Brian Luff writes…
One Monday morning we saw an advert in Media UK which said that a small community radio station called 102.8 Chorley FM were looking for presenters. I contacted them and they listened to a few of our podcasts. We eventually agreed that we’d record a weekly show for them, which would go out late at night during the week. We’d never done radio before so we had a lot of fun recording a series of shows for them. They then asked us to record some breakfast shows which would be played out when their regular breakfast presenter was not on the air.
Around that time I went on one of my quiet little writing trips – this time to North Wales. I was staying in a small bed and breakfast near Penllech Bay, when my mobile phone rang. It was a chap called Steve Simms.
It turned out that Steve was the programme controller of a commercial radio station called Coast FM. He had been listening to a few of our podcasts and really liked what we did. He’d then visited our web site and seen that we were doing breakfast shows for Chorley FM.
“Would you like to come and cover the breakfast show at Coast FM next week?” he asked. “If it goes well I might have a permanent job for you. Between you and me, you’re way better than some of the presenters I’ve got now!”
As you can imagine, this came as a bit of a shock. By a staggering coincidence, the Coast FM studios were only about 20 miles from where I was staying, so I said I’d jump in the car and drive up to meet Steve for dinner.
We sat in a Harvester restaurant and he practically offered myself and Georgina a job. We talked about money, we even talked about relocating from London to north Wales.
Georgina was very exited when I rang her and told her all about it.
“But do we really want to move out of London?” she asked.
“Do we want a breakfast show?” I replied.
“I suppose so,” said Georgina. But not very convincingly.
We had about a week to prepare for the show. Steve told us that we could do all the same stuff on the radio as we normally did in the podcast, so “Things That are Nice To Say” and Dead Penguin were about to make their debut on local radio.
We arrived in North Wales about 24 hours before our first show, so that we could sit in with one of their DJs and I could learn how to drive the sound desk. They had already made a load of jingles for us, and Georgina set to work doing prep for the programme.
Because Coast FM were at that time a part of the Capital Radio Group, we had the same playlist and access to the same programme research as Johnny Vaughn had in London, so we were definitely now playing with the big boys.
Everything was going swimmingly until Steve asked me how many live shows we had done at Chorley FM.
“Oh, we don’t do it live,” I replied, “That show is recorded.”
Steve looked a little worried, “So how many live radio shows have you done altogether?” he asked.
“None,” I said.
The expression on Steve’s face said it all. He had obviously believed that we had a whole lot more experience than we actually had. But it was too late for him to back out of his offer now. We were already in the studio.
“OK, I guess I’d better sit in with you, “ he said.
The radio station booked us into a hotel opposite the studios, and at four o’clock the following morning we crawled out of bed and staggered into work.
“Do you think we could do this every day?” I asked Georgina.
“I have no idea,” she yawned.
I was absolutely terrified. Not of performing, I was used to that, but I had to press all the button as well. Records, jingles, news bulletins, weather updates, traffic reports – none of these things appear in a Sowerby & Luff podcast.
Steve insisted we call ourselves Brian & Georgina, not Sowerby and Luff. “It’s more friendly,” he said.
The first show went OK. I only made a couple of mistakes, and Georgina was bright and lively despite the early hour. We went on the air at 6am and were live until 10am. It was the longest 4 hours of my life, but by far the most exciting.
After the show I had a bacon sandwich with Steve at the Burger Van outside the studio.
“How was it?” I asked.
“Not bad,” he said. “Considering.”
Our stint with Coast FM was very short. Too short, really. By the time we got the hang of it and were beginning to get pretty good at live radio it was over. Steve was very honest with us. He simply did not have the time to devote to training Sowerby & Luff to be radio personalities. He needed a breakfast presenter with way more experience, who could hit the ground running.
Actually, I completely disagree with him. I think that if he had taken a punt on us we’d be on BBC radio by now. But it wasn’t to be.
Soon afterwards, Coast FM were taken over by Heart FM and most of their local programmes became network shows. Then Steve left. So, our big break into radio faded away. It was at that point that we decided to concentrate 100% on our podcast and make it as good as we possibly could. At least we could say whatever we wanted and we didn’t have to get up early.