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Uptown Radio

 

 

 

Skyport Radio broadcast on shortwave from 1971. Mark King was the engineer with the station, here he remembers how the move to FM came about:

"The idea for Uptown Radio was conceived while Terry, Rob, Bob and I were still broadcasting Skyport Radio on a weekly basis, this would have been around 1977. Terry's programmes in particular were ground breaking and it was frustrating that much of the station's output was lost in the fades and interference of the 48m band. Whilst we appreciated the thousands of letters from dedicated listeners all over Europe, they were mainly DX type reception reports with very little comment on our programmes or music. On Skyport we had already pioneered the first Hindi Film music programme in 1971, we moved on to Punk music and Heavy Metal Rock which was at first ignored by the mainstream stations and then of course Terry with his unique style and music."

"We really wanted listeners in London and for them to be able to enjoy the music in good quality, the only answer was VHF Stereo, the problem was we did not have expertise to build FM transmitters let alone stereo. Allen Reeve and me had always spent our Saturdays building the SW and MW rigs using valves and fairly old tried and tested methods."

"We always spent our Sunday nights in the Kings Arms at Hampton Court with the Jackie crew, on one such occasion we met a chap from Jersey (Nigel) aka DJ David Valentine. He had a VHF stereo rig and some test equipment along with a stack of car cassette players which we later rigged with relays to auto-play our tapes for up to 6 hours. So now we had the technology, we initially tested the rig using a  mast in the garden of the Skyport location and then started regular Sunday night broadcasts from various sites on Egham Hill and later  Horsenden Hill. In the meantime Skyport Radio and Radio Corsair (Jolly Roger Stevens station) carried on broadcasts. The Feltham studio (housed in a shed under the flightpath to Heathrow) was in use every night in the week for recording, and on Sunday night we would drive up to Horsenden set up the rig and auto-play cassette decks and sit in the Ballot Box pub discreetly monitoring the Uptown Radio signal on 94.4MHz. As we spent more time on Uptown the Skyport transmissions became more sporadic and finally ceased in 1979/80 with some joint broadcasts from the Skyport Corsair network. Dave Bowman (who I worked with in Hounslow Borough College) became more involved with the technical side of things, and I drifted away from the pirate scene. Terry, Bob and Rob carried on with Uptown Radio with more success using tower blocks and Dave's expertise in VHF rigs and link transmitters to protect the studio equipment from confiscation. It is interesting to note that since 1971 we did not have a single visit from the GPO/DTI despite our locations being well known, we had the occasional run in with the local police while putting up aerials but nothing serious."

Uptown Broadcast in stereo on 94.4MHz. The early broadcasts came from the grounds of the Royal Holloway College on Egham Hill or the Kennedy memorial acre (officially American soil) at Runnymede very close to Elton John's house. The transmission site was later moved to Horsenden Hill in Greenford where the signal was beamed southwards. This hill is not particularly high, and to compound matters, the aerial site chosen was slightly south of the summit. This meant that reception was limited to west and SW London. This was a shame, as the transmitter power of 50w (actually around 85w ERP) could have allowed a much larger area to be covered if a higher location had been chosen.

Regular weekly broadcasts commenced around September 1978. Initially the broadcasts were from 9pm to 11pm on a Sunday, following on from West London Radio which broadcast on the same frequency from 7 till 9pm.

After a few months West London Radio ceased regular broadcasts and Uptown changed its schedule; a schedule it was to retain for almost all of the rest of its life. Terry Anderson would present 7-8pm: a programme of rock music with an alternative bias. Bob Earl continued with a more punky feel till 9pm when Topper Lindsey provided a heavier sound for the last hour.

Terry spent a lot of time reading listeners letters, and his programme became more and more speech oriented as many listeners contributed by writing in. He was always keen to do more than just provide music, and his anecdotal ramblings would fill up the hour, often with little time for music. It was wonderfully entertaining. Later on in the station's history he would conduct 'phone interviews with famous people (including a very memorable one with Mary Whitehouse). It is doubtful that the interviewees actually realised that Uptown was a pirate station.

In 1982 Uptown decided to change from field based transmissions and they moved to tower blocks. They increased transmitter power to 175w, but the tower block they chose in Hounslow was a mere 10 stories high and was located on low ground. This meant that although the reception area was improved, it was still limited to the western side of London, in spite of the much higher power being radiated.

A big blow came to Uptown at the end of 1982 when Horizon Radio decided to broadcast on 94.4MHz. The VHF broadcast band only extended to around 98MHz at that time, and there were few channels available. When the Uptown crew complained to Horizon and pointed out that they had been using the frequency for over four years, Horizon became extremely abusive and threatened to visit the Uptown site with a shotgun!

By early 1983 Uptown was suffering from Home Office raids, and the interference form Horizon was causing dissatisfaction among the members of the station. Eventually this led to some members leaving, and Uptown made it's last broadcast sometime around March 1983.

Given London wide coverage, Uptown would undoubtedly have become one of the best known, and most popular stations - it is a shame not more recordings of the station have come to light.

The Radio Eric archive holds the following recording(s) of this station:

       

29MB

60:59 Part 1 of 2 - Terry Anderson on Christmas eve 1978

29MB

61:36 Part 2 of 2 - Robin Lindsey concludes the Christmas Eve broadcast in 1978

13MB

28:07 Part of a Terry Anderson programme from February 1979

21MB

44:19 Probably a continuation of the above broadcast with Robin (Topper) Lindsey

6.9MB

14:37 a snippet of Terry Anderson's creative ramblings from 1981

 86MB

187:22

a complete 3 hour broadcast from Spring 1981 with Terry Anderson, Bob Earl and Topper Lindsey.
44MB 96:04 the popular Terry Anderson playing virtually no records. Plus the first half of the Bob Earl programme from November 1981
    

 

 
 

If you have any recordings or photographs of this station you can share please get in touch

 

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