Radio Wandle

Very few people seemed to share my love of the wireless as a kid. Certainly no one in my immediate friends or family.

Everyone had their fave bands and songs but radio was archaic to most people - an old fashioned device that at best, was turned on first thing in the morning before you left the house for school or work. For most, telly was where it was at. 

I’d often mooch into school singing the praises of a zany DJ called Kenny Everett or a new, bizarre sci fi comedy drama on Radio 4 called “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. No one batted an eyelid. Or indeed an earlobe. Only one friend, Stephen Drew, took an interest in my audio recommendations. He shared my passion for radio and together we’d fantasise at being DJs on our own very radio station. And by DJ's, we didn't mean the likes of  David Guetta or Skrillex. Oh no, we had our sights set on Noel Edmonds, Tony Blackburn or cuddly Ken.

The fantasy eventually became real. Well, sort of. We hatched our plan during a science lesson. A radio station at home where we could play records and cassettes, chat between the tunes, read the weather and even phone friends to answer questions and request songs. Stephen came up with the name, Radio Wandle (named after a local river) and I invented the fantasy frequencies; 409m MW and 90.4 VHF -  based on nothing more than combinations of our individual house numbers.

We didn’t actually broadcast of course. It was all in the imagination. Our electronics knowledge was never gonna stretch to true piracy, probably because we paid no mind to what Mr Fox was scribbling on the blackboard during that science lesson.

Stephen and I formulated our playlist, created our own chart and imagined a schedule. Our studio had no real broadcast equipment (how could it?) and so, it never stretched much further than two record players and tape recorder in the front room of Stephen’s house where he secreted speakers on a long wire from a family record player. 

Sometime later I did assemble a little transmissitter from my previously mentioned Radio Shack “65-in-one Electronic Project Kit” utilising it’s little crystal radio project. The manual said you could not only receive broadcasts, but transmit them too. What a revelation. I tentatively wired my childish transmitter to the TV aerial in the misplaced hope I could beam a signal down the street, or at the very least, around our house and into my sister's bedroom. Despite the awesome broadcasting potential of a couple of pen-light batteries and a small copper antenna atop the television, it’s unlikely those pioneering broadcasts ever left the living room. 

Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun running an imaginary radio station, playing at being DJs and sharing music and childish banter, alternating between both our homes. The interest waned over time of course and we soon stopped playing at being media owners. Stephen probably got interested in girls or bands but I’d been bitten by the radio bug. And from then on, I was kinda destined for yet more dabbling in all things sound and radio.

Posted by Tim on Wed 05 Jan 2022 at 12:31 and viewed 1,654 times.

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