJ  We followed strict guidelines on our news stories and, in the case of the Soham murders waited for the BBC to announce that Kevin Huntley was the prime suspect before we did. This applied to all news stories that we carried) as a broadcaster we erred on the side of caution. Getting it wrong could have left us at the mercy of Ofcom and threats of fines. Broadcasts at the time were on 531 kHz  and very strong at my locale a few miles away.

I did eventually move on from presenting the news which I did for a few years either at breakfast time or the late afternoon / early evening slot..  One year I stayed overnight on the Saturday/Sunday morning. We relayed a few hours from the local nightclub and they were short of a  poor soul one week to switch over so we could carry Radio Jackie as our morning sustaining service from 2am. For this effort I was rewarded with a one hour show from 6 to 7am before the breakfast presenter arrived. OK I had to go downstairs and let him in! So that meant queuing up a couple of long tracks on the computrer as I wasn't very fast with stairs in those days and far slower now.

We did one broadcast on FM  from the RNIB facillities at Redstone Hill. Here a studio block had been built with what seemed to be very well equiped studios.  Our engineers were not impressed with the standard of audio cabling. The shielding was far from broadcast standard. As there were students there we all had to be CRB cleared and we weren't allowed to take any photos. One evening a gap appeared in the schedule and after finishing my news duties I did a 2 hour broadcast at very little notice.  Quite interesting going over to me reading the pre-recorded news. John the engineer called me up and asked me to chat more about the music so I lined up a Joss Stone track (at that time far more succesful in the US and ignored by much UK media) and put up a bit of background info on her.  This was on one of our FM broadcasts. and lasted a couple of weeks. Ofcom charging more for FM than AM.

It was a while before I got my own show. In  2005 Colin decicded to go for a "Hot Country" format  and not all the presenters were keen on this. Well, I am not an  expert but have a wide appreciation of music so I volunteered and with Mr B co-presenting some weeks! I got into a group called Lone Star doing the shows and had an excellent CD of music from the TV series Due South which I featured.  Plus classic country tracks. Colin would  venture into the studio early Sunday mornings and mix up the CD's and add some new ones (all music that year was off our country CD music library or the presenters own.) Colin got me playing some very odd tracks. All the Susy CD's had tracks highlighted to show which ones fitted the format.  Highlighted in yellow, orange or pink. I think these indicated fast, classic and some slower tracks. Don't play too many slow country tracks. but one of our more regular DJs did as some form of protest! WEvwere also banned from plaing rhe country rock Hotel California  by the Eagles as it was being over played. 

Aftr this I secured the  Sunday morning breakfast slot for the next couple of 531 RSLs with our mixed format. Now I wasn't a brilliant presenter but it varied across the weeks and I enjoyed pulling in info / stories that other broadcasters didn't bother with. I did a tabloid challenge using just The Times and The Daily Telegraph to get these from plus a few other more odd souces and not he uusual tabloids. 

The RSLs were always very enjoyable. We had an excellent crew. One morning I stayed in and assisted Stuart who was registered as legally blind and assisted him. To be honest I was amazed as to how he handled the equipment given his condition. I helped him with timing of the news and adverts.  We used to end our transmissions with a barbeque night. Many of the station staff would gather to chat eat and drink and meet some interesting people who would drop in.

 

2004 More details

In 2004 I was mainly on the evening shift from 5pm to just after 10pm – taking over Traffic at 5.45 and doing the 6.15 and 6.45 travel updates as well. Like in 2003 using our friends at Regis Trafficlink for the information and also updating them on the local roadworks. The one on the A25 that had finished and also  on the A23 Balcombe Road. They need people like us. These were all read live – the only problem Graham Kirk on Drive and I chat too much!

 

Also producing news from IRN scripts and recording this onto mini-disc running updated bulletins at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 10pm. The IRN script grammar was a bit suspect now and then and as we weren’t running any IRN interviews we needed to incorporate some of the information from them. So a bit of re-writing was involved.

 A typical bulletin lasted three minutes long, with the last 45 seconds local news culled from various local sources. Finishing off with the weather.

 

I filled-in on a couple of shows at the last very minute. 

 

Friday 8 – 10pm. A rock oriented show.

This was literally my second and third hour self-op. Running music from the computer, changing the artists to get into ‘format’ for the show and also pulling off jingles and commercial blocks. I’m fairly adept at computers so it was just like another software programme. Later on I started on the CD rack behind me to vary it a bit more. I think theirs a lot of Arrow Rock Radio (classic rock), influence  on this show.

 

There is the odd gap and a dodgy start. Mr Kirks’ dropping the headphone on the Queue button setting the 8pm news rioght back to the beginning…and my having the mike up as I practice my first link. I didn’t let it throw me. I needed to talk a bit more and vary the subject. John the engineer asked me to tallk more about the music and I did with a bit of Joss Stone. A lot better than my first hour.  Looking at how others work next time I’ll run through the jingles and sweepers – learn how to use these more creatively.

I placed the adverts bang on-time on the half hour.

 

A competent effort rather than entertaining. Thinking the audience would be down on a Friday night there are a few anorak links / tracks relating to Caroline and Laser.

Wednesday 0700 to 1000 hours.

 

Wednesday 0700 to 1000 hours Breakfast with Shan and Graham

 Having spent the previous night up late with the boss Colin and us both escorting various SAS members around the RNIB studio I found myself in bed by 00.20 and needing to get up early as we were short on staff - they should employ taller people to get around this one!

 

I wasn’t sure if Shan was going to be there so I grabbed a bunch of my 80’s CD’s (9am – 9.30am we run music from a particular decade), and some toys from Bagpuss and The Clangers! Trying to make it a bit more offbeat!

 

Shan operated the desk from 0700 – 0900 (just as well)  and I took over for the final hour. Shan was in the same boat as me. Just like in business you’ve got to take responsibility for your work. I’ve learnt a number of very important lessons.

 

The links – some are fairly tight. Others are around two or three times too long. On the long links we use up too much material. Stick to one subject per link.

We’re a little bit ragged with music etc. Could be smoother. I tend to talk more over the beginning and end of the tracks but we’ve both got similar on-air experience.

 

On the plus side it was fun to do – Shan didn’t know about Bagpuss! She refused my very reasonable offer to take her home to watch my Bagpuss video! I was better at balancing the guest mike when I was running the desk but, everyone complained at the RNIB’s set-up. On the main mike there was too much compression. Nobody could use close mike techniques. On the guest mike’s it was too low.

 

Shan’s got a sexy deeper voice. Not as good as Hilary Nolan who I knew a few years ago. She used to be my counterpart at a company I used to deal with. Not kidding she had the deepest sexiest voice in the world. If the world was about to end you would want it to be the last one you would ever hear.

 

That year we did a 16 day broadcast, you can feel the improvement every few days I’d love it to have been a full 28 and done just a couple more shows knowing that I could have done even better.

 

That year I was informed about an as yet unadvertised job at Radio Mercury for Traffic and Travel and sorted out a demo taken from my last days work at Susy. I didn’t pull it off but glad that I did, learning all the way!