In the summer of 2002, what was then Radio Cream Times (later to become Digi-Cream Times) spent a thankless six months schlepping round the country on a pretend train listening in to BBC local radio stations.
Every week the special Creamguide Radio Railshow desk, or “bureau” as its previous owner James Mates kept referring to it when he flogged it off for £2.99, was removed from its perch alongside the Challenge TV King Of The Castle replica climbing frame, the stash of serrated paper Out Of The Office This Week caps, and the specially commissioned Wall Of Fact outside broadcast inflatable paddle steamer, and placed on board a specially customised locomotive rescued from a BBC1 Sunday teatime drama.
Come now and cast your mind back as, transported upon the most refined and genteel of zephyrs, the faint, haunting echoes of escaping jets of steam, the sonorous clang of pistons and gears slipping gracefully into motion, and the impassioned roar of the furnace, through the distance come a list of people with silly names, demented-sounding features and unlikely boasts, kicking off with…
- KEITH SKUES (Three Counties Radio), who claimed to be the only broadcaster “in the world” to have served time on Forces Radio, the pirates, Radio Luxembourg, independent local radio, and BBC national, regional and local stations; and apart from having trouble holding down a job, is a member of PJF – the Paul Jones Fraternity, an organisation for person or persons coming second in holding noted broadcasting positions, but who are subsequently feted to always be confused with somebody else. In Keith’s case he was actually the second person ever to appear on Radio 1, not Jimmy Young as is often thought, but a lot of good it’d done Keith. Being a Freeman of the City Of London, based in Bedford, didn’t help either.
- JIM BOWEN (now ex-Radio Lancashire), who before he was sacked was busy setting the broadcasting industry back another ten years via his weekday morning show “The Happy Daft Farm” by a) farting a lot b) standing on his chair and asking members of staff to push him around, and c) when somebody phoned up and said “super smashing great” at him he simply cut them off.
- CHRIS BOUNT (Radio Cornwall), who used to produce and present the Home Service staple Morning Sou’West, the best name for a radio show ever.
- COLIN YOUNG (Radio Shropshire), who turned out to not only fit the criteria Pointless World Record Holder (the most holes of golf played in one week) and Seedy Innuendo Within Show Title (“Colin Young’s Lunchbox”) but Background In Field As Far Removed From Broadcasting As Possible (Colin was originally a maths teacher, before deciding his “career didn’t add up”) as well as Over-Elaborate Quiz Feature (the old “here’s the answer, what’s the question” routine, later flogged into the ground by Richard Allinson on Radio 2)
- ED DOOLAN (Radio WM), who made his name on the legendary BRMB throughout the 1970s talking about local government and wishing he was Brian Hayes. Defected to Radio WM in 1982, contributed to titular BBC2 efforts Tuesday People and Doolan At Large, then had a heart bypass that made him a local hero. Now obsessed with Princess Diana, leading a campaign to move an “ugly” statue from the centre of Walsall to elsewhere (anywhere out of Doolan’s eyeline, basically); and of handling listeners’ correspondence detailing how some big business fat cat told them to “(deleted) off” (sic) – as long as Ed can take all the credit and you take all the blame.
- RICHARD SPENDLOVE (Radio Cambridgeshire et al), former British Rail announcer now entertaining local listeners with gentle humour and comical observations on 1960s Government-instituted programmes of national railway station closure, but without the accomplished delivery and timing of Paul Shane and Geoffrey Holland. Plus broadcasts for a station that held a special “Train Week” in 1985 when, no doubt inspired by Phil Collins’ Wembley to Philadelphia Live Aid sprint, began one programme in Ely and ended it in Wisbech.
- DONALD SCOTT (Radio Cumbria), who, besides being a shameless Desmond Carrington-wannabe, turned out to be a former full-time scenic artist for Border Television – but who dissuaded those in search of anecdotery about Lookaround, Canon In The Kitchen, Look Who’s Talking and Try For Ten with the unnecessarily stern response “I’m not very tolerant and don’t suffer fools gladly.” Yikes.
- JOHN FLORANCE (Radio Leicester), a relic who once laboured under the weight of the tagline, “A bachelor gay – and a gay bachelor!” and spent Sunday mornings discourteously doing impromptu OBs from your kitchen just when you were trying to finish cooking the dinner.
- SIMON GROOM (Radio Sheffield), who mixed features such as “Groom’s Gold” aka “The Goldie Hour” with vigorous promotions for his sprawling empire which entirely glossed over any lions-through-the-window, Playboy-interview, inflatable-wrestling content, focusing exclusively on his dull production company and multi-media projects.
- CHRIS SERLE (Radio Bristol), who never wrote back.
- MARIAN FOSTER (Radio Newcastle), whose show included a gardening spot with wannabe double act Stan Timmins and Eddie Wardrobe, names alone that suggested instant magazine-show suitability, but still had plenty of room for welcome reminiscences about visiting African mud-huts or Eileen Fowler.
- VINCENT KANE (ex Radio Wales), who used to begin his show Vincent Kane’s Meet For Lunch by always saying “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Vincent Kane inviting you to…Meet For Lunch!” and who was once seen arguing in Marks and Spencer on Cardiff’s Queen Street over the freshness of the lettuces.
- DAVE CASH (Radio Kent), a big star of the 60s and an even bigger star of…ah.
- DENNIS MCCARTHY (deceased, Radio Nottingham), true colossus of the East Midlands whose syndicated mid-afternoon moan marathon Afternoon Special was immovable from the schedules for aeons. McCarthy contrived to become something of a legend in the region despite having no knowledge of basic radio presentational skills (whenever the individual networks opted out for the news he simply stuck a really long record on until they’d all come back again), an ill-disguised contempt for anyone under 80 and worst of all the supremely annoying habit of waiting for every single caller to finish their conversation and never interrupting, with the result that pensioners often chuntered on for 15 minutes non-stop. Then there were all those pre-teen kids on his Sunday quiz programme (“Would you like to play Family Jackpot?”) to tell crappy playground jokes. McCarthy, of course, was also an international dog show judge who wrote a book about his Irish Setter “Woolly Jumper”, interviewed six prime ministers, appeared in some early Crown Film Unit productions, once sold a marrow to Errol Flynn, and is now dead. Lest we forget, 20,000 people lined the streets of Nottingham during McCarthy’s funeral, some of them hoping to speak to him about lavatory grouting, the majority mistaking his cortege for that of someone interesting.