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


Now I Feel I’ve Been Here A While . .

In Phantom's old studio, in the pirate days.

In the old (pirate) Phantom studio

So, we have woken to the news of a new president elected in the USA.

This time, I’m listening in the comfort of my bed (on a day off from work today) but 8 years ago, telling the audience that George W Bush would become the new president was the very first thing that I ever did on Phantom.

I joined Phantom in November 2000, presenting the morning show, which up until that time had been automated back to back music (this was back in the pirate days when Phantom was live 4pm-11pm and automated the rest of the time).

In offering my services to Phantom, I had explained that I hadn not only presenting, but also news experience, and that in my opinion, for the morning show to be useful in attracting audience, it needed to have some news content. So I proposed, and we agreed on, a format with main news on the hour, headlines on the half hour, running from 7am to 9am, with all news written and presented by myself, as well as presenting the programme.

I was given a week’s trial, and the show went on to run successfully for a year and a half, until other commitments forced me to give it up and I moved to evening shows.

So on my very first day on Phantom, my very first words on air comprised the 7am news bulletin, the first story of which was to announce that after weeks of wrangling and legal challenges, a final court ruling had confirmed George W as president-elect overnight.

And here we are, 8 years later, another new president, and I’m still with Phantom, and still loving it.

It wasn’t specifically mentioned, but I guess I’ve passed the week’s trial?

Steve


In Praise Of: Richard Jackson

With a career spanning three of the greatest 80s pirate radio stations – Radio Jackie (London), Radio Nova (Dublin) and Radio Caroline (International Waters) before moving on to high profile jobs in the far-east, Richard is not only a talanted and entertaining broadcaster, but thanks to his thoughtful and kindly acts at the beginning of my career, someone I will always be indebted to.

“IN PRAISE OF” is an occasional series of writings in this blog where I share my admiration and delight of the people, places and things which have helped and influenced my career or life.

Richard Jackson

Richard Jackson

I haven’t been in touch with Richard for a number of years, as I have lost track of his progress through the radio industry in Thailand – last I heard, he was PD of a very successful station there. I haven’t actually seen him since the night in 1987 that he sailed off over the horizon, departing from Radio Caroline on a French supply boat, while I stayed on board, still a fairly nervous newbie. And I owed my position on board Radio Caroline, and by default my years of enjoyment with Caroline and my current career with Phantom 105.2, entirely to Richard, and his patience and kindness.

I had heard Richard long before I met him. He was a weekend presenter on the then pirate station Radio Jackie in southwest London, at the peak of its success, shortly before a series of raids by the authorities brought it to an extended halt. I remember hearing Richard several times on Saturday evenings, and enjoying his lyric quizzes on the station. This was at the end of 1984, and the start of 85.

Jackie was closed in February 85, and by that summer, I had taken my first tentative steps into radio, having joined the backup crew, and eventually becoming an occasional DJ for a much smaller, but very colourful pirate station, South East Sound.

Richard had moved over to my native Dublin was was working on the legendary Radio Nova but when he visited the UK he would hook up with his old Jackie colleagues, who included Jeff Rogers, who now worked with me on SES, and I met and socialised with Richard on a few occasions.

In 86 he went out to Radio Caroline, for the first of several stints there.

I had been harbouring ambitions to develop my interest in journalism, and combine it with my radio dabblings, and had set my sights of somehow getting out to Caroline as a newsreader.

When I told Richard this, rather than just giving words of encouragment and promising to pass on a demo-tape as others might have done, he took me under his wing and embarked on a crash-course of training for me, designed to ensure that when I did submit a demo, it would be the best sounding, most professional one possible.

Over a period of a couple of weeks, he had me out in his house in Ashstead, Surrey, for 4 or 5 evenings, guiding me as I worked on compiling and reading news bulletins for a potential demo tape, giving me lots of tips on style and presentation, and refusing to commit me to tape until he was absolutely sure it was as good as it was going to get.

He gave me a BBC book on the techniques of radio production, and instructed me to read and reread it.

Eventually, we were ready, the tape was made, and Richard went off out to sea for his latest stint, during which time he would give the demo to Caroline’s programme controller, Peter Philips.

As the weeks went by with no word, I lost hope – staff were always needed on Caroline, particularly in midwinter, so it seemed obvious to me that the tape had not been good enough.

In fact, as it transpired when Richard eventually reappeared on land in January 1987, my tape had never even reached the ship. When arriving on board Caroline back in November, there had been an accident while transferring supplies from the tender, and all of Richard’s belongings has fallen overboard, leaving him with nothing but the clothes he stood up in. Yet despite this, his first thought on arriving back on land was not to go out and buy himself more clothes, but to ask me to come over to his house so that we could record a replacement demo tape!

This time the tape reached the programme controller, was accepted, and I was mightily pleased to find that the first time I went out to Caroline in February 87, Richard was travelling out with me on the same supply boat.

Having him there helped me fit in to my new surroundings, and he continued to put in effort to help and tutor me as my newscasting in the first few days was more than a little shakey.

I went on to stay with Radio Caroline for many years, becoming Head of News and eventually Programme Controller after the departure of Peter Philips. I would return to Caroline again in the satellite era at the end of the 90s, and since 2000 have broadcast with Phantom, Dublin’s alternative rock station, as a presenter (and during the 2003/4 special licences, a newsreader once more).

I’ve worked with so many people and had so much fun during the past 21 years, and though I’ve always tried to give help to those joining my various employers as newcomers to radio, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to give even half as much time, attention, patience and kindness to them as Richard gave to me.

A true gentleman, hopefully we can meet again one day and I will tell him this to his face.

The BBC book on radio production techniques that he gave me so many years ago has stayed with me as a valued possession, not only a source of knowledge but also a reminder of a wonderful and exciting chapter of my life, and the man, Richard Jackson, who helped make it possible.

Steve