Everything Else

Experiences of Working in Radio

U3A Members have a wealth of life and work experience.  We wanted to share in a new series which celebrates and showcases their skills and talents.


John Howard, Member of Leigh Estuary U3A

I worked on what we believed at the time, 1972, was the first phone-in show in the UK on BBC Radio London, and was subsequently Head of News at the tiny Radio Basildon, combining that with my day job as a reporter on the local Evening Echo newspaper. I also hosted a music programme.

Radio Basildon was broadcast from the basement of Basildon’s only high rise. Once, a fireman burst in whilst I was halfway through my two hour rock’n’roll programme. He told me to evacuate since there was believed to be a fire in the building.

I told him I was not going to leave in the middle of a record, and stayed. More firemen came, and insisted I leave.
Next evening’s paper featured a short story on the front page about my refusal to evacuate – but no-one at the paper had mentioned to me that I was to appear in a story rather than write one, and none of my colleagues had bothered to ask me for a quote.

I worked as a live DJ for 45 years until around two years ago. My speciality was vintage rock music. Despite my experience, once I hit 50, it was impossible to find work in an industry dominated by the under-30s.

Anne Gubbins, Congleton U3A

I worked for the BBC from 1968 to 2003 first as a news intake clerk and then a studio manager in External Services, then in Local Radio in Carlisle and Stoke on Trent, where  I was a journalist, presenter and senior producer.

Having been a broadcaster, I write in a brief, friendly spoken style and I also have that ability to easily chat to people. Now I’m a Communications Officer for U3A. I send out committee updates via email and make them as engaging as possible. They have a really high open rate and get a great response with some regular responders.

Now I can’t write any other way. I probably have a book in me but, because I use as few words as possible, it would be a really short one.

After a round of redundancy at BBC, I taught Radio at Staffordshire University. I eventually ran a BA in Radio Production. I enjoyed it – I felt like a natural teacher. But I miss the adrenalin rush of being on live radio.

Peter Clift

I’ve spent most of my career working in hospital radio, which I only stopped a few years ago. I’ve both set up stations and been a programme controller and have seen the change through to digital and so really understand how audiences have changed.

Nick Bailey, Looe U3A

I’m the vice chairman of the Looe U3A but until 2017 I was a regular presenter on Classic FM having launched the station in 1992. I was interviewed last year for a U3A podcast called A Life Well Lived talking about my time on Radio Caroline, and last October I gave a talk at our local U3A called From Radio Caroline to Classic FM to coincide with the publication of my book called Across the Waves.

The skills of being a radio presenter have come to the fore whilst I’ve been involved in U3A. It’s the people skills – the ability to talk and get the best out of people and talking in front of an audience. Whilst I am Vice-Chair, my main role is as speaker secretary. These skills have come in very handy particularly when giving the vote of thanks at the end of every talk.

I also help run the Looe Classic Music Festival, using contacts and the people skills I developed through radio.

Ela Watts

I’m a chartered account but have predominantly done community radio, which I still do. I have my own equipment to make shows which I do regularly.

Joanne Watson

I worked in radio consistently throughout my career  until retiring 7 years ago from the BBC.  I’ve also been an OB producer and editor.  Now in my role at U3A, I use this experience and do all the technical website and I use my typing skills.

Tim Arnold

My radio work includes being the first journalist to read the news on the English service of Radio Luxembourg and Assistant Head of News at Plymouth Sound Radio in Devon, where I edited and presented the flagship evening news programme, winning plaudits from the regulator for coverage of the privatisation of Devonport Dockyard, which I anchored live from Westminster. I was also a reporter for the BBC in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, contributing to the full range of the corporation’s output as well as several other roles in my career.

I have also taught broadcast journalism across the world, including examining up to doctorate level, while my television experience includes being the first solo news anchor on Sky News. My current television showreel is here: http://youtu.be/igPgxw1CYf4   .

I am a former member of the National Union of Journalists’ broadcasting committee and last year was honoured by becoming a life member of the union.

Thank you to all the U3A members who took part in this series and for those who are helping us with  developing a U3A Radio project.

Today we focussed on broadcasting but this series will look at other fields of work.  If you have a skill you’d like to share with us, please get in touch – communications@u3a.org.uk