On the Run 

1 August 2008 tbs.pm/3237

It was an odd, relatively short period in British broadcasting history – between the closing of most of the off-shore stations on August 14, 1967, and the opening of Britain’s first commercial radio stations, LBC, on October 8, 1973, and Capital Radio a week later.

Above: The original ad for On The Run in Script Magazine, courtesy of Peter Carbines. View a large version of this image

During that period, the “fight for free radio” was at its height. Land-based pirate radio flourished, and especially so in London. From Radio Free London and Radio Freedom on 255metres, to the Radio Free Helen network on 197 metres; from Radio Jackie to the London Transmitter of Independent Radio; numerous music stations attempted to make short weekend broadcasts before being apprehended by the authorities in the form of the Post Office, then in charge of dealing with such things as offenders against the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. Sometimes stations were raided in under half an hour, resulting in all kinds of tricks on the part of the broadcasters to avoid capture.

Enlargement of the inset text show in the ad above.

The story is told in this London Underground/Pyramedia Productions radio documentary, originally made available by Script magazine in 1973. Including a mass of off-air actuality and interviews with staff of stations such as Radio Free London, Radio Jackie and Radio Kaleidoscope, On The Run tells the story of London’s clandestine radio stations as they approached a turning point – facing the start of legal commercial radio.

Land-based pirates of course continued right up to the present day, but the 1971-73 period was certainly a classic era for underground broadcasting in the UK.

The programme runs for just under one and a half hours and is available to play at the top of this page, or to download.

Above: The original cassette inlay

Originally recorded on 2-track reel-to-reel tape and mixed to mono, the original master was sent via the magazine for duplication – and never returned. Although the 2-track masters still exist, the original mix was lost – until now. Transdiffusion reader Andrew Barker kindly supplied a copy of the original Script Magazine version, which has been transferred to digital and cleaned up. While it has some minor technical issues (it’s a 35-year-old high-speed-duplicated cassette after all), it has stood the test of time.

Enlarged version of the inset image in the ad shown at the top of the page.

You Say

5 responses to this article

David 20 March 2011 at 3:04 am

This is a great documentary about the classic land based broadcast pirate stations operating in and around south east UK.

At the time I was living in Gillingham Kent and never received any of the FTIR VHF stations.

Mediumwave and shortwave were the active bands where I was living.

I remember many of the regulars including

Radio Jackie 227m

Radio Kaleidoscope 266m

Radio Free Medway

Radio Albatross (Kent) 234m?

Radio North Kent

Radio London North

Radio Gemini (49m)

World Music Radio (49m)

This is a brilliant audio documentary and also the other great doco of LBPs is the Pat Edison video “Free Radio” The Story of Clandestine Radio in the UK.

Both are very important records of radio history.

Thanks very much for keeping it alive.

Regds, David.

March 2011 Melbourne.

Sgt. Mac 8 December 2011 at 6:27 pm

Great site!

I am posting a short blog about Pirate Radio & Maunsell Forts, on my military blog. I was stationed in England from 1967-1970 and have found memories, listening to scratchy Pirate radio broadcasts offshore.

Too many years have passed to recall the names of the ships, DJ’s or others, but we always enjoyed the shows. These sites were a few ways we starved off the boredom of our jobs, on long, lonely nights in some deserted airfield in East Anglia.

If memory serves me right we listened to Radio Caroline but I may be wrong. Telstar 1 also sounds familiar.

Aart 29 May 2019 at 10:21 am

Nice documentary from free radio the begin of free internet, now dese days people van have a license to broadcast on some frequencys on the medium wave band , 73s Aart

Michelle O’Brien 20 April 2021 at 3:11 pm

Thanks, I’m trying to find out more about a trio of stereo FM stations that broadcast about 50 years ago, on three consecutive nights, in South West London. One was Radio Aquarius, & they played progressive music, & heard The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” for the first time – these were the only way to access decent quality interesting music on the radio then. This was between when Radio North Sea International was closed down and LBC & Capital Radio started.

Richard Elen 10 July 2021 at 10:20 pm

Michelle: The “London Transmitter of Independent Radio” (“LTIR”) was a South London based group that provided VHF-FM transmission services to a series of “programme producers” who would have their programmes broadcast by the LTIR on subsequent nights, usually for an hour or two. All stations were broadcast on 94.4 MHz FM and the LTIR was active across the early-mid 1970s.

Radio Aquarius broadcast Easy Listening and similar genres on Friday nights; Radio Jackie VHF provided popular music on Saturday nights; and Radio London Underground was free format – anything from classical to rock, poetry and more – on Sunday nights. RLU folded at the end of 1974 and was replaced by Radio Odyssey IIRC.

The LTIR stations are covered in “On The Run”

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