I have often wondered what sparked my interest in computers: was it the engineer in me or was it genetic in some way?
In the 1920s my grandfather, like me, was into the latest technology of the time and in his case, it was radio.
Radio was a new thing back in the 1920s. Sets were expensive but you could buy a set of earphones and build yourself a crystal set, as they were called, and be able to tune in to the local transmissions. Magazines published instructions on how to put them together and my grandfather decided to take on the challenge of constructing a set. He was in his element with bits of wire, coils and the like taking over my grandmother kitchen.
In 1924, a new radio station transmitting from Nottingham went on the air. It was called 5NG and its studio was situated at 4, Bridlesmith Gate in the city. The building, which still exists today, was once the Dog and Bear pub.
This station was part of the new British Broadcasting Company and became the 16th local station to be opened around the country. 5NG was added to the service on September 16, 1924 and became Nottingham’s first local radio station transmitting from a single studio measuring 18′ by 35′ . This was fitted with a single microphone and the music was provided by a gramophone .
A second microphone had been provided by the BBC exclusively for use during the new outside broadcasts, with concerts and other events now being broadcast from venues around the city and the local villages. The Albert Hall in Nottingham was one of these, being used for concerts.
By 1926, the station was well established and more events from outside the studio were being considered. This boosted the audiences attending these shows and concerts as they all wanted to hear themselves on the radio and see this strange new media at work.
On Thursday, April 8, 1926 a musical play , the first of its type, was broadcast by the Nottingham station 5NG.
The play was called “Cupid The Pilot” and the details were listed at the time in the Radio Times as follows:
- Book and Lyrics by Arnold D. Sykes and William Merrin.
- Music composed by William Merrin.
- Characters: Airmen, Clerks, Slaves, Dancers, etc.
- Act 1: The General Office in Lord Hermitage’s Aerodrome.
- Act 2: Inside the Tent of Sheikh Abdulla el Din.
- Operatic Items.
- DORIS STOREY (Soprano).
- MARK MELLERS (Baritone).
- LYONS’ CAFE ORCHESTRA. Conductor – BRASSEY EYTON
It featured local artists Miss L A Mumford as the Hon. Beryl Hermitage and Mr A.B Cragg as The Inventor. The show’s writer A.D Sykes played The Sheik.
Other parts were played by Mr J Henry, P Stansby, R Fenson, J Shelton, A.S Barnes, J.H Krause, and F Bunney. They were joined by Miss B Willamson, I Lees, J Mayfield, W Wells, A Herrod and Mrs E Weeley.
The music being provided by Billy Merrin and his orchestra.
William “Billy” Merrin was a local Nottingham band leader and Music Hall star.
This outside broadcast was transmitted live in front of an audience and all recorded using a single microphone.
Strangely, the venue for this ground-breaking work was not the 5NG studio or even the Nottingham Albert Hall, but none other than Burton Joyce Village Hall.
The local audience understandably packed the hall for the occasion as this was a major event in the Village. They came not only be entertained but to see this strange new medium, Radio, in operation. According to the report of the proceeding in the Nottingham Post, all present “received the rendition with great enthusiasm and applause”.
Why this particular venue was chosen for this ground-breaking work when theatres and cinemas abounded in the area is unknown. Burton Joyce can at least claim however to have been in the forefront of the latest in technology and entertainment of the day. This all for a short while in the 1920s at least, before returning to a more usual sedate condition. All of this a forerunner of things yet to come and the beginning years later of the present Radio Nottingham. Things often in history go full circle.
- Local historian Bob Massey hosts local history walks and talks in the area. You can find more details at his website: http://www.bobmassey.info/