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The Full Story


Angel Radio was the brainchild of electrician, art & design technician and former pirate radio operator, Tony Smith. This unique station, Angel Radio, was launched in 1999 to bring music and memories into the homes of older people at a time when most other radio stations were concentrating on much younger listeners. It was also Tony Smith’s ambition to provide an opportunity for older people to participate in the running of the station, including the creation and presenting of programmes. Tony himself is 69 and visually impaired as a result of several strokes. He has demonstrated that despite some of the effects of ageing, it is still possible to learn new skills and enjoy being part of a friendly community, whether in person or through the airwaves.

THE ORIGINS - 1993 to 1996

Angel Radio began in 1993 as a pirate station broadcasting on FM and shortwave. Angel's FM

frequency was 105.2 MHz, which is now used by Wave 105 FM. The shortwave frequency was 6.220

but there were several other frequencies used by relay transmitters in Kent, Luton, and Guernsey,

which came on-air in 1994 following a raid by the DTI on the Angel Studio in Clanfield, Hampshire,

and resulted in the loss of all studio equipment and both the FM and shortwave transmitters. A month after the raid Angel Radio was back on-air with a new 100 watt FM transmitter, new studio equipment, and a new record library supplied free of charge by a local record shop. Once Angel was back on-air the transmission hours were extended from the 6-hours on Saturdays and Sundays before the raid to full-time from 6pm Friday evenings through to 8am Monday mornings. The Angel Radio studios were raided again by the DTI in 1996 and Angel's pirate days were finally over.

The original pirate Angel Radio team in 1993. (Foreground) Lorna and Martin Kirby. 
(Background) Station creator / technician 
The original pirate
Angel Logo

THE LEGAL ORIGINS - 1997 and 1998

Following the 1996 raid Angel Radio's creator spoke to Alison Barrow at the Radio Authority about his wish to obtain a full-time broadcast licence for the station. Alison explained that full-time licenses for small community groups to broadcast were not available, but there were short-term licenses which allowed broadcasts of 28-days twice a year. These licenses were called RSLs (Restricted Service Licence). In 1997 Angel Radio ran its first licensed broadcast for one month. The station was based on the top floor of the friendly record shop which had previously kept pirate Angel Radio supplied with music. On the first day legally on-air Angel made page 3 of the Sun with the headline 'Zap Kapow, TV star blows up radio station'. Television personality Fred Dinenage brought a bottle of champagne into the studio to celebrate the launch of Angel Radio. He popped the cork, which hit the strip-light, showered everyone with glass, blew the fuses, and put the station off-air. Not the intended start to the broadcast, but fabulous publicity.

In 1998 we ran a 10-day broadcast for Havant Borough Council's very first arts festival. This was a steep learning curve for Tony Smith, Angel Radio's founder, manager, and technician. He had to organise live broadcasts from the local arts centre, a church, a concert in a park, and they even broadcast live from the roof of a local school's open air fun day. The station was called Havant Festival Radio. The main studio was built as an annex to Tony Smith's own home and the 50 foot transmission mast was attached to the side of the house.

Outside Angel.jpg


The first 'proper' broadcast using the nostalgic sound 100% of the time was in Portsmouth in February 1999, with a licence of just a few days. Following the success of Angel Radio's arts festival broadcast for Havant Borough Council the station manager was contacted by Portsmouth City Council to run a station as part of its annual Celebration of Age. In previous years they had produced a book and a video. For 1999 they wanted to have a radio station. From our early meetings with the older person's team at the council it became obvious that they had no idea of what they actually wanted from the radio station. A vague, and totally unworkable idea of residents from 5 nursing homes talking to each other over the radio was floated, but in the end it was decided to let Angel Radio take the lead and create something suitable for older radio listeners in the Portsmouth area.

So Tony Smith and Martin Kirby set about putting a plan together. This Angel Radio broadcast was designed as a 24-hour a day ‘memory box’ with older presenters playing music from the 1920s to 1959 and providing friendly, informal, memory-jogging chit-chat. The first broadcast proved so popular that several further short-term licences enabled the station to become more established. Its unique nature gained national publicity, including a dedicated leader column in The Times newspaper, a five-minute news feature on BBC Radio 4, and Portsmouth City Primary Care Trust awarding Angel Radio ‘Most Effective Public Information Project 2001’..

To be continued

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