Horizon Radio History 1981 Until Closedown In 1985
Early in the summer of 1981, with their favourite Radio Station Invicta not being on the air as often as they used to be, 3 people decided to try and provide a radio service which featured the music they loved, but was not featured in the quantities they wanted to hear anywhere else. The concept idea was keep it small & local, so not get busted like the two big stations were only two often. Horizon Radio on 94.5fm – later 104fm and 102.5fm rose to became London’s most successful non licensed 24/7 soul radio station ever, great things come in small packages?
You can now read the full Horizon Radio History Story (Short Version) Here.
Horizon Radio History – Our Birth
The decision to create Horizon Radio was made in the early summer of 1981. It was Annabel, Roger and Chris who said lets try and see if we can provide a soul radio service that people want.
Roger in his early days had helped out on Radio Jackie and later in Jersey had an FM station on air for a short while and accidentally (smile) blocked out the BBC link to Jersey. It was a few years since Roger had created a transmitter, so had forgot how too build transmitters. After months of trying he finally created a 5 watt transmitter, but it proved to be unstable as we found out later.
Chris had no electrical skills, so concentrated on the other main problem of how to gain access to those high-rise tower-blocks to broadcast from. At the time he worked for a company in Horseferry Rd SW1, who just happened to lease the caretaker vans to a south London Council. First access to every tower block in London was gained, a couple of weeks later he was offered a lot more for the price of 4 new car tyres and a repair & service on a car. These items probably where the making of Horizon Radio history in those early days.
Security on tower blocks in those days, was for its time good, but not like today guys, so please do not try to copy what Horizon Radio did. We where able to go on any council tower block in London and where accepted by the residents due to the fact we had the uniforms and even the communication systems the real caretakers had. Certain names where even featured in the logs back at the council offices, so we never had a problem. One thing the Horizon crew always had was respect for the residents who lived in the tower blocks they used. We where like mice on a roof and always spoke nicely to the people we met, our job used to be cleaning the gutters, pointing the headstones and the likes of. Yes we lied but it reassured the residents as to what was going on.
The DTI Files
In the DTI files your learn how we gave (Eric Gotts and his merry men) a ticking off one night for being on a tower block without permission. We will also tell you about the hidden transmitters that took Eric 1+ years to find, link switching at 10pm from one transmitter to another along with Eric raiding one transmitter site, minutes after we had switched to our safe transmitter, not to mention the false transmitters and obstacles Eric went home with. But give him is due he won on a few very few occasions.
The Horizon Radio Studio UHF Live Link Transmitter
If you remember we had also got those council communication systems (2 tone blue) on 461 megs UHF from a connection at the caretakers main office and later two bags full of them. Thanks to Piers Easton, Horizon later used a converted version of these units as the live link from the studio to the transmitter site (read Transmitter Joys for the story, coming soon).
Horizon Radio History – The Story Begins
October the 11th 1981 it was time for the launch of Horizon Radio 94.5fm. Off go R and C to the local tower block Conniston House armed with a 5 watt fm transmitter, a dipole (aerial) and the legendary converted auto cassette machine featuring 2 x 1 hour cassette with Roger’s show on one side and Chris’s show on the other. Ann was managing the phone lines back at base.
The telephone line lit up like a Christmas tree with congratulations and requests for the next transmissions. Those listeners in their homes and cars where not stupid, they knew Horizon Radio in London did not have a broadcast license, but felt they had been left out of the radio system. They where and are today deserving better from our Government who spend their taxes.
The Horizon Radio legend had started, later live broadcasts came and transmitters and studios where lost, but Horizon in the following years showed what could be done on a low cost budget. That gave the kids of the day, the young adults of tomorrow a hope for the future > 1982
Horizon Radio History 1982
The year starts of badly as no transmitter as Eric had taken it as his Xmas Present a few days earlier, struggle get a new transmitter and try broadcasting from Parliaments fields. 3 Hours and not one phone call, we could not be heard. Try a block in Union Road Battersea. Week 2 Eric turns up, but we managed to get the transmitter out. We go to the Pimlico meeting where all the unlicensed radio stations were having a meeting and get told our transmitter is rubbish, turns out it was as it kept moving frequency as it got hotter. Meet up with this wizz kid named Pyers Easton (Brilliant Engineer) and he starts to explain how things work. Then the Horizon engineer turns up and he also got a lesson in how to do it right.
Pyers gives us a diagram of a his transmitter, Nigel builds one eventually and it works. We opened up Peckham Rye Hill as a transmitter site and that one works well, too well. Eric arrived one night as Don and Chris were taking the antenna down, Eric had a verbal fight with the caretakers (Don & Chris), but had to let them go as dressed as caretakers and police checked the caretakers phone number. All present and correct Eric. We ran two other sites over the next few weeks 1 Greystead Road Forest Hill. New DJ Gary Lee joins then later Barry T, Greg Adams, Barry Jameson. We are still on recorded shows and cassette player at this time.
We then acquired a link system up on 461 megs uhf, so we could go live instead of pre-recorded shows. Then found away of hiding the transmitter (35 watts) on Peckham Rye Hill which switch the transmitter off and disconnected the coax to the antenna if anyone touch the hatch door to get on the roof. It looked like the transmitter was in the block of flats somewhere as the coax when disconnected fell by the sewer pipe outlet. Studio in the roof at Comber House gets built. It should have been happy days. Then the engineer leaves due to the stress of it all. Eric raids a few times but cannot find the transmitter.
Thanks to Pyers Easton, Chris over the next 3 months learns to build transmitters, by Christmas of 1982, 6 transmitters/receivers were in the can and that Xmas saw the first transmitter that Chris created fire up on the same power as all the other stations. Christmas to New Year live extended broadcast 24hrs a day.
1982 a very hard year, nearly lost Horizon Radio, we survived, new faces joined the backroom team along with more DJ’s who all loved the music, then the station started to really take off listener wise.
Horizon Radio London 94.5FM 1983
Now broadcasting Sundays and Wednesday evenings as well as extended 24hr broadcasting over the long bank holidays. Since the start in 1981 we have only lost 2 transmitters. One Tuesday afternoon (none broadcast day) a knock at the front door of 28 Comber House and Eric and his mates from the DTI were there. No he had not popped round for a coffee and cakes he was on a visit to raid what he thought was the Horizon Radio Studio location.
He walks into the kitchen and comes out with a classic “its a transmitter factory” No Eric it was a small workshop and tidy until you arrived. It became a big transmitter factory after he left with one of our transmitters, by law he should not have taken as you needed a court order to take it. No transmitters were even on at the time (transmitter 3 gone). Eric starts testing the transmitters, cheeky sod, did not even ask to use the electricity, so then again Mr Eric Gotts that was theft of electricity. While Eric is testing (Noddy) Holder (his mate) was searching the rest of the one bedroom flat accompanied by the police. Eric was being his usually self, a bully and sarcastic twat. So he was given a lesson on sarcasm, he was asked if he had a pair of balls as he would need some if he carried on being a runt? He soon shut up.
Noddy comes back into the kitchen Shakes his head (No Studio) but drops a comment about nice silky underwear, pink we think but small Bra. Police behind Noddy shook his head and walk out in disgust. Noddy was on a wind up, he had opened a draw in the bedroom looking for a studio but that was all. Chris went out to talk to the police, slipped on the floor as he passed Noddy and poor old Noddys head hit the wall. Chris went out to talk to the police who he thought where in the hallway, they had left the flat and were at the far end of the balcony, they did not want to know after that comment which was said to cause trouble.
Chris goes back in and Eric and Noddy soon leave as it was getting lets say a bit heated in that kitchen. Police later came back and said noddy did not touch any of the cloths in that draw and said sorry, but the DTI guys had control so they could do very little. Looking for a studio in a dressing table draw, come on, we where good but not that good Noddy.
Paid Eric a visit at his HQ Waterloo Bridge House, and kicked off about his antics. We got given back a 2m radio he had taken from Barry Jameson at the Stockwell block. After that Eric had a chaperone when he visited Horizon. He came very close that day and he knew it. Eric was told we knew he was only doing his job, but the way he did it was not the way to do it, bully people, treat them like $hit and they react. Big man, little brain, into flower arranging by all accounts these days (2019), may pop along for a coffee. Probably why in October 1984 he waited till Chris Stewart had left the studio before he raided it.
The Studio was there in Comber House just too far above Eric”s head for him to find it. We carried on using it for another 9 months after that.
1983 saw Horizon start to rise from just being another soul music station, to being the station Londoners loved the most. Alldayers, club events, so many DJ’s wanting to get on board. First live outside broadcast from an alldayer, roadblocks at Vauxhall the creation of the original Soul Family. 11 days of non stop broadcasting on our own at Christmas 1983, running two transmitter sites one on auto access from the studio and thanks to ET, BBC quality stereo.
That was one hell of a busy year, but there was better to come.
Horizon Radio History 94.5 – 104 – 102.5vhf 24/7
The year starts of with the broadcast band opening up and a move to the new FM frequency of 104fm as we had a BBC spec stereo encoder our brilliant audio man ET (IBA Engineer) had created and he said the quality up around 104VHF would be better for our listeners as no other stations at that time were broadcasting up there, so clear of interference. He was 100% correct the stereo was almost as good as the BBC when measured back at the IBA at the rock, (nickname for the ILR/IBA tower) at Crystal Palace.
We had also (so we thought) found the loophole in the 1947 wireless telegraphy act, so we moved off tower blocks to a private static transmitter site at 70 Westow Hill Crystal Palace. March 1984 that loophole was tested when Eric Gotts of the DTI radio enforcement division called Chris Stewart and instructed Chris to be at his transmitter site within 30 minutes or the transmitter would be taken. We knew the minute Eric phoned the loophole had been found as Eric usually just took the transmitter on raids. Chris to this day cannot ever remember giving Eric his phone number, so there is a story there if you want to think about it? Then due to problems with the gas board receivers (not caused by Horizon Radio) and with the help of the Gas board engineers Horizon Radio moves to 102.5 stereo vhf and the first station to go 24/7 from April 6th 1984.
It was non stop firsts for the Horizon Radio Team, Alldays, Gig In The Park, Soul Train etc, DJ’s became house hold names. Sadly some DJ’s did not keep their feet on the ground while reaching for the stars? Some wanted to change the stations output music wise to be more like JFM with specialist music shows and music they liked. That was not going to happen as Horizon Radio got to the top of the listener ratings with the music it played. BBC Radio London even tried to copy the Horizon Music Policy, so why change a successful winning formula? Monsoons of mayhem & madness maybe?
As the summer dragged on, more crap from some DJ’s happened, even one DJ wanted Tony Monson sacked and came up with the Monson BO/Stink in studio as a heath risk and air freshener moan of how much money he had to spend on air fresher each week. Looking for the breakfast show perhaps as his ego was bigger than the Elephant Man look a like he turned into in later years?
It was hard keeping it all under control, DJ’s where given the best studio money could buy as adds where coming in and every penny was invested in Horizon Radio. Some thought lots of money and had their own ideas on how their future would be if they ran a radio station.
October the 11th 1984 came, the British Government said that’s enough and Eric Gotts turns up and even though the DJ practicing is Lance Armstrong had been trained to deal with it CCTV also, he forked up and a £20k studio walked out the door with Eric, a bag of records worth £75 stayed with that DJ. there was a crap studio down stairs one remembers.
Horizon Radio 11th of October 1981 to 11th October 1984 Goodnight sweetheart.
The Summer of Soul ends in October 1984?
Soul Radio today, loosing money hand over fist according to company’s house £200k+ a year, 2020 will see even more that that, DJ’s don’t get paid. They really did fork it up those idiots did they not.
Horizon Radio Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars?
After the events of the 11th October 1984, when it was claimed in many publications to have been the biggest raid by the DTI in radio history, Horizon Radio called it a day as new broadcast laws came into being. It was made perfectly clear that Horizon Radio being the biggest unlicensed broadcaster in London at the time would be made an example of if it continued. The DTI Radio Interference diversion had new tracking equipment, the new laws also saw prison sentences as an option.
January 1985 Horizon Radio (unlicensed) returned to the airways 24/7, led by Nick Moss with a new DJ line up, this took the station back to the top with the listeners. In July of 1985 The IBA announced new community radio licenses, the team behind the station immediately announced they would close down the station and apply for one of those new licenses.
Horizon Radio 94.5fm broadcast live until September the 15th 1985 and then voluntary close down. The final goodbye was at the Harrow Leisure Center, where up to 20.000 people came to party for the last time live also over the radio. No other radio station in history can claim to have had an attendance like that at an event.
Forged Listenership Documents
Solar Radio another unlicensed London station issued forged listenership documents bearing the logo of the IBA and RAJAR which stands for Radio Joint Audience Research and is the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK. It is jointly owned by the BBC and the Radiocentre on behalf of the commercial sector. The immediately reaction of the (IBA) Independent Broadcasting Authority was to recommend to the then minster in charge Douglas Hurd to cancelled the issue of the new licenses due to the shenanigans going on withing the then unlicensed radio world. The words Radio Gangland where used by some often.
Years of hard work by radio stations like Radio Jackie, DBC, JFM, Alices Restaurant, Radio Invicta and Horizon Radio + others to show there was a need for more specialist radio in the UK had been done in vain. We lost forever the chance to have radio that catered for different tastes.
Today in 2020 we have low quality and bad coverage expensive DAB and many stations on the internet. Tomorrow: Soon you will see those Internet stations stop broadcasting due to the high costs they will face when one of the big corporate company’s who own UK Radio today like Bauer Media start to buy up those internet radio providers to protect their investments in UK radio broadcasting and price you out of the market. You may even see new laws too.
Our National broadcaster the BBC today is antiquated, trying to be all things to all people and ends up being a second rate tax burden to everyone wasting billions of £’s every year on outrageous salary’s. Tony Hall said recently “Give us more money and we will broadcast to billions” He thankfully is leaving or left when this website goes live (Big Pension Pay Off?). He really has lost the plot like so many others at the BBC and living in cloud cuckoo land. The empires gone years ago and now the BBC as it is today should also be a distant memory. Let them keep the News channel, Radio 1, Radio 2 and TV1 and TV2, take the rest off them and give it to responsible broadcasters. Give local radio back to local people and keep the corporate company’s out of local broadcasting. Stations owned by the likes of Global and Bauer are only interested in one thing and that is the £.
Someone wants to stand up now and fight for real local/specialist radio here in the UK, but please none of those 5 people who caused the licenses to be scrapped in 1986. We came so close, only to have idiots mess up all the hard work many did with their egos and Bull$hit.
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