Question: When did a papal intervention change the course of BBC history? The answer, when Pope John Paul II visited the UK in 1982 and led to the opening, one year early, of BBC Radio York.
In reality it was a transient affair, just a little over 24 hours to allow coverage of the Pope’s visit to the Knavesmire, the racecourse at York, on Monday 31st May 1982. The Radio Times described the arrangements for the radio station as follows:
For the benefit of the citizens of York and over quarter of a million pilgrims expected to converge on the Knavesmire Racecourse, BBC Radio York is being opened up for a day – a year early. To cover the papal visit a team of experienced local radio staff are broadcasting on a temporary transmitter for which the Home Office has given special permission. BBC Radio York goes on air at 6.0 pm on Sunday and will broadcast its own coverage until 9.0 pm on Spring Bank Holiday Monday.
Those local radio staff came from BBC Radio’s Cleveland, Humberside, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield, all of whom shared some of the coverage over the weekend. Heading the team was Mike Hollingworth (Cleveland) with Michael Cooke (Sheffield), Chris Hawksworth (Leeds), Jack Baker (?), Robin Pulford (Humberside), Harry Gration (Leeds), Liz Ambler (Leeds), Ian Wilson (?), Peter Byrne (Leeds) and John Cundy (Leeds).
Radio York’s coverage was transmitted on 666 kHz, or 450 metres, only and sounded a bit ropey 40 miles away in Goole where I recorded this tantalisingly brief snippet.
Radio York went on air for real on 4 July 1983.
|Radio York's Bootham Row HQ photographed earlier this year|
Thanks to Dave Rhodes for suggesting this blog post.