GEM-AM - Launch ('Olympic' Torch)

Episode 467,  Jun 08, 2012, 09:34 PM

This was a memorable day. In 1988, as Trent (both Nottingham and Derby stations in those Pre-Ram FM days) and Leicester Sound prepared to split AM from FM and launch the new GEM-AM oldies service, the Managing Director, Ron Coles, observed the nation was awash with Olympic Fever. "Ah", said Ron, "let's echo that theme in our radio station launch". As I knew to my cost, when Ron suggested something, it rather meant he expected it to happen.

And so, at 6.00 in the morning, we gathered at Leicester Sound's wonderful stately home at Granville House in Leicester. The station staff, Ron in celebratory yellow trousers, and a few accomplished marathon runners. Oh, and Olympic medalist, Duncan Goodhew. The idea being they would carry our 'Olympic Torch' from Leicester Sound to the Derby premises; and then to Radio Trent HQ in Nottingham, from where this new regional service would originate. ETA, about midday.

The runners were accompanied by our battered radio cars including the nicotine-coloured Leicester Sound Cortina, the suspension of which was last seen functioning in Reith's day. We duly broadcast from the car and by the roadside, linking live into the separate Trent (Paul Robey in Nottingham, Dick 'Richard' Stone in Derby) and Leicester Sound (Kenny Hague) breakfast programmes en route to Robin Hood City. You'll hear here excerpts from those painful six hours, in which Anne-Marie Minhall, Kenny Hague, Mark Hayman, Sarah Pennells, John Peters and I all play our parts in whipping up a frenzy to mark the launch of Nottingham's fourth radio station ever.

I had anticipated a memorable finale in the Old Market Square with throbbing crowds, cheers and bunting. In the event, we had to end up behind the Broad Marsh Centre. For those who know the Centre, well, the back is even worse than the front. This was a car park area hidden behind some buildings. The runners and I duly arrived on-time to be greeted by a small group of smiling staff in sweat shirts, two odd-looking listeners armed with carrier bags, and a lone client. A large firework was poised to signal the start of transmissions.

I shouted a spontaneous, effusive yet exhausted, garbled opening ramble. John Peters fired in a few extra firework sound effects for good measure; and then took over with his perfectly polished PAMS. Suddenly, this station sounded a million dollars. GEM-AM was on-air: the Country's first 24 hour AM oldies station. And, like many of the well-programmed Gold format stations around the country, it became huge.

GEM-AM morphed into Classic Gold-Gem; becoming Classic Gold; and now Gold.

Read more memories in my new book: ‘Radio Moments’: 50 years of Radio - life on the inside.