Queer radio in the United Kingdom
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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride indeed.com [00:00:05] by my name is Matthew Lynn foot and I worked for the BBC in the 1990s. And one of my main roles was co presenting and producing a weekly gay and lesbian magazine program for the BBC, which went out in the Greater London area every week for seven years. The BBC started gate broadcasting quite late on but actually if you delve into the archives, you will hear hidden voices that were coming out of the airwaves well really right back from the you know, late 20s you'll find those sort of spinster made and arts and fe young men and confirmed bachelor's that crop up in radio dramas, you know, subtly hidden away. There are quite a few good postwar examples. For instance, the long running radio soap the archers, the longest running soap opera in the world. They had a character called lady Hilbre in the early 50s. Lady Hilbre drifted into Ambridge. She was called the lavender menace of Ambridge apparently, and she tried to pick up Christine Archer young Christine Archer, who was sort of a late teens, impressionable girl and try to persuade her to go to I think it was Ethiopia or somewhere in Africa, as her in inverted commas secretary and there was it was clearly some sort of lesbian subtext going on. But actually, Christine had some boyfriend problems at the time, and the whole thing just fizzled out. So some say that Christine had a narrow escape. There's another radio soap, The Dalles or Mrs. Dale's directives was the first known that ran from the 50s till 1967. Now there was a character in that called Richard Fulton Richard Fulton was very a feat sort of Oscar Wilde literary character. Again, the subtext was fairly clear, except to Mrs. Dale. She didn't understand this at all. And Mrs. Dale sister, Sally married Richard fault. And he did quite well out of this marriage, he got a chauffeur and to Pekinese dog, and he, laterally as all the sort of stock gay characters, some nasty incident to befall them, and he was eventually run over by Lori. Now he's survived. But he was very troubled, deeply troubled. And as the series came to an end, in 1967, we discovered that Richard Fulton went off to Paris to explore his homosexuality, we were told this, which was a huge surprise to everyone except Well, in fact, no one but Mrs. Dale herself, who was terribly surprised about this. So this is some sort of the kind of fictional characters. On the other hand, you had some more sort of serious debates. For instance, there was a character called Dr. Jakob Aronofsky, and he wrote a play which dealt with homosexuality in the early 50s, which was broadcast. And then in 1955, he took part in a discussion program, and the historian of gay radio and television in the UK, Keith house. He credits this discussion in 1955, as the first time that the word homosexuality was actually used on the BBC, explicitly, this was quite a prescient event as well, because it was just the following year that the Wolfington committee was convened by the Conservative government to look into homosexuality and prostitution, both of which were legal at that time. So it sort of illustrates that there was sort of shifting grounds and, you know, public attitudes were shifting, but it was that the issues were being debated. So that was the mid 50s. Skipping forward a little bit to the mid 60s, you had the comedy show around the horn, which ran from 1965, which was a normal success of complete institution. The mainstay was Keith home, and he had a selection of comic characters and regular screen lectures that appeared sort of every week, it was required listening for Sunday afternoon audience, and two of the most written during popular characters with Julian and Sandy played by Kenneth Kenneth Williams, and Hugh Patrick. And the two characters Julian and Sandy workhorse boys, retired chorus boys. And every week, they kind of set up these comics situations. Things like this set up Boehner books and Boehner boys, and they used to do hairdressing. And they tried all sorts of, you know, different avenues of employment. And they use the gay slang polarity. And Kenneth horn was kind of the football to this, he didn't have the foil economic fall, he was very straight in this and he's kind of nonplussed about everything. And it was really interesting, because there was a lot of double entendre, a lot of risky language, yet it appealed to both sides of the audience, the gay subtext was very clear, very strong. So you know, any gay man and lesbians would have absolutely loved it. It was written by straight men, interestingly, Barry talk and [00:05:07] Marty Feldman amongst them, and a straight audience would probably take it on face value is sort of good natured camp humor, possibly not understanding all of the the pillory, you know, bonus body, your dog, ELD, and all of that, you know, the valleys on that, and all that sort of stuff. [00:05:25] But it was it was mainstream popular entertainment. [00:05:29] Get interestingly, to Julian and Sandy weren't exactly kind of crusading figureheads for gay liberation at that time, they really belong to the source of the 1950s, drawing room theatrical camp tradition. So it was really sort of slightly out of step out of time. But in 1967, homosexuality was decriminalized, the age of consent was set at 21. Moving forward into the 1970s, the BBC, you know, obviously had a duty to kind of reflect what was going on in society. And there was a discussion program, which ran in the early 70s called, so you think you've got problems, which just had a little bit cliche, but it actually was a sort of a genuine, you know, panel discussion, people presented their problems. And they would try and sort of resolve them in a kind of brains trust kind of way. And a character came along, and I think it was a 73, called Martin. He was in his early 20s. And he came out and his parents reacted very badly. And so he came on air before the panel and got a very, very sympathetic response. I mean, it was said by the panel, you know, it's your parents, you've got to change, you're not doing anything immoral. You've got to move with the times. And I think it was quite interesting, because, you know, you sort of get this impression that the BBC is trying to mediate its way not only between the parental generation, but also these kind of emerging forces, where you've got glam rock, you've got very glamorous bisexuality, you've got the days of gay liberation, which was, you know, it's in its throes really, in the early 70s, and was very popular, and quite a powerful movement. And you do get the sense that kind of intelligent conversation and sort of mediated talk was trying to sort of deal with this in a more constructive way. However, in addition of so you think you've got problems slightly later on. 75 roughly, dealt with lesbians and lesbian lives, and was apparently a whole special builder and lesbian ism, it was pulled at the very last minute. So the BBC got cold feet, and they were nervous executives who just thought this was something that was too far beyond the pale. By the time we get to the 80s, the political landscape has changed dramatically with the election of the statue, government, and gay men and lesbians, were feeling under attack in in many areas, HIV was starting to be a problem. It's actually government had section 28, which was designed to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality on the rates. So it was basically stopping local councillors, local councils and schools, having anything to do with homosexuality, trying to push it back in the closet. So these were turbulent times. And it was interesting that the gay press, the printed press, became very popular, quite powerful, quite a vocal lobby, but much more coordinated. And certainly, there were newspapers emerging sort of by the late 80s, magazines, and so on. And it's in the 80s, that we heard the first sort of genuine gay community voices on radio, there was a community station, which may or may not be broadcast legally, we're not entirely sure. But an archive exists in the national Sound Archive at the British Library in London. And these were tapes that were recorded off air. So somebody sat at home, basically with a cassette recorder recording these things. And one of the tapes is of a short series called gay waves. So this is the first example that we think we've got of British gay radio. And it's, it's beautifully done, actually, it's clearly amateur but great fun. And the way that they could take the news and subvert it. So for instance, they run reports about cottaging problems on the London Underground. So their idea of a traffic report is to talk about, you know, the actual provocateur who are operating in the cottages, or Baker Street on the platforms there. But it's clear if you go to Oxford Circus, and so on. So it's beautifully knowing and, and great fun. And I think must have been a brush a breath of fresh air, people listening at that time. [00:10:03] It was in 1993, that the BBC kind of grasp the nettle Finally, and allowed gay men and lesbians onto radio. I think part of the sea change came about because so many gay men and lesbians just working in the radio industry around, I mean, they were out in the workplace. And so there was an internal lobbying, as well as an external lobbying. And people felt that, you know, secure enough in their jobs and in their employment, to want to talk about homosexuality. You know, it's it's our lives. So why can't we do this on the airwaves? We're all licensed payers, after all, so you know, we should be represented. And the game has been community really was the last community to find its voice. There had been Asian programs, black programs, Jewish programs, Irish programs, and so on so many, many years before you finally got to a program. And it happens in a bit of a burst really in 1993. Radio for the National speech station, broadcast a one off program on Sunday, the 14th of February, Valentine's Day, it was called a Sunday outing, and it was just an hour magazine program designed to reflect gay life in the UK at that time. And they had an outside broadcast from Blackpool. They had coming out stories, it was a real potpourri of stuff, probably a bit ambitious trying to cram everything in and avoiding too much controversy with it had a news element as well. But that was the first big broadcast. Just a month later. BBC Jayla Greater London radio the station that broadcast for the London area where we piloted our gay program. Now, Gilan was quite interesting. It's at that time it was fairly typical of a BBC low called station because they had an FM frequency which had it the regular you know, weekday daytime presenters music base but with some food and stuff. Yeah, mix of content news, what obviously, but local stations usually had an am frequency as well. So they were able to split off in the evenings and do some specialist stuff on AM, which is what July's to do. So they had at certain times, every evening they had a black program, a Jewish program and Asian program, an Irish program, four of these four nights a week. Friday nights was always vacant. They It was almost like you know, we're waiting for community to come along. And we'll give them this spare hour. And Jayla did actually pilot some other alternative gay programs, including one that featured paga machining, Nepal gamma cine is a very revered experienced radio broadcast originally from America Dwyane of broadcasters. Fabulous guy was rich career. And, but he's gay man. And he's very out and he was one of the people who piloted for Jayla. Now, for whatever reason, nobody's very clear why that program never made it to where I came along with my friend, Dixie Stuart, we've been at university together, I was working on the gay press at the time, the pink paper and boys magazine. So I kind of had the gay press contacts, the journalism credentials, but no radio experience. Dixie, on the other hand, was a trained radio journalist. And so we put our heads together, we came up with a gay program idea. We took it to the BBC, we were made to do three pilots. And eventually they gave us the Friday night slot. And we went on air in March 1993. The program was called gay and lesbian London, which, you know, is a very clunky title. But it doesn't offend anybody. And it is what it says on the tin. And actually it as I think I'm fairly certain that it eat fit in with the other community programs, because the others were called Irish London, Jewish London, black London, Asian London. So I think we work but yeah, we have to be that anyway. We probably had debates about whether or not to use the word queer, but I think it was felt that it wouldn't really work on the BBC. And it obviously was very politicized to particularly that time as I remember, I personally had no objection to it, but I don't think it would have sat with the program. At that time, each program is an hour, hour in length, and we followed a magazine format, and very traditional magazine, really, we included some news. There was always some interviews, usually big name interviews, if we could get them. [00:14:48] There were some regular features we had one of our early regular contributors was, when we had a paper review, newspaper review, we had various people used to come in and present that. One of them was a sister of the Sisters of perpetual indulgence that were very big at the time. Another was a cabaret performer, Adele Anderson, who's still performing today was fascinating Aida, and she's transsexual. So she kind of brought another element to the program. [00:15:15] And we did some outside broadcasts. I mean, it was a fairly [00:15:18] rudimentary programs, I recall, you know, there was absolutely [00:15:22] no money. I mean, we we got paid 35 pounds each as presenters. We didn't really have a producer, we sort of cobbled together on our own. But we were Lent, I think there was somebody in the office who was a lesbian, and she sort of came and helped us in our own time. But I mean, it was there was no, you know, we all we all had other jobs, other things that we were doing this was part time, purely and simply. But of course, we were given free rein in some extent. I mean, we were just left alone to get on with it. And we what we learned as we went along, so we were, you know, very lucky in some respects, that we were allowed to breathe and just, you know, grow the thing organically. And after about a month, I think, possibly less than that, perhaps about a year. And the BBC, there was a big reorganization of the wavelengths and all the local stations lost their am frequencies. Now, of course, geologic could have just said, well, that's the end of community programs, you've lost your frequency, they didn't, they kind of submerged them into the FM output. So we will transfer to FM, which was a sign of recognition. You know, that was a good thing. The other thing we lobbied quite hard for was because they put us out on a Friday night, not late. I mean, I think it was an eight or nine slot. And but, you know, Friday night, we sort of argued quite vociferously. If there is one thing that sort of characterizes our audience, it's the fact that they're not even on Friday night listening to the radio. It took them a while to get that message. So when we went on to FM, we were given service days, well, much, much better, huge relief. And also, the reception was much, much better, because FM was far stronger signal in London, hey, it was really bad. And we had to play music because j live was a music station. And it was, it was a really good thing to go onto FM because we began to think more about the music and we tried to integrate our music with the station's music policy. And then there was a playlist after all, although we were recognized as a specialist program, so we tried to integrate ourselves much more within the station to feel part of it, not just this sort of little ghetto bit that existed somewhere else that was quite important. [00:17:37] So what were some of the issues that cropped up when you were establishing the program in terms of things like being representative of choosing hosts of a better word? [00:17:48] I think we were really keenly aware that, you know, we It was a very, it's a big step to try and establish a gay and lesbian program that was trying going to be representative dominance. You know, in some respects, it's not possible. And also, I think we were very, you know, it was the BBC. Now, you know, we presented to the BBC as two Oxbridge graduates, you know, sort of white middle class, so we were safe. Dixie, she brought with her the essential radio skills, you know, and she was an assured performer on our and technically brilliant. So we were very conscious that we were being very BBC about the whole thing, even though of course, the BBC themselves did would run a mile from the suggestion that they were hiring safe presenters. They didn't like the idea of Oxbridge white middle class people. But we were, you know, we weren't pretending anything else. So we were very BBC, in that respect, we did try was to try to be as inclusive as possible to the many different, you know, sort of sub communities within the gay and lesbian community. So for instance, having Adele on regularly is transsexual having ethnic minorities represented as well, probably that was one area that we struggled with, because of course, there are historically some some issues and divides that exist. For instance, pride in those days, the big pride March or the festival, post pride Festival was held in Brockwell, Park Rockwell Park is in Brixton. Brixton is has got a huge Afro Caribbean population, and has always been, it's been very popular with gay men and lesbians as a place to live. But they don't necessarily sit well comfortably side by side with African Caribbean communities, black minority communities, there have been tensions. And when pride was on, there were a lot of gay bashings. They just happened year after year. So there were lots of complaints. And this was sort of one of those, you know, cultural divide issues that I think we found quite difficult to talk about, you know, he became he became quite an issue sometimes deposit the notion, but some of our rate and other communities might be homophobic. But I do recall that being sort of one of the issues that came up the management themselves, you know, they were obviously quite scared at times. And I remember an executive saying to us, you know, I just, I don't want you proselytizing on air. I don't want lesbians proselytizing about sex. I don't want gay men dressed as nuns running around the place. I'm sort of, you know, shook our heads. Of course, we did all of those things, and much, much more. [00:20:29] So was there any other resistance from the BBC to establish a queer program? [00:20:33] No, I don't, I don't recall that when we started on this station. We were made to feel incredibly welcome. We were I remember going to functions. And we were introduced, we had a fantastic editor, Gloria April, who's an independent producer now and still producing for the BBC. And she was really proud of us. I mean, she was she was a fantastic patron to have because she would push you and back you up, defend you, I love everything from her, really. And she was our bulwark against anything that was if anything was going on politically, and I was probably a bit young and naive. And I probably wasn't aware of some of the stuff going on. But she always defended us. And we were always made to feel completely welcome by all the staff. And you have to bear in mind one of those old things because by saying Hello, I'm Matthew and I present the gay program, it's you're coming out all the time, repeatedly. But But people would, you know, never ever had a problem. And it was a very, it was a genuinely great station to work on. At that time. Now, it's interesting. At the same time, the Sunday outing program that had been broadcast by radio for that had been on gone. Radio for decided not to pursue it with a series. However, the production company who made that program, then went to five live now five live is another BBC network. So broadcast nationally, they are sport and chat main. But they do have some magazine programs. And they commissioned from the production company, a series of gay news programs, which was called out this week. And they went out on a Sunday, kind of exactly what time but it's evening slot. And they were commissioned in sort of short series, sort of 1012 week blocks. And that coexisted with us very nicely. They I think they started in 94. And it worked really well, because they were looking at things for more news agenda, they kind of had a hard hard news, they were very clear on that. And they loved getting scoops and that kind of thing, which we just didn't have the resources to do. We did our best, but we couldn't really compete on that level. They didn't do music, they only had 25 minutes of their time. They did do personality stuff. They liked doing their outside broadcasts, as well. But it was a very nice mix. And they were national, where was we were London. The other major difference was that money, they were an independent committee commission, and they had big bucks. In fact, I used to do bits and pieces for them, there was a very nice sort of synergy between all of the the those who worked in gay radio, which probably didn't, it didn't exist, and it's in the gay press so much. But so for instance, my co presenter was a woman called Rebecca samples. Now Rebecca was another old University friend. But she also worked with the out this week crew as well. And later Rebecca left our show to go and work full time for them. We had other standing presenters who worked for out this week, I did bits and pieces for them. So it was it was quite a nice pool of gay lesbian broadcasters. And we sort of shared ourselves around really. [00:23:46] So when you started gay and lesbian London, who were you targeting? Was it a mainstream audience? Or was it a gay and lesbian audience? [00:23:54] We have this fairly clearly worked out. And we called it an assumed position active. So it meant that we didn't want to be perennially arguing about coming out. And we didn't want to keep explaining or apologizing, what it was like to be gay, which had been the tendency for a lot of gay media in the past, I mean, you would simply end up with endless debate justifying being gay, probably what a Sunday outing, kind of came up against a bit in their program. But I mean, you know, that was, that was only the first one. But it was an awful lot. Like, this is what it's like to be gay. So we just step back to that, no, we're just going to be who we are. And just look at life. As we see it as simply as that on a more serious side. And this came from Dixie, she always said, you know, the one thing she absolutely wanted amongst about above all else, was to reach out to people who felt that they were alone. I mean, this is the big USP for radio, of course, it's that, you know, they, people can be listening at home, under the bed clothes in private in the closet, you know, you don't have to come out to listen to a program. And so we were keenly aware that we just wanted to make sure that anyone, anyone could access and listen to the program. And if we stopped somebody, you know, from harming themselves, or if we help somebody who needed to get in contact with somebody else to talk about what they were going through, then we were doing, you know, a public service that was, you know, really clear to us. Now, whether it was mainstream or a gay audience, I suppose we didn't really care in a strange way. I mean, you know, whoever heard us heard us, we certainly didn't want to be exclusive. I mean, we were very clear, I do remember it from the early programs could be far too insular. And we could be very, just like a cocktail party, we were having a great time in the studio, but no matter by anybody who's listening, and that, you know, we had to keep pulling it back from that. But as to who was listening? Well, I mean, you know, when we ran competitions, or get guests on the phone, or things like that, you know, who knew if they were gay or straight? I mean, we didn't ask it was, they could have just been the regular station listeners. Or they could be people who just tuned in for that one hour, I think the one thing we wanted to guard against was, we didn't want to have people who were listening to the station. think, oh, it takes a lot. We got to switch off now. Because this isn't for us. You know, I mean, by using them stations, music policy, by using all of the branding, you know, we were very clear that we were part of that integrated output. But I mean, I'll give you some examples. You know, the guy who's two is my car mechanic. Nice to take my car in every year for service and, you know, straight guy from South London. And on one time I took a car and he says, to do the show on the radio, then. Yeah, yeah. And he listened. You know, he was he was GL, our listener, and he would just listen, I mean, I've always met over the years, we caught the prep of the show, you know, that's great. [00:27:04] Did you ever consciously stop or state yourself from using language that was specifically us saying gay and lesbian culture? [00:27:14] Well, we did have a few issues, and languages, a really hot potato for the BBC. Anyway, I'm still is to this day. And the way things are produced today are so far removed from how we did it. But there were times when the BBC when, in the form of our editor was a bit nervous. I remember one of the earliest was a discussion about safer sex, and safer sex and gay men, you know, you need explicit language, or you need the language that gay men talking. And I remember having, you know, endless discussions about what we couldn't, couldn't say. So for instance, we couldn't I remember this week, we were talking to the health worker, Andrew, and he was going to explain whatever it was he want the point he wanted to make. But he wasn't allowed to use the phrase pre calm, couldn't say Pritam. Somebody we were told. So we said, well, what can we say? And apparently, we could say Bry seminal fluid. [00:28:21] So that's what the poor guy, we had to say that you can't say that, but you can say this, because they pre seminal fluid. Now, obviously, the F word was was largely out of bounds. [00:28:33] Except on two occasions, I do recall when it concerned a piece of work. There's a book by I think it was Dale pack called I think Martin and we were allowed to say that. And then there was the the play by Mark Ravenhill shopping and everything. And we were allowed to say that as well. So now, and again, if you were forewarned, if you told them, these are obviously referral words, you said, Look, we're going to say this, can we say this, please? And they would say yes, you can say once, and once only, and you mustn't use it, you know what to be sensible about it. So we were allowed to do those sorts of things. And then there was this terrible, terrible occasion, when one of our guests came on the show. And she had been to review, this was Angela Mason, actually, Mason ran stone wall, which was the big day lobbying group. And so she was, you know, normally influential woman, that a lot of good works community, central to review a play at the National Theatre. She came on talked about this play. And she talked about the humor in the play. And she talked about a joke that was in this play, I can't remember what the play was, unfortunately, the punchline of this joke involved the C word, which she told us. And I, I was just a bit too slow on the uptake, I just thought, Did she just say that. And I just thought, anyway, I just moved on my producer side of the glass, she heard it. And she phoned up the editor, because they've been a bit of a issue about language on the station, generally, deputy editor get around the studio. So we have to get around the studio. So I'm really sorry. So we just cut her off. And then it went off to the editor, the managing editor, and he went ballistic. And he he, I remember sort of, you know, phone calls into the night, he was convinced he was going to get the sack, it was all my fault and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, of course, what has happened, but you know, he's got this image of this sort of shaven headed lesbian sort of jumping around the studio, shouting obscenities, whereas in fact, Angela Dyson had dinner with cabinet ministers, you know, on first night and terms with the great and the good, you know, and it was a genuine slip up. So it was eventually smoothed over and apologized, and we had to our punishment was we had to pre record for a couple of weeks. But it was the worst moment of my career. [00:30:51] What about areas that you just would not cover on radio with the things that you that were just no go? [00:30:59] I don't think that would be honest. I mean, I think the only things that we then invitations we had would really have budget, lack of, and resources. There was an awful lot of goodwill. [00:31:11] And we did do some quite ambitious stuff. [00:31:15] I mean, I'll give you some examples of the things we did do. [00:31:19] But so we certainly did cover sexual health a lot. We made sure we did that. [00:31:26] We used to do these great one hour specials, where you would sort of get a panel in and you'd sort of pre recorded it would be somatic. So we did one about gay parenting, older gay men and lesbians. I remember interviewing Quentin Crisp that one we used to do we did one on gay teenagers. There was definitely lesbian special. Those are those themes. Things were really good. We were the first program I believe, to broadcast. A live outside broadcast from pride, which is brilliant gala has an outside broadcast vehicle, which resembled sort of a hotdog van with a plank out the front. I mean, it really was it was very tacky. But we had a great day. I mean, every and everyone wants to come and talk. You know, there's no one said no. What we did music specials, we used to do these brilliant shows where we would just get one guest in for an hour, and they would just choose their music. And it was a really good way of getting to know people a bit like Desert Island Discs, but you could really get to find out what made them tick. So we have people like Peter Tatchell, who's the big, gay rights campaigner. We had Angela Mason, the aforementioned Angela Mason. [00:32:36] Jimmy Savile did one, I think, Boy George did one. You know, oh, Janis. Ian was one of my favorite singer, Janice. And she was terrific. [00:32:47] So I think I think the one thing one thing that we probably didn't do as a as a format was we just didn't do phone in, you know, that wasn't part of our remit. I think if you were doing a program now you would, it would just be very phone based and very interactive. Remember, we were pre internet days, you know, we were like when we do competitions. You could get people on the phone sometimes. Or you could just be writing the answer on a postcard, you know, it was it was the old school. So interaction with the audience was fairly slow and limited. But we didn't really go into the phones. [00:33:24] It's interesting, those names that you mentioned, are some of the interviewees. I mean, not the big names. Do you think having the BBC behind you, did that help or hinder the program? [00:33:37] I would definitely helped. I [00:33:41] think also, we were part of the station, which helped as well. And there were planning meetings, and you know, the you know, it's like the competition that goes on to get the big name guests for your show. But these things were generally generally coordinated. And often you could get somebody like Victoria woods, who would come in and do the morning show, and talk about one particular thing, and that would grab her for pre record to talk about something else that we could play out, you know, slightly later on, or week later or something. So we did try to be you know, to share, and sometimes when it was boy, George, you know, we would get them and the others wouldn't get him. You know, he wouldn't do daytime, he would just do us. So, yeah, it certainly helped by being BBC, but not always. I always remember trying to get Dusty Springfield, and she just said no. And, you know, some people were Alison Moyet, we always wanted to interview have some reason, she always said no, you know, it's there are some people that slip through the net. [00:34:36] What was the size of your audience? [00:34:41] There was a Rachel, Rachel is the audience sort of measuring system. And it only actually kicks in when you get I think it's about 500,000 listeners. And so we did crop up in the room, john fingers, but only just because we were just over the 500. Roughly. It often had to do with who you had on the show before what your inherited audience was. So we didn't Yeah, it wasn't you numerically, that big. London is a hugely competitive radio market as well. One thing we did get, though, was in in those days, there was something called the listeners Advisory Council, every local radio station had to have a panel of listeners, and they would have monthly meetings, and they would do program review. And I was remember, we produced the tape for them. And then we went and sat before the Committee on on the evening. and listened to their feedback. And they loved it. I mean, as far as I recall, they all were genuinely very interested in very supportive and very encouraging. Those councils don't exist anymore, because it was a great shame. [00:35:54] Being in the public eye, did that change your life in it? [00:35:58] No, not good. I was not in the public eye. That, you know, know, the there was absolutely no fame or celebrity attached to this whatsoever. Ed didn't exist for me. I mean, I I really know. It didn't have any particular impact at all, [00:36:13] except for your mechanic. [00:36:14] Yeah, he's a fine mechanic. No, I mean, he's genuinely very nice to people said that they listen to the program, but it's it wasn't, I was quite clear early on. I listened to people and sort of, I worked out, but I didn't have the kind of ego to be a big presenter, if I wanted to, if I you know, if I had that drive and ambition, I could well have, you know, gone on into the mainstream, as it were. I mean, one example is the present. The presenter of Jewish London for a while was one called Vanessa felts that I've heard of Vanessa felt that she was quite, you know, quite a character, very good present for the Jewish program. And she then sort of made it onto the mainstream, she became an afternoon presenter on the station, she's got picked up a TV, she had a morning chat show. I mean, she's, you know, a very big broadcaster in the UK. Now she's, she's got her own. She's got she's back on BBC London, you know, with a morning show, and she's just starting on radio to in the early mornings. You know, that path was there. I decided, instead, I wanted to learn more about production. So as well as presenting I took on producing the show. And that's where I learned, you know, a lot. And it was where I was able to use my radio skills to diversify and do other things, which I love doing. [00:37:34] How, how did the gay and lesbian community respond to the show? [00:37:43] was very difficult to tell the gay press always put us in the listings. And we managed to get a few stories in. I think, you know, one litmus test was when there was a big gay story. So I remember why there's the the scientist who came up with the hypothalamus theory about why gay men are gay because of some sort of hypothalamus. Other big stories that came along, there was a gay serial killer on the loose in the mid 90s. You know, so when big things happened like that, the mainstream media will often turn to us because, you know, it's like, well, where do you go, Oh, look, there's this gay program. And I think that was very gratifying. And I think that obviously gave us a bit of status and kudos. And it, you know, He justified our existence of what we were doing. But it didn't always sort of work the same way with the gay press. And I, you know, we could never be quite certain because the gay press was quite far reaching those days, you know, everyone picked up the gay papers, the pOH, the free papers, especially. And I wasn't sure whether perhaps we weren't because we didn't place adverts BBC didn't buy advertising. You know, perhaps that's they ignore us that we bought ads, they might have given us a bit more attention. I do remember doing a few public events, we did some fundraisers, we would sometimes be on panels for discussions, judging panels and things like that. I think I co presented an award ceremony once. So there were a few things like that, but I think it was probably, you know, the lack of publicity that we had, that did make life a bit difficult. But when we did things like, you know, pride, and we had a visibility and, you know, some image there that that certainly got some attention. [00:39:37] Can you talk a wee bit about some of the more controversial moments on the show? Oh, yeah. [00:39:47] There was one, one of the issues I mentioned thing about race and sexuality. And somebody wrote a book, a lesbian, white lesbian journalist wrote a book about how she sort of was trying to actually saw the divisions between the lesbian community, particularly on race lines. So I think it's quite a provocative book. And there was a column in a weekly magazine as well, that kind of stoked up the debate as well, which he could tell that this was a real, you know, tricky issue. Anyway, so we had the author of the book, she was on the phone. And in the studio, we had a woman called Linda Belasco. Now Linda Belasco, was very well known. She's the she was the leader of the council in part of London, she was a lesbian, but also African Caribbean origin. So she's sort of crossed various communities. And I'm quite a hard hitting woman. So she she didn't pull a punches. And that was, you know, it wasn't so much a discussion. It was it was, you know, real fiery debate. And I was with my co presenter, Rebecca, and we we have both had real difficulty contribute, controlling this, you know, the author on the phone, Linda in the studio at each other's throats. And we found it quite isolated, found it quite difficult to me one of like, you know, I'm very weak at that kind of being tough on those kinds of, you know, things Rebecca was much better than me. But I do remember the one thing I did say, you know, my contribution to this, I simply said to Linda, look, you know, hasn't Megan the author hasn't she just got the right to say what she said. I mean, that was just like throwing you know, petrol on a fire. It blew up from there. So it yeah, that that was I do remember, that is a really dodgy moment. And I think sometimes we that was live, but we did sometimes pre record things if we weren't happy comedians actually, can be quite difficult because they, you know, some comedians like to push the envelope. And I'm not sure that they quite understand where the boundaries are. And they just think they can be controversial for the sake of being controversial and online radio. There's one American comedian who was actually banned by the BBC. I mean, he goes around telling everyone he was banned by the BBC. And he said, we've used him in the early days quite a lot. And I really liked him. But he didn't quite know where the boundary was, and he would keep crossing it. We had another comedian who came on and started making references to a court case that was ongoing, which causes an absolute No, no. So we had to cut her off. So I think there was just the regular broadcasting traps that exist. [00:42:29] How long did the show run for? [00:42:31] Well, we ran ganas be London ran until 97. I think it was and then gradually, all of these London, the London tag, it started to disperse. So for instance, the Jewish program, it seems to be you know, Jewish London, it was just named after the presenter. And I was on to my next co presenter by that point, it was Jackie Clooney, who was a cabaret performer. And we decided to rebrand the program, we thought the other thing was 97 was the watershed year because the government was elected. So a lot of the things that we've been fighting for, you know, an equal consent and the repeal of Section 28, and so on. These were all starting to happen. So in a sense, gay politics became rather de politicized. So this whole sort of game has been London, agitprop identity didn't really sit well with us. So we rebranded we called ourselves the lavender lounge. So we carried on weekly program, magazine format, but the premise was less news. And we we really just went to the theater. I mean, we used to have regular contributors, and we would just going to review things. And so we always do books and theatre, film, art, a whole range of stuff. And he, you know, it worked was very successful format, but it was it was a change. That continued until 2000. In 2000, the station rebranded and a lot of the old content was dropped. And there was clearly no place for our program in that. And so the program came to an end. Interesting out this week also ended their run [00:44:09] in 99, or 2000, as well. [00:44:11] So it, it was the end of the year, right. It was we weren't the only gay programs as well as it did in the 90s. You know, you wait for one and a whole busload, right? There was a community station called freedom FM, which broadcast in London. There was ga y, which was run by a club promoter, Uncle Jeremy Joseph and I did go out in the middle of the night on a community station. But he because he was a club promoter, he had great showbiz contacts. And he got some really interesting guests on there was a the Manchester BBC Manchester station, they broadcast something called gay talk as well. So suddenly, there was a glass of gay broadcasting in 2000. That all gone. [00:44:54] And it was, [00:44:56] it was partly because, as I say, all things we've been fighting for [00:45:01] come about. [00:45:03] I think there was an argument, but you know, we'd become to do exist [00:45:07] in a bit of a ghetto, [00:45:09] and that mainstream everyday programming was doing the gay lesbian stuff that we were doing. So why did you need a special gay and lesbian show? I mean, number that was a good argument. I think we were very clear that there were enough stories still to be told. But I do think we had run out of steam at that point. So we kind of accepted it as [00:45:31] as our fate but also was [00:45:35] an indication that a job well done, which succeeded. We were redundant because we've done agile. [00:45:40] And now looking back, do you still think that way? [00:45:45] No, I think things have changed. [00:45:49] It's 10 years. And a lots happened in that time. [00:45:54] There is still some gay radio around [00:45:57] gaydar [00:45:58] right here in the UK, which attached to the website. It's, it's really just a musical accompaniment. [00:46:04] But they they have done [00:46:05] they have tackled some issues, they do do some speech content. [00:46:10] There are obviously a whole host of small internet stations, mainly jukebox stuff, music based. Interestingly, there is one station in the UK now, which is a community station. And it's the first full time permanent, licensed community gay station in Manchester Good day to, again, very music based. So there are little pockets out there. But I think things have changed. I think actually, there is a generation of gay men and lesbians who are quite keen on looking back a bit gay heritage. And for instance, I've done work with a group in London called the house of homosexual culture. And and we've been working on sort of looking at our past again, and trying to get a debate going on. We've done events in theaters and various spaces, you know, sort of tours and walks and we done some some affairs and all sorts of great activities. And it was obvious that there was a there was a need, there was something that gave and lesbians felt was missing in their lives. There's also a new generation younger gay men and lesbians. I've got a clue about what goes on in their lives. And although they've seen some advances, and you know that they're blissfully ignorant of things like section 28. And they all they know, is an equal age of consent. Yet, I think there are still political issues that affect them. And there is still huge homophobia in schools, terrible homophobic bullying is really serious and very bad, which needs to be countered. So all in all, I think there is still an audience for some specialists gay output. [00:47:41] And I think they're, you know, they're the there is there are stories, again, still to be told. And I think there is room for gay broadcasting from a gay perspective, where that would go and what that would be like, I don't know, because of course, the radio landscape has changed so much. In the last 10 years magazine programs done sexist stations, predominantly phone in based. [00:48:05] You know, the [00:48:07] liberal new technology allows lots and lots of different ways of broadcasting, it's almost narrow casting in a way. [00:48:13] So I don't know where it would exist. But perhaps we're all broadcasters, perhaps [00:48:17] it's just up to us to produce our own output and put it out on websites and podcasts. [00:48:22] I think a really interesting example of someone like Tom Robinson, who was a gay activist in the 60s and 70s, and is now a mainstream BBC presenter. [00:48:32] Yeah, Tom was. [00:48:35] He was a musician with the Tom Robinson band had the big hit, glad to be gay in 79, I think it would be. And he carried on touring well into the 90s. Now he and I made a program together, he was a guest on the show. And he said, Oh, one of the sides between records. And he said, Oh, you know, I've always wanted to do a program about the hidden sexuality and sexual meaning in music sake. And this idea sort of just sort of planted a little seed. And I went to and did some research, and pitched it to jail on so would you like us to make this documentary? And they were like, Oh, yeah, that'd be nice. [00:49:11] They'll be not printed [00:49:12] out of Christmas. It'll be good. So we did, we went to and we made this program. And it basically traced sort of way back to the early 20s. The Blues. You know, Beth, Bessie Smith songs, albertan, two songs, which has sort of had subliminal messages. And we sort of trace this beautiful narrative, Tom scripted it brilliantly. And we just sort of threaded this narrative through cold Porter songs, and, and it ended up with David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Anyway, lovely program, we went out, and we went to gold, Sony awards that year, which was fabulous, really, really lovely. And Tom as got a great voice, and, and he's very, very good broadcaster. And he's sort of created a second career for himself. And now hard, he does music at all, and is a broadcaster. And he has presented on all the networks, he had a series called the locker room, which was a kind of a men's program, sort of metrosexual type men's program that ran for a few series. And then, most recently, he's on six Music Music station, and he's a producer presenter, and particularly promoting new music, new bands, [00:50:26] as a mainstream presenter as he openly out. [00:50:30] He, his sort of sexual history has changed somewhat. He's now with a woman and he's a father. So and I think that was he, the gay press was certainly [00:50:47] they certainly gave him a hard time over it. And I'm not sure what label he's comfortable with. [00:50:51] I it never [00:50:53] posed sort of an issue to my program. And to us, I mean, it is, you know, he's just Tom. You know, no matter what he does, but the gay press can be quite dogmatic about these things. And straight media, of course, don't understand it. They don't, you know, it's how we don't understand this sort of, you know, that they were dealing with. I mean, interestingly, Jackie, who was, you know, one of my co presenters, you know, was at the forefront of lesbian cabaret, toured with lesbian theatre companies. And so anyway, she's now with a man and the mother of [00:51:27] triplets, [00:51:29] you know, and it's got a great career in musical theatre. So, you know, these these Blurred Lines, I think we just live with them. [00:51:37] So could you paint Finally, a picture of what your ideal kind of lesbian, gay queer broadcasting landscape would be like, um, [00:51:49] I suppose I'd like to hear, for instance, on mainstream stations, I would love to hear people, [00:51:58] perhaps doing an say a specialist hour with just thinking about gay artists and gay music. And Tom and I explored this, we did do a couple of other programs together, which sort of looked at some of those lesser known artists, like kitchens of distinction. And there's a lot of stuff that came out of [00:52:19] America at one point, you know, and Ed Franco, [00:52:21] all of these acts that just don't receive enough airplay and enough attention really, in a stand up to some quite interesting sort of exploration. So it's sort of interesting. So you know, regular series that think about gay artists or lesbian artists. I'd like to hear, you know, program that might be just thinking about gay literature, and gay writers and so on from that sort of queer perspective. You know, I'd like to hear phone in topics that don't just sort of pick on gay issues for the sake of, Oh, it's a gay thing, but from a gay perspective, and I'd certainly like to hear programs that are thinking about bullying in schools and, and how we deal with, you know, sexual issues with young people, you know, as well as older people, you know, these sorts of discussions, you know, safer sex, you know, do we just take for granted safer sex these days? Where are the safer sex messages coming from, you know, that landscapes completely changed. And those sorts of topics never seem to get discuss, they sort of get pushed into the background somewhere. You know, as as the legislative equality has become a little bit more entrenched, you knows you get equality in so many things and civil partnership and all of these things, that surely then creates other issues that need to be sorted out and discussed and debated. So I would just like to hear lots of pockets of different things going out, which you've just got that you know, queer identity and gay perspective.
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