Hitting the peak 

17 August 2020 tbs.pm/70925

Branded mugs for High Peak Radio

 

Great Decisions are sometimes made at family barbecues; Very Great Decisions are made when there is beer…

So it was, way back in the 1990s, that English teacher Steve Jenner said to his DJ brother, Paul, over a burger, “Why don’t we run a radio station here in Hucknall?” It may, or may not, have been followed by, “Do you want another beer?” But history was being made.

And thus it came to pass on 1st May 1996, that the good people of Hucknall, an ex-mining town in Nottinghamshire, woke up to the sounds of W.H.A.M. – Wonderful Hucknall AM! A Restricted Service Licence (RSL) permitted broadcasts for 28 days on 1413 kHz, and Hucknall people loved it.

High Peak Radio 4-second cuts



Man and dog

The author at work

My connection with W.H.A.M? I’d just secured early retirement from a comprehensive school in Hucknall, I needed something to fill my time, and I pitched the idea to Steve and Paul, soon to be known as the Broadcast Brothers, that I should provide news bulletins for the station. They accepted my offer, and we worked together for the next 20 years or so.

Further RSLs followed – in Hucknall, Nottingham, Moor Green, Ilkeston, and Newark. The Broadcast Brothers set their sights on a full-time commercial radio licence. The Radio Authority invited applications for the licence at Chesterfield. We undertook a huge promotional campaign in the town; we applied for the licence; we came second.

Undaunted, the team began RSLs in North-West Derbyshire. The Brothers had noted that the area around Buxton, Glossop, Whaley Bridge, New Mills and Hope Valley was “white space” in radio reception terms, the only district in England not well served by any local radio station, BBC or ILR. Radio Buxton set up RSLs variously in front of Buxton Town Hall, in the rooms above a pub on Buxton Market Place and in a Portakabin up a sheep track at Buxworth. The Radio Authority invited applications for the licence in the High Peak. We applied for the licence; this time we came first!

High Peak Radio 5-second cuts



On 4 April 2004, High Peak Radio took to the airwaves from studios in Chapel-en-le-Frith, broadcasting 24 hours a day. From the outset, the business model could politely be described as “shoestring”. The station ambitiously had live presenters every weekday for 10 hours between 6am and 7pm, but playout of music and advertisements for both live and recorded programming was organised by an ENCO DAD system, an industry standard. However, the version used was MS-DOS based, not Windows, and reportedly was never upgraded. The management maintained that MS-DOS was more stable than Windows. It was also cheap.

It is true that the system rarely crashed – until it did catastrophically, when the system was so out of date that it failed to function at all. Several days of emergency programming followed, and the station was obliged to buy a modern version. It was a straw that came close to breaking the station’s financial back, a forecast of what was to come.

High Peak Radio 8-second cuts


Before going on air in 2004, the station bought a bespoke jingles package; it used the same package throughout much of its life. A revamp would have been considered extravagant.

As a reward for my loyalty over time, I was offered the weekend overnight pre-recorded slot: on air from after the midnight news until the breakfast show powered up at 6am or 7am. I knew I was not a good radio presenter, and I gratefully accepted the offer – broadcasting to a handful of insomniacs and night-shift workers was still a privilege. As a recently-qualified broadcast journalist, I was keen to provide some features in the small hours. After some discussion, I was allowed one feature per hour, of no more than 3 minutes duration (my stopwatch didn’t always work entirely accurately). I was to have no idea what music I would be playing, so my pre-recorded links had to be random, generic and content-free. Even the jingles were programmed without my knowledge. I was never in the studio when my programmes went out, and therefore could not even offer “up to the hour” or “that’s all from me” links. I found it a very uncomfortable experience. But it was a job.

High Peak Radio ‘donut’

I did rebel over one point – the High Peak Radio “donut” was rarely used by any other presenter, live or pre-recorded. This was a 0:59 jingle, setting out the broadcast area, with a musical interlude in the middle – hence the donut name. I took possession of this and devised a High Peak Radio dance to the jingle. I am no dancer, but I “encouraged” my audience each week to – erm, “throw some shapes” in time with the music. I have no idea if listeners took me up on that challenge, in the privacy of their homes, or otherwise deserted factory floor.

High Peak Radio 11- and 12-second cuts



While training in journalism, one of my coursework assignments was to create a video feature. I took the donut and created a promotional trailer for the radio station, which was later uploaded to the High Peak Radio website.

 

 

Ashbourne Radio travel news bed

The station is no more: it and its sister station, Ashbourne Radio, were sold to the Helius Media group, and on 4th November 2019, both stations relaunched as Imagine Radio, sharing off-peak programmes with another Imagine Radio station in Stockport. With this article, though, the jingles of High Peak Radio live on, both in sound and vision.

High Peak Radio 15-second cut

The purists in the UK commercial radio business sing the praises of early ILR stations, such as LBC, Capital, BRMB and Radio City, and I suggest pay little heed to the tiny radio stations that came along later. But High Peak Radio, originally conceived after a beer or two (surely not the first such conception!), clawed its way into existence, the smallest mainland ILR station in the country. It doggedly served North-West Derbyshire for over 15 years, and was much loved by its loyal listeners, before the accountants finally threw in the towel. Good times.

“Where rolling hills meet heritage,
Where people love to stay.
In Glossop, Buxton, Whaley Bridge,
High Peak will make your day.
Hope Valley’s views, New Mills news,
Chapel’s changing scene.
Climb high with us, take in the view,
Breath-taking High Peak country!
From way up here, the future’s clear
Shared with friends that you know,
High Peak Radio.

High Peak Radio!”

 

(The Broadcast Brothers story from early childhood to the opening of High Peak Radio is described at length in their book.)

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