One of the most-asked questions is, "How do you get to be a broadcaster?" And the truthful answer is, there is no format; no exam to pass; no secret password; it is a mansion with many doors.
The three reasons my first radio boss gave for hiring me were, "You're very English, mildly eccentric and a bloody good opening bowler." Boxes you may expect those rather bizarre qualifications to tick if they were advertising for a prep school cricket coach in 1923, but not for that odd, rather indefinable trade they called DJ'ing! Of course, it's not a real job... everybody knows that, a real job is something your parents insisted on and you don't enjoy, because secretly you wanted to be.... a DJ! And it's best not to kid yourself that because you are presenting a flagship show that you're a cut above anybody else. You're not.
Radio One especially was a team game full of talented individuals who each brought something different to the table. Of course, there has to be element of luck involved, the old 'right place, right time' syndrome, but once you're in the squad you have to earn your place. Then you have to keep it.
It was soon pointed out to me that it wasn't simply about playing music, but you were a BBC spokesperson, representative and ambassador, wearing the corporation badge wherever you were and whoever you were with. You were in the front line, be it compering the Year of the Child for HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace, broadcasting from Windsor for Prince Philip's birthday, hosting Prince's Trust Galas for Charles & Diana or reading in St Paul's for the BBC Diamond Jubilee.
The 80s was a wonderful era for music, as we played a real mix of musical genres, something missing in current radio. From the Jam to Iron Maiden, Madness to the Ramones, Shakin' Stevens to Erasure or Duran Duran to Wham, we played all genres of music. If it was good, it was good, simple as that. We were broadcasting not narrowcasting.
This was borne out by the enormous Radio One Roadshow crowds who were, in the words of Red Box's Lean On Me: "From the very, very old to the very, very young......" 20-30,000 people standing, sometimes in the rain, for hours, to watch a radio show. There is something very special about that. My mother summed it up: "I can't believe you're getting paid for driving from town to town with the roof down and tennis racquet and guitar in the boot, showing off and making that poor Smiley Miley's life a misery." Surely some mistake? He gave as good as he got though. Mind you being enlisted in the army, being paint-balled by a group of nuns, locked in the stocks, having your car bricked up and your new set of tyres being dropped into the sea can obviously rankle a chap.
Producers too would reel under the weight of japes and wheezes. "Oh no! Don't even explain the flock of sheep; I don't want to know," or "Why is there a Sikorsky hovering over the heads of the crowd?" and even the odd "I take no responsibility for the Harley Davidson, lack of crash helmets or the coastguards flares you're purloined." Most of it would be unthinkable now in the days of insurance, covering backs and the PC rulebook.
I thought I was just having fun, but I later realised that the BBC was a wonderful training ground and an excellent grounding. I hold my hands up to admit that I learned much, both from the producers and bosses and the other DJs. Even broadcasting on other stations, there is still the thought, "How would we have handled that?" "How can I make this better?" "Does this really work?" How wonderful to be coming home for the weekend to celebrate with your extended family.