Monday, 14 November 2011

It was 20 years ago today

This rather small and badly-cropped picture is of John Terrett. His was the first voice, and he was the first breakfast show presenter, on BBC Radio Surrey, when it launched on 14 Nov 1991.

I spoke to John on air this morning. I was in the same studio he was sitting in exactly 20 years previously. He was in Washington DC, where he now works as a US correspondent for Al Jazeera.

My former colleague at Five News, Brian Ging, tracked John down. Brian moved to "Al Jazz" as we call it in "the" "trade", and worked with him before he moved to the US. A few quick emails later and John and I were having a natter on the phone, sorting out this morning's interview on the BBC Surrey Breakfast Show.

John is a perfect gentleman and could not have been more helpful. Bearing in mind the 5 hour time difference, he very kindly agreed to stay up until 1.20am his time to talk to us live on the radio.

Speaking to John on air brought all the stories out of the woodwork. I asked people what they were doing in 1991 and as well as personal histories, I was bowled over by the number of people listening to the radio station this morning who started listening to BBC Radio Surrey in 1991.

As well as the birthday wishes and reminiscences from listeners, my news editor Angus Moorat came on air to tell me that when BBC Radio Surrey launched, he was running a student radio station at the University of Surrey.

It's name? Radio Surrey. When Angus got wind of the BBC's plans he went up to Broadcasting House in London (by appointment) with a fellow student to tell the BBC they couldn't call their new station Radio Surrey, as it would clash with their student station.

They met with a nice man at the BBC who sat behind a large desk in a wood panelled room. He listened to their concerns and then told them there was no chance of the BBC changing its mind, so thanks very much for coming and goodbye.

The student Radio Surrey is now called GU2 radio - and it is doing rather well - taking home two silvers from last week's Student Radio Awards.

Peter Stewart, my newsreader, and author of an excellent book on radio, told me in 1991 he was busy applying to be a journalist at BBC Radio Surrey. He still has the rejection letter.

BBC Radio Surrey lasted two years before becoming part of BBC Sussex and Surrey. Then they both became BBC Southern Counties, for a long time. 

In 2009, BBC Surrey was born. I heard about the launch of this new station, and was delighted there was finally a BBC station representing my home county (I never knew where or what Southern Counties was supposed to be). 

I went along to meet the Managing Editor responsible for this name change. One conversation led to another... and here I am.

1 comment:

  1. Happy days. My second-ever BBC job interview was at your office, in 2002. I set off in my second-hand Skoda after spending the night at my mum's house in Brighton. Just outside Bramley, I had to perform an emergency stop when another car suddenly turned, and in doing so, my clutch cable snapped.

    The RAC brought me to my interview around two and a half hours late. I am still yet to work at BBC Surrey.