My first adventure in real radio came when I was posted to an RAF base near Ipswich which had its own cable network called WFN (Wattisham Forces Network), OK so it didn’t have a vast number of listeners but id did have a very professional attitude and all the equipment a young DJ needed to cut his teeth on. In fact I was not the only Caroline DJ to lhone his skills there; Brian Martin was one of the guys at WFN and followed me out to the Mi Amigo.
The great thing about the station was the fact that it gave you the opportunity to develop your skills in all areas as the station was completely self supporting, as well as being a DJ at various times I was also the program controller and the station engineer. The station being where it was meant the offshore stations were our main source of inspiration and we even relayed them at times over the cable system, it was during that time that offshore radio must have seeped into my bloodstream!
After leaving the RAF during the long hot summer of 1976 I moved back to Birmingham and was staying at my parent’s house. I had decided radio was the thing for me in my civilian career and it had to be offshore radio as the BBC and upcoming ILR stations seemed to totally lack any sense of adventure in Comparison.
I applied the usual long winded way at the time by sending a letter to the Spanish address that we were using via the guys at Radio Mi Amigo who were based in Spain. I later found out from other DJ’s that this was a very haphazard method of contacting the station as you never knew where the mail would turn up. However in my case I got lucky Peter Van Dam on that particular day decided to grab the mail and send it on to London so my application was received in record time for the day.
I received a reply from the office in London telling me to send a demo tape and some information about myself. This I did with a certain sense of trepidation and shortly after I received an invitation to London for a chat, it certainly wasn’t an interview in the formal sense of the word. As much emphasis was put on your ability to fit in as to your professional experience as you would be living in close confines with the others on board.
All went well and I got the job, however getting to the ship was my next challenge. When I left the office they gave me back the audition tape I had sent in, they didn’t want any incriminating evidence left lying around due to the legality of the station. Unfortunately my contact details were written on the tape box so they had no way of contacting me to arrange my trip out to the ship. This resulted a few days later in the guys on the ship broadcasting a very cryptic message for me to get in touch with London.
I was to meet up with Tom Anderson and travel out to the ship, the usual tender out of Boulogne was out of action and we were to go on a boat out of Calais. This turned out to be an ill equipped cabin cruiser no bigger than 25 feet in length. We spent that night and the next day sailing around the Channel and Thames estuary not finding the ship. We eventually returned to Calais at dusk to a warm welcome from the local Gendarmes. It was to be a further 10 days before I finally arrived at the Mi Amigo via our usual tender out of Boulogne.
In all I spent 3 very happy years on the Mi Amigo, it was a great station to work for and I saw both the good times and the bad times of the late 70’s. However Radio Caroline has always had the capacity to overcome the most daunting of obstacles, this is due to the fact that to those people who work for it and fall in love with it, it is more than a radio station, much more.