London pirate radio history and recordings

London pirate radio history and recordings
Stephen Hebditch’s book is available from Amazon and independent booksellers.

London has been a hotbed of pirate radio since the 1960s and has always had a strong connection with Ireland through emigration and cultural influences. The thousands of pirate stations in London across the decades have been documented on the website AMFM.org.uk and in the book London’s Pirate Pioneers (2015) by the site’s founder Stephen Hebditch. Recordings of the London pirates are posted regularly on the site’s Twitter account.

In this interview with John Walsh, Stephen explores the background to and growth of London pirate radio and includes audio clips from different eras and genres of stations. He also explains the book project and covers the relationship between London pirate radio and the Irish pirate scene.

This interview was broadcast originally on Wireless on Flirt FM in April 2021.

Interview with Aidan Cooney

Interview with Aidan Cooney
Aidan Cooney as pictured in the Sunshine Radio Review from 1985 (courtesy of DX Archive).

Aidan Cooney is another well-known broadcaster who spent many years in the pirates up to 1989. In this interview, he recalls his earliest memories of and involvement with the 1970s Dublin pirates. ‘Aidan Jay’, as he was known, started his broadcasting career with ARD and Radio Dublin from 1978 when he was just 16 and still at school. Other pirates where he worked in the 1980s included Radio Leinster, Sunshine Radio and Treble TR.

Since the licensing of the independent sector in 1989, Aidan has been a familiar name on commercial radio and television and is currently a presenter on Dublin’s Q102.

Interview with Aidan Cooney
ARD at the Crofton Hotel, L-R: listener, Bryan Lambert, Mike Maloney (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

This interview was conducted by Dave Daly in 2017. We thank Dave for his donation to the archive.

Interview with Ian Dempsey

Interview with Ian Dempsey
Ian Dempsey in the ARD/Radio 257 studios at the Crofton (photo courtesy of Noel Hiney).

One of Ireland’s best-known broadcasters, Ian Dempsey, began his radio career in the pirates. In this interview, Ian recalls his first pirate station Capitol Radio in 1978 and his involvement with ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) from 1979. He was among many DJs at ARD/Radio 257 who would go on to greater fame in the media industry.

Like so many other former pirates, Ian joined RTÉ Radio 2 in its early days. He stayed with the state broadcaster until 1998 when he joined the relaunched national commercial station Today FM and has presented the breakfast show since then.

Interview with Ian Dempsey
ARD broadcasters, L-R: Gerry Lenihan, unknown, Dave Kelly, unknown, Gareth O’Callaghan, Debbie Moore, Jim Kenny (RIP) (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

This interview was conducted by Dave Daly in 2017. We thank Dave for his donation to the archive.

Interview with Paul Davidson of Anoraks Ireland on Centre Radio

Interview with Paul Davidson of Anoraks Ireland on Centre Radio
Anoraks Ireland card and logo with Paul Davidson’s name.

On its final day of broadcasting on 31st December 1988, there was a serious anorak feel to Centre Radio in Bayside as it looked back at the pirate radio scene and caught up with those who had been involved with it. During his final show, Richard Taylor (John Walsh) interviewed Paul Davidson (Tony Donlon) of Anoraks Ireland who had recorded and documented so much of Irish pirate radio in the 1980s. In the recording above which was made after 8pm, John asked Tony who was still on air in Dublin and got his views about the forthcoming legalisation of local radio.

Interview with Paul Davidson of Anoraks Ireland on Centre Radio
Centre Radio, Christmas 1986. L-R behind: Liam Ward, Brian Greene, Pauline Reddin, Declan Meade, Eamonn Roe. L-R front: Iris Conroy, Peter Walsh.

Earlier at 3pm on December 31st, Brian Greene interviewed Derek Jones and got his thoughts on the final day of pirate radio. Derek was one of those behind the shortwave station Radio Valleri based in Baldoyle, Dublin 13 and in 1986, he got involved with Big Beat Radio also in Baldoyle. Big Beat was a summer youth station which preceded Centre Radio and many of the same young DJs were involved.

Interview with Paul Davidson of Anoraks Ireland on Centre Radio
Derek Jones at Centre Radio, Christmas 1986.

Derek continues to broadcast today and in this extended interview with Brian Greene, he looks back at many happy decades behind the microphone.

Pirate radio still making waves

Pirate radio still making waves

Veteran broadcaster Aidan Cooney worked on many pirate stations in Dublin from the late 1970s including Radio Dublin, ARD, Treble TR, Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. Since 1989 he has been a presenter on commercial radio and television and is currently heard on Q102 in Dublin.

On the Q102 breakfast show on 24th November 2020, Aidan was brought down memory lane about his pirate days with Irish Sun entertainment editor Ken Sweeney.