Christmas Greetings – and Shows

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas & a peaceful New year.

I’m on-air at my usual times, with some extra hours over Christmas:

Christmas Eve on Radio Seagull: Instead of the normal show on Radio Seagull from 7-9am CET (6-8GMT) repeated in the evening, I will be presenting two individual shows at thos times, so twice the music:

24th Dec Radio Seagull www.radioseagull.com 0600-0800 GMT (0700-0900 CET)

24th Dec Radio Seagull www.radioseagull.com 1800-2000 GMT (1900-2100 CET)

Then on Boxing Day / St Stephens Day my show on Caroline has an extra hour:

26th Dec Radio Caroline www.radiocaroline.co.uk 1300-1600 GMT

On New Years Eve my Seagull show is a special featuring the best of the new music I’ve played throughout 2011

31st Dec Radio Seagull www.radioseagull.com 0600-0800 GMT repeated 1800-2000 (0700-0900 CET repeated 1900-2100)

Then normal show on Bank Holiday Monday Jan 2nd on Caroline:

2nd Jan 2012 Radio Caroline www.radiocaroline.co.uk 1400-1600

I hope you get the chance to join me at some stage over Christmas, if not, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year now.

I’ll be back in the New Year with details of my forthcoming book . .

Steve


Facing Death At Dawn . . And Life Afterwards

The past is indeed another country, but the future is a map that we can draw for ourselves if we dare.

It was 20 years ago this morning, (20th November 1991) that I came to the end of the roughest night I had ever known in all my years at sea with Radio Caroline, and faced what I came to believe would be my last ever dawn.

Aground on the infamous Goodwin Sands, which have claimed hundreds of ships and thousands of lives, we were gradually rolling over, each wave pushing us a little closer to the tipping point where the ship would capsize. Ironically, although there was not enough water to float her, there was more than enough to flood into her and fill her up if we went sideways . . more than enough to drown in.

The waves were towering in the North Easterly Force 11 winds, the seas icy – we wouldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes if we went over.

The brave men of Ramsgate Lifeboat had already tried to rescue us and failed, running aground themselves,  losing a man overboard in the process (happily quickly recovered by safety line). Now we were waiting for the helicopter, but it seemed we would be in the water before it arrived . .

Certain that we would be drowning in minutes, the floor beneath us already at a 45 degree angle, we hugged each other, shook hands, and said goodbye. We knew we were going to our doom . .

ITV teletext reports on our rescue - photo Geoff Rogers

The story of that morning, and our eventual rescue by the RAF helicopter R166 is described in detail in my book Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline, but even the printed word cannot do justice to the memories which are still vividly seared onto my brain, even all these years later.

I absolutely believed that I was about to die, and that morning, and in particular that moment, has changed my life since then.

The 20 years I have lived since that morning on the Goodwins is a bonus, and the older I have got, the more I have appreciated this, and the more I have lived my life with zeast and purpose. The sudden seeming end of Caroline in 1991 (though not the final end, as it has bounced back and is adpating to a new age) instilled in me a knowledge of the impermanance of states of being, and ensured that when I got involved with Phantom FM in later years I treasured each moment, and drove myself to both give and take the maximum from every day that I worked there.

In life too, I reach out with lust for living to take the most from each day, and push myself to do and experience more and newer things.

Life is a bonus, and I am determined to spend that bonus to the full.

Many people around me comment on my seemingly unflappable calm when faced with difficult situations. This too comes from that morning on the Goodwins, for as I see it, I have been minutes from an icy drowning death, so why should anything that happens in a more normal work or life based situation cause me to panic?

Time has been kind to Radio Caroline too, and that morning, seemingly a point of closure for the station was to be in fact the first step in forcing it to adapt to a new path, which though seemingly bleak for much of the 1990s, has blossomed in latter years into an unprecedented period of stable broadcasts, with new technology enabling the station to be heard in undreamed of quality in previously unreachable countries.

20 years on I have spent the night of the 19th/20th November sipping wine with close friends, and thanking my lucky stars for all the richness of life and the benefits of new technology that both I and Radio Caroline have enjoyed in the last 20 years.

It’s right to raise a glass and look back, but the biggest gift of all is to be able to raise my gaze and look forwards.

Steve


Special Reading & Talk to commemorate 20 Years Since The Goodwins Shipwreck

20 years on from the most terrifying morning of my life . . aground on the Goodwin Sands with hopes of rescue seemingly dashed as the crew of the Ross Revenge shook hands and prepared for the ship to roll over . . .

Shiprocked - Life On The Waves with Radio Caroline

Seven Towers Agency, East Wall for All and The Sean O’Casey Community Centre present:

Radio Caroline, former Phantom FM DJ and Best Selling Author

Steve Conway

Reading from his book

Shiprocked, Life on the Waves With Radio Caroline

Sean O’Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin.

7pm Monday 21 November

free parking, admission free

20 Years ago this November, Dubliner and East Wall resident Steve Conway  survived the shipwreck of the Ross Revenge, the last of the Radio Caroline off-shore Radio Ships.   Reading from his book, Shiprocked he tells of this event and of his life on the famous Pirate Station, Radio Caroline.

Steve will also read a preview excerpt from his new book, due out next year, that covers his career beyond Caroline, including the 10 years spent working for Dublin’s alternative station Phantom FM / Phantom 105.2

This event is free, but an opportunity will be available to give donations and to RNLI and Sean O’Casey Community Centre.



Lost Caroline on Sky? How to re-add.

 

I’m getting a lot of search requests to this blog from people wondering what has happened to Radio Caroline on Sky, following the station’s decision to give up its slot in the EPG (Programme Guide).

Caroline is still available on Sky – to find out how to add it manually, check out these instructions.

Steve


In Context: Radio Caroline’s brave (but wise) move to exit Sky EPG

News this week from Radio Caroline which has confirmed today that it will be leaving the Sky EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) in a calculated move to focus its media spend on the forms of distribution which are most productive in terms of audience. The station will continue to broadcast on a satellite channel, which will be available by manual tuning, details of which are to be announced later.

The Radio Caroline statement:

Our recent survey into the listening habits of our audience has shown that only a small percentage are listening using SKY 0199.

The findings duplicated the results of a similar survey we carried out 2008 but showed satellite listening had fallen by a further 9%. At the same time on-line listening has increased by around 40% and continues to grow. This information came as we were considering whether to also obtain an EPG on FreeSat.

As a result of this we have tried, but without success, to renegotiate prices with both providers. Therefore we have decided not to proceed with FreeSat and to give up our SKY 0199 Electronic Programme Guide. This change may happen either soon, or in the medium term.

We will still have a presence on satellite but this will require manual tuning. It is hoped there will be no interruption to the service, but there may be a brief period of satellite silence while the changes are made. We will then explain how to tune Caroline in manually via SKY, FreeSat and any UK standard satellite receiver.

When the required information is provided to us, we aim to set up a dedicated telephone help line to assist listeners affected by the change. Information will also be on the web site.

There is a substantial cost saving that will result from this decision and we hope that this can be used for future expansion and to improve our current facilities.

As a presenter with Radio Caroline in both its offshore days and the current day operation, and as one of the people involved in the start-up of the satellite service in 1999, I can tell you that, despite a little apprehension at first, I can embrace this move as a positive step for the station.

When Caroline started its regular and ongoing satellite transmissions in early 1999 (taking in its own right a channel vacated by EKR, from whom it had been leasing airtime for the previous six months) satellite was pretty much the only game in town for moving forward on a legal footing, unless you wanted to sell out to corporate investors. Internet broadcasting, while technically an option, was in the most embryonic of states, with pretty dreadful quality, very limited numbers of streams, and dial-up connections making the listening experience one of limited bursts of music followed by “buffering” for most people.

In recent years, ever-increasing access speeds and technological advances in consumer hardware has changed the game profoundly, to the point where even TV (with its much greater bandwidth demand) is watched online frequently. (One example of this is that, according to official figures, 1 million people watched the latest episode of Doctor Who online via the BBC’s iPlayer within a week of broadcast).

There is now no real barrier to being able to serve listeners professionally online, and the advent of wifi radios and smart phones has made things even easier. I now routinely listen to Radio Caroline in the car in Dublin via an iPhone hookup, in a close to FM quality that is better than anything we could have wished for in our offshore days. And  it’s not just Caroline that I listen to this way – BBC Radio 4 can now be listened to in areas outside its longwave coverage, and I use the iPhone to listen to the evening news on RTE Radio if I am travelling by public transport.

Broadcasting live from the Ross Revenge recently, I was delighted to see how many people were listening from all around the world – the USA, South America, Tokyo, Australia – where there is the net, now there is Radio Caroline. By far the vast majority of emails were from people listening online. Here in Dublin, many people I know listen to radio online via apps or wifi radios, but none use the Sky option (or are even aware that it is there – I’m talking “normal”, non-radio people here).

With such a growing and international audience for radio online, it now makes real business sense for Caroline to stop paying a huge five-figure sum just for the benefit of a few inches of screen space on the EPG, and concentrate that money on maintaining and improving the service in more productive ways. And, of course, the satellite will be there too, as a manually tuned option – just as it was for most of the early 2000s.

It’s very easy to cling to the familiar, but to survive in any business you have to not only become good at doing what you do, but also to know when changing what you do is the right thing to do.

Stay tuned to Radio Caroline for details of upcoming changes – via www.radiocaroline.co.uk – and keep enjoying the great album tracks from the last 47 years.

Steve


Steve now adfree, and more noisy.

Just a very quick note – I’ve paid for a couple of upgrades from WordPress to enhance the enjoyment of your visits.

As of today, we are ad-free, so there will no longer be adverts popping up for services that are beyond my control.

I’ve also upgraded the storage space which adds the ability for me to directly host audio on the site, so I can now include clips of off-air recordings etc if they add to the article.

By way of trial, below is a clip from half a lifetime ago, back in my newsreading days with Radio Caroline, at sea on board the ship Ross Revenge. The microphones and audio processing used on Caroline were very good at pulling in background noise whenever there was silence, hence the fact that on music programmes we tried to always speak over song fades and intros rather than dead air. This was not possible in the news of course – just listen to the amount of ambient ship noise (mostly generator rumble) being pulled in behind me on this bulletin – not to mention how dilligently the system amplified my between sentence wheezes!

noisy-news-24Oct1987  (this opens as an mp3 clip)

Steve Conway in the Caroline newsroom in late 1987, around the same time as the recording. This was originally the ships chart-room, off the bridge, and unlike the main studios, had no soundproofing.

We could have used a news bed (music behind the news) but a huge poportion of the audience find this really intrusive, so we lived with the background noise instead! The location of the newsroom just off the bridge,  the closest to the generator room of any of the on board studios, did not help either.  The best studio on board for silence was studio 2 (the “overdrive” studio) situated right at the back of the ship. On the clip, the news is followed by  Peter Philips reading the latest Lotto 6/49 results (the Canadian Lottery was our biggest advertiser at the time) – this would have been pre-recorded in studio 3, and you’ll note that although generator noise is much reduced, it can still be heard in the background between sentences.

Anyway, I shall add in the odd audio piece here from time to time, and hope that you continue to visit and enjoy this blog.

Steve


A few more Tilbury pictures

I’m safely back home in Dublin now after an amazing week’s live broadcasting from the Radio Caroline ship Ross Revenge at Tilbury Port.

Below are a few photos that I didn’t get around to uploading in my earlier live blogs from the ship.

Bigger versions are available by clicking on the picture in each case.

Steve Conway on-air in Studio 2 on the Ross Revenge

Studio 1, the original or "heritage" studio, where I used to broadcast at sea in the 1980s

One for the aerial enthusiasts - our 531 AM setup.

What a tangled web we weave - all this steelwork (x 2 - one either end of ship) was needed at sea just to hold up the thin strands of aerial wire

Dave Foster cooking one of his famous Caroline Breakfasts

The lock gates that protect the water level in Tilbury Port. The M25 Dartford Crossing bridge can be seen in the distance

We're a clean-living bunch on the Ross Revenge . .

The best beds in the world - comfortable, quiet, and offering utter darkness below the waterline.

View from the bridge in the dead of night

My last view of the Ross as I left after my show in the early hours of Friday morning, April 29th 2011.