Saddleworth author details a local radio institution

A SADDLEWORTH man has turned author to recount the tales behind a well-loved radio institution – Piccadilly Radio.

Tony Ingham joined the then Manchester upstart in 1974 as promotions manager before eventually becoming programme controller after being head of entertainment during 11 years there.

Now as the 50th anniversary of its launch in April of that year nears, he has helped turn the stories into a book – For the Record – Celebrating Piccadilly Radio’s 50th Anniversary.

Featuring the station’s familiar 261 logo, the title, which is released on October 1, tells the story of how it became the most popular and successful radio station in the country, listened to and loved by millions.

Tony Ingham with the book ‘For the Record’

It is also the story of the people who made it happen – the presenters, journalists, producers, engineers and listeners.

And many hosts went on to become familiar names nationally, including Chris Evans, Timmy Mallett, Gary Davies, Mark Radcliffe, Andy Crane, Steve Penk and Andy Peebles.

Saddleworth’s own Mike Sweeney also gets many mentions by Greenfield-based Tony, who penned the title alongside former colleague Brian Beech.

He said: “For the listener, Piccadilly Radio was their music and their friend.

“Mention it to anyone of a certain age and immediately they are back under the bedclothes with Dave Ward, asking for some more Wood on the Wireless, shouting ‘Sweeney’ at the top of their voice or remembering ‘It’s a goal!’ and ‘Oh no’  which generated anxiety and excitement in equal measure.

The Piccadilly Fun Bus was synonymous with fun, fun, fun. It travelled across the North West, with hundreds of people queuing for a much coveted Piccadilly Radio

“It’s all in there. From how the franchise was won in the first place to the frequency split and the takeover, which effectively signalled the end of Piccadilly.

“The colourful on-air characters and the cock ups, of which there were many, the ground-breaking news team, the award-winning producers and the innovative promotions department.”

Much of Piccadilly’s success was down to having listeners who embraced the cavalier spirit of the station and who were responsive, imaginative, and loyal.

As well as DJs, the station spawned the careers of a host of journalists, TV and film producers, businessmen and women and entrepreneurs.

It also nurtured hugely popular local personalities including Susie Mathis, Phil Wood, Dave Ward, Mike Shaft, Pete Baker, James Stannage, Tim Grundy, Becky Want and Stu Allan.

As Chris Evans said: “Piccadilly Radio knew exactly who it was and what it was about.

“It was a new voice for a new generation.  It was about the North West and everyone who lived there.”

As well as being packed with photographs and written in a fun, light-hearted, anecdotal, and self-deprecating style, the book is a poignant snapshot of the characters, music and significant events in Greater Manchester, the UK and across the world between 1974 and 1987, a time when people listened non-stop to the radio from breakfast to bedtime.

Now retired and loving life in Greenfield, Tony also spent four years as programme controller at Radio City in Liverpool.

During a 25-year career in public relations, he became involved with major regeneration schemes, including Manchester’s Commonwealth Games bid, as well as The Lowry and The Imperial War Museum.

For the Record – Celebrating Piccadilly Radio’s 50th Anniversary is published by i2i Publishing and is available from October 1 from Amazon and all good bookshops, priced £11.95.

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