“It was fun, friendly and fiercely northern” Tony Ingham looks back on career at Piccadilly Radio

The reaction to our request from readers for memories of Piccadilly Radio was quite remarkable, so we decided to speak to Tony Ingham about his life at the station
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We wanted to ask him about why he had decided to co-author a book chronicling 50 years of Piccadilly Radio.

Tony said: “Many of the original team are still in touch, even all these years on.  Sadly a few of have passed away and Brian and I thought it was time we put everyone’s memories together ‘for the record’.  The one thing that separated Piccadilly from the rest was the sense of community and friendship the team shared.

“Piccadilly Radio was incredibly successful and the soundtrack to so many people’s lives, so we thought we had to document how it all happened.  The 50th anniversary just gave us the perfect opportunity to write this book.”

Ingham joined the station in 1974 as promotions manager, which he described as ‘head of car stickers’.

He was responsible for creating events, with DJ appearances, to raise the profile of the new commercial radio station.

As the decade went on, he became more and more involved with the ‘on air’ side of things, eventually making the programme controller role his own.

‘For the Record – Piccadilly Radio’s 50th Anniversary’ will be published next year, which the authors describe as ‘a unique book about a unique time.’

Written by Piccadilly old boys Tony Ingham and Brian Beech, it’s the story of the people who made it happen; presenters, journalists, producers, the engineers, and most importantly of all, the listeners.

Co-author, Brian Beech, with Britt Ekland in the early 1980s

I asked Tony why he thinks the station was so popular.

“There are many reasons, I think. We go into more detail in the book, but I think the presenters, the quality of news and sports output and the music.

‘I think the main reason for the station’s success was that it had a great instinct for what the listeners would love. It was fun, friendly, fiercely northern. The content at the time was ground-breaking and accessible.

“Best of all, it didn’t take itself too seriously and I think people just got on board with us.’

Tony was quick to compliment the management team, describing them as ‘daring’ with the ability to spot talent.

And spot talent they did!

The station spawned the careers of national personalities such as Chris Evans, Timmy Mallett, Gary Davies, Mark Radcliffe, Andy Crane, Steve Penk and Andy Peebles, plus a host of journalists, TV and film producers, businessmen and women and entrepreneurs.

At the same time, it nurtured hugely popular local personalities including Susie Mathis, Phil Wood, Dave Ward, Mike Shaft, Pete Baker, James Stannage, Tim Grundy, Becky Want and Mike Sweeney.

I asked Tony how Piccadilly differed from today’s radio stations.

“Most of the stations today are highly formatted, so you don’t get much individuality. Our remit was to “inform, educate and entertain” and we used to do this through interviews, documentaries, phone-ins, and features which were always relevant around the news cycle at the time.

“The station had loads of personality. I think the audience took that into their hearts.

“The line was “Your music and your friend”, which sounds a bit corny now but honestly that was the ethos at the place.  It was incredibly successful at the time.’

Tony said there were too many highlights to mention, but that they give it a good go in getting it all covered in their new book.

Tony did mention the station organising the Piccadilly Marathon, which attracted an incredible 10,000 runners. The station broadcast it live over six hours with several of the staff running too.  Their coverage scooped them a Sony Gold Radio Award, the then equivalent to a radio Oscar.

The station would go on to receive many more awards.

When I asked him why the station came to an end, he simply responded…

‘It’s a great story…but you’ll have to buy the book!’

Remember there’s still time to send in your memories of Piccadilly Radio.

Email [email protected]

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