The girls in the VHF set 

24 May 2018

From the Radio Times North of England with Radio Merseyside edition for 9-15 November 1968

It is a year since electronic variations on a knife, fork, and spoon heralded the arrival of BBC Radio Sheffield. On its heels came Radio Merseyside. What is it like to work for the newest thing in radio? The youngest broadcasters supply the answers

Barbara St. Hill is twenty-one — and just married. She is a station assistant at BBC Radio Merseyside, which means ‘You never stop running.’ It took five minutes’ running to find somewhere to chat. Ken Dodd was in one studio and Sir Alick Jeans, of the Liverpool Daily Post, in another. But we did find a room marked ‘Station Engineer.’ He was out with the radio car.

Straight away, Barbara exclaimed: ‘I have to be back in ten minutes for a programme junction, sorry.’ It was the late-afternoon News and the Police Report direct from Police H.Q., and without Barbara at the control panel it wouldn’t be heard.

Barbara works on Hear all about it, the local scene, and discs — ‘and people drop in, you know.’ That’s the heart of local radio, the close contact with the public.

Then Barbara does Round-Up, in which Rangers, Guides, and Brownies get their share of air time. A New Leaf, which she produces, is a weekly literary programme.

Is she leaving now she’s married? ‘I’ll be here for years yet,’ she answered as she rushed back down those ‘awful stairs’ to call up the waiting policeman.

Radio Sheffield does around 100 programmes a week, which you wouldn’t think left much time to make a colour film, but they’re doing it just the same. It’s to be shown in local cinemas, and features twenty-year-old station assistant Pamela Wait. She’s been filmed driving the radio car around, which is just what she does in real life as technician and interviewer.

Pamela is a Sheffield girl and finds the job has quickened her interest in her city immensely. Her own programme is Wait and See — music and gossip from the discotheques and clubs. But she has been up in a helicopter, down by parachute at an Army Display, and in a sauna bath at Rotherham wearing nothing but the latest in tape-recorders.

She is ready for anything from making tea to reading the weather, asking old men on St. Valentine’s Day if they were still in love, and young men in Leap Year if they’d marry her and settle her debts. Two said ‘Yes’ but for once Pamela left a job unfinished.

Says Station Manager Michael Barton: ‘There’s more feminine involvement in local radio than on the network.’ Says Pamela: ‘They won’t learn the half of it from that film.’

A Bradford schoolgirl waited behind after Barney Colehan talked to the class about the BBC. ‘How do I get in?’ she asked. Barney said there was always the secretarial approach, which was how Elizabeth Oyston came to be in a BBC office in London, but nowhere near microphone.

Now, still only twenty-one, she’s hardly ever away from one at BBC Radio Leeds. Elizabeth’s voice was the first to be heard when the station went on the air on Midsummer’s Day with 1,200 local musicians. Not all at once!

Soon she had her own programme, Were those the days?, in which she has talked to old folk, including a ninety-two-year-old chemist who’s still working.

Although she likes to broadcast about the past, she has decided living with local radio in the ’60s is a better bet. There’s such an exceptional team spirit at a station where anyone from a duke to a dustman has walked in — and broadcast, too.

Now Elizabeth is hoping to help the blind through her programmes and to get a working knowledge of Braille herself. Somewhere, too, there’s the fiancé who hopes she will find time next year to walk down the aisle — but without a microphone.

The first milkmen are just trundling out of the depot near her home in Hartlepool when twenty-year-old Barbara Bailey whizzes past in her blue Mini. It is 5.15 a.m. and Barbara’s on early shift at BBC Radio Durham.

It takes about half an hour to the house oft the A1 at Merry Oaks where the Lambton Worm heralds another day’s local broadcasting to the people of Durham County.

News bulletins and the magazine, The Daily Durham, account for those early hours. Of course if it’s Saturday it’s a big sports day (dogs, pigeons, stock-cars, the lot) and Barbara has been known to do a cricket commentary herself. One brother plays for Lancashire and another for Durham.

One of her big jobs is on Bird’s Eye View, a daily programme for women, with anything from fashion in Sunderland to a student discussion. In the autumn Radio 2’s Woman’s Hour went out from a local radio station for the first time — yes, Durham — and Barbara interviewed the only woman allowed inside the prison there, a Mother Superior.

Like all the local broadcasters Barbara finds it a hectic life. When it’s her day off, she jumps in the Mini and gets right away, sometimes to London. ‘If you don’t get a break,’ she says, ‘you start doing stupid things, and you can’t afford that at the speed we broadcast.’

88.6 94.6 95.85 96.8 4 pick of the week
and NORTH from the ‘locals,’
95.05 8.15 Saturdays


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