Monday, 28 February 2011

"...And Rediffusion Channel B, yeah!"

Humberside - a station celebrates
(and this football follower wishes them all the best)

On Friday 25th February, Radio Humberside celebrated its 40th birthday and a whole host of Alan Partridges came out to commemorate the fact.
And despite conceding that for the first half of my life much of the station's programming aroused nothing but ridicule, I would like to join in sending my best wishes to all involved.
Back in the late-70s/early-80s, in addition to the fact that its title became synonymous with the unloved county of the same name, Humberside was not the choice on the dial for the more discerning younger listener, which I of course considered myself to be. Their combination of news, Swapshop-style phone-ins, more news,  gardening questions, lots more news, consumer issues, even more news and crap playlist, reinforced my view that this station didn't cater for my particular generation.  
Along with a poor-man's radio rip-off of TV's 'The Good Old Days', broadcast on Saturday lunchtimes, the low-point of the week back in those days came 24 hours later when a man supposedly named Tex Milne presented three hours of country & western music.  Jeez.  I was already force-fed plenty of the genre from Dad during the week without having to stomach a succession of  similar wrist-slitting tunes while trying to enjoy my roast beef. 
But for all this, there was one part of Radio Humberside that I always considered worth a listen.  And that was the sport.
I doubt very much whether the coverage back then even came close to matching the current-day operation in terms of time-span, nor do I remember actually listening to many of their programmes in their entirety (following The Eastenders across the lower reaches of the East Riding County League took up most of my Saturdays). 
However, I do recall the Hull City match reporter was called Elliott Oppel, a maths teacher who also fronted a show called Top Town Quiz on Sundays.  For some reason, his voice prompted me to form a mental image of the man in the mould of Norman Vaughan.  I now know this was somewhat wide of the mark!
Similarly, I had the image of my local barber, Mr Stott from Patrington, in my mind every time I heard the Grimsby Town reporter, a certain Charles Eckberg, speak.  He also  presented a piece called Scene From The South, in which he extolled the virtue of most things on t'other side of the Humber (further reinforcing my view at the time that he was anti-Hull!).
As with many other City reporters in the local media (current crop included) Elliott Oppel wasn't particularly popular with supporters.  However, when I remember how underwhelmed one of his successors, Dave Gibbons,  came across every time he commentated on a Tigers goal, it can at least be said that Oppel appeared supportive of the club. 
Sadly, neither he nor Eckberg figured in a superb hour-long programme on Friday morning celebrating Radio Humberside's birthday.  It was presented by Peter Adamson, a man who probably typifies my changing attitude to the station.  At one time, his irritating Mackem accent and headmasterly manner appeared to sum up everthing I found wrong with the station.  But by the time he was eventually allowed to carry through his threat to retire to his caravan in Mablethorpe, I'd come to regard his weekday "Soapbox" programme as a must-listen.
While there were snippets of the wicked Adamson humour in Friday's documentary, it was the succession of news stories covered by the station over the past four decades that really stirred the emotions...and made me realise just how old I am!
From the "Misery Maisonnettes" to the recent floods, the programme took us through the power cuts of the early Seventies, the tragedies of the trawler Gaul, Flixborough and Lockington and high points such as the completion of the Humber Bridge.  In addition it examined the way these stories were covered, which in turn illustrated how the station has developed in tune with changing times.
In terms of sport, as Adamson himself said, there could have been at least an hour devoted solely to it.  Instead we were treated to brief snippets of the 1980 all-Hull rugby league Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, plus City's and Scunthorpe's recent Play-Off wins at the same venue.
The rugby commentary was provided by sports editor Peter Ward and his trusted sidekick Stan Hall who  I remember in addition to Hull and Rovers also delivered commentary on local rugby union matches on Saturday afternoons.  If my memory serves me well, he had a distinctive way of describing goal-kick attempts, culminating in: "One, two, three, four, bang...straight between the sticks..."  Or was that Eddie Waring?  Never mind.
Bringing things much more up-to-date, to hear again Burnsie's description of  that "Windass Wembley winner" raised the hairs on the back of my neck once more, as did his comments at the final whistle: "Hull City are in the Premier League for the first time in their 104-year history and it's're allowed to cry!"  Brilliant.
So for all its faults and in spite of increased competition over the years from the likes of Viking and KCFM, for me Radio Humberside is still the first choice for local sports coverage.
In addition to the unrivalled weekend coverage of the live action, the relatively recent introduction of the week-night Sportstalk programme has brought the station - and the clubs - closer to the fans.
Even better for me, given my involvement at local level, is the show's nod in the direction of grassroots football.  This has been helped by the regular appearance thereon of Bridlington Town chairman (and ER County League Committee man) Pete Smurthwaite, as well as recent live coverage of the draws for the latter stages of this year's East Riding County FA Senior and Senior Country Cup competitions.   And aside from the odd weak joke - "Riccall? Sounds like a Northern comedian" - it all help gives the thousands of us involved at this level a little bit of credibility.
Of course I'd like to see the station go further and give a full non-league results service every weekend (although according to Burnsie that's already been tried and failed).  But he has at least actively encouraged people associated with grassroots clubs to get involved in Sportstalk.  And indeed we have.  Three summers ago, the show actually broadcast live from Low Farm ahead of our pre-season game with Hull City.  And similar operations have been carried out at Bridlington, Winterton and Barton among others. 
Things like this at least show the local station acknowledges that there is a level of football below the professional game; which in turn gives me hope for the future.
So happy birthday Radio Humberside - and here's to forty more years of top quality local sports coverage.
Now, must dash, Doug & Blair are on at the moment, telling me how to prepare the perfect compost...

Pictures from the station's 40th birthday celebration can be found on the BBC Humberside website

1 comment:

Reynard The Fox said...

Funny you should say that Eckberg was anti-Hull because the station is better known as Radio Hullside on this side of the river. Anyway, any radio station that covers rugby must be rubbish. (Runs and hides behind settee).