Days of pirate radio revived by Mansfield Museum exhibition

Mansfield 103.2 engineer Graham Collis and Jodie Henshaw, of Mansfield Museum, with one of the portable transistor radios on show at the exhibition. (PHOTO BY: Rachel Atkins).
Mansfield 103.2 engineer Graham Collis and Jodie Henshaw, of Mansfield Museum, with one of the portable transistor radios on show at the exhibition. (PHOTO BY: Rachel Atkins).

In this high-tech, digital age of fast downloads and streaming, it’s hard to believe that we once had to snuggle up to portable transistor radios to catch our favourite music on pirate stations.

Long gone are the days of listening to the crackling broadcasts of off offshore stations such as Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline.

But this month, they are being revived in an exhibition at Mansfield Museum which has been set up by Mansfield 103.2 engineer Graham Collis. The exhibition, called ‘The End Of The Offshore Radio Era (1964-1967), consists of a selection of 60s transistor radios, plus information and pictures about the stations that paved the way for commercial radio in this country.

Graham said: “This year is the 50th anniversary of the end of the offshore radio era, so we thought it would be a great idea for Mansfield 103.2, as the local radio station, to put something together to mark this.”

Pirate radio in the UK became widespread in the early 1960s as entrepreneurs set up stations to meet the growing demand for pop and rock music which wasn’t properly catered for by mainstream BBC radio services. To ensure they weren’t illegal, they broadcast from offshore ships or disused sea forts.

Influential pirate radio DJs included John Peel, Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Tony Prince and Emperor Rosko. The stations’ audience grew to ten to 15 million, forcing the BBC to restructure and launch Radio 1 in 1967.