Annie Nightingale – fantastic, brave radio pioneer

It’s worth listening to the Desert Island Discs of DJ Annie Nightingale, who passed away this week (not least because it contains one of the best put-downs of the Daily Mail ever).

I first started listening to Annie Nightingale when she did “Sounds of the 70s” on Radio 1 in the evenings with Alan Black. It was a revelation in radio, not least because it was a rare Radio 1 show in crystal clear stereo FM. The music and sensible presentation style just seemed so refreshing, in contrast to the saccharin daytime output of Radio 1.

Many were the Sunday afternoons that I whiled away listening to her request show. Her theme tune “East St Louis Toodle-OO” by Steely Dan was a particular favourite. But the friendly, chatty voice of Annie Nightingale was the highlight – and she played the sort of music that you didn’t hear elsewhere on the radio, except on the John Peel show.

Fiona Sturges has written an excellent tribute to her here.

From reading Nightingale talk about her early BBC job applications, what comes across, in this day and age, is the ridiculous sexism of Radio 1 in those days. Being told that deejays were “husband substitutes” for female listeners and therefore needed to be male – it just sounds so ridiculous these days but it emphasises what a fantastic, brave, self-effacing pioneer Annie Nightingale was.

Please do share your memories of Annie Nightingale below.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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One Comment

  • David Rogers 14th Jan '24 - 8:40am

    Paul Walters’ comments chime with my own experience of that period, and Annie Nightingale’s role in it. Her programmes – we didn’t talk about ‘shows’ then – were indeed refreshingly different (along with John Peel’s, as Paul says), and were a better development of the much-missed pirate listening experience than much of Radio 1’s output. I too remember the joy of hearing a stereo FM broadcast!
    From the mid-70s to the late 80s I lived in Brighton, got to know many local journalists through my political activities, and was made aware that she had begun her career on the Brighton & Hove Gazette and the Evening Argus in the previous decade. She was, I think, still living in Brighton at that time.
    Finally, I clicked on the link to Fiona Sturges’ tribute in the Guardian. Again, it is an excellent article – with one glaring exception: there is no way she could have “seen Radio Caroline’s boat (sic) bobbing about on the sea from her second-floor flat in Brighton”. The ship Mi Amigo was moored off the coast of Essex!

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