Moving on Air 

26 July 2021 tbs.pm/73045

 

From ‘Television and Radio 1988’, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1987

Seven years ago, Hereward Radio began live broadcasting from new studios situated in a former public house in Peterborough’s city centre – the Rose and Crown. It was an auspicious start but from a scarcely auspicious home. The pub was a warren of corridors and stairways, and while the studios were purpose built to the rear of the original building, all access to them was via the main newsroom. Journalists working on compiling news bulletins became used to their office doubling as a corridor.

Peterborough is an expanding city. The Development Corporation, which had steered its initial expansion programme, was due to be wound up at the end of the decade. Hereward followed the story of a proposed and massive redevelopment, whilst little suspecting that the station itself would be affected by it. Then, in late 1985, it became known that Hereward’s site by the River Nene was to be used to build another million-pound shopping and office development, appropriately called Rivergate. From that point on, negotiations began to ensure the future of the radio station, whose then home in the former pub was to be the subject of a compulsory purchase order.

The Development Corporation had taken the decision to buy the site, and it also assumed responsibility for relocating Hereward without undue disruption. That would mean that when the station pulled the plug at its old premises, the new premises would have to be complete and ready for broadcasting.

This gave staff at Hereward the exciting opportunity to be involved in the planning and construction of those new studios. At most new stations this would be the responsibility of an enthusiastic but inexperienced board, and embryonic senior management. On this occasion, staff were able to look back at the good and bad experiences of seven years in its former pub, and then design a new complex, purpose built for operating in the late 1980s.

After several months of discussion it was learnt that Hereward’s new home was to be in the prestigious Queensgate shopping centre. When viewed for the first time, the new studio centre was just a shell. But it had large floors, panoramic-views of the city, was at the heart of the business life of the community, and would be easily accessible to the general public.

 

A pub converted to studios

Out with the old, in with the new. When Hereward Radio’s former premises in a Peterborough pub became subject to a compulsory purchase order, it heralded the start of an historic move to its bright new headquarters at the Queensgate shopping centre.

 

The new building

The new studios at the Queensgate centre.

 

That was early in 1986. What followed were 12 remarkable months during which the majority of Hereward’s staff carried on working at the old studios, while a small group became involved in the new project.

The engineers came up with new studio designs. They tried to eliminate the disadvantages of the original studios by locating the broadcasters’ offices immediately adjacent to the studios. The broadcasters were to be on the top floor. Below them would be the administrative nerve-centre: sales and marketing staff, accounts, commercial production and senior management. Unlike the old pub, all the offices would be open plan – there would be no more poky corners, endless stairways and corridors.

 

A man sits at a studio desk

Engineers came up with advanced designs for the new studios.

 

But could it all be achieved in just 12 months? The answer was yes, although there were worrying moments. While station management confidently talked to the local press about the great move, they could see painters and workmen, studio engineers and architects working all hours of the day.

While the craftsmen constructed the studios, the opportunity was taken to create a new, modern image for what would be one of the most advanced radio stations in the country. Here ward created a new station logo. It was launched three weeks before the move to Queensgate in a mailshot and newspaper campaign, backed up by advertising on Anglia Television.

 

A man paints a pillar bright pink

While Hereward’s managers confidently talked to the press about the great move, builders, painters, studio engineers and architects worked round the clock to complete the new premises on time.

 

The move itself was made in the space of two weekends – an all-hands-to-the-pump operation. On 9th April 1987 at 12 noon, Johnathan Craymer, Hereward’s first on-air voice in 1980, read the final bulletin from the old studios before the new sound took to the airwaves. It was a tense moment for the chief engineer, Jim Warrack, as he tentatively flicked the switch and extracted a plug from a complicated board, and then broke into his first smile for a week.

The new Hereward Radio was on the air!

 

 

You Say

2 responses to this article

Leonard Carghill 6 August 2021 at 3:41 am

Will you be doing a followup article on the move from the Queensgate studios in Peterborough to the Enterprise House studios in the village of Histon (north of the city of Cambridge)?

Russ J Graham 7 August 2021 at 7:19 pm

We’re mainly concerned here with broadcasting history. Relatively modern changes, like Hereward becoming ‘Heart’ and so forth don’t interest us. But you can find plenty of resources about these types of changes on Wikipedia’s page about “Heart Peterborough“.

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