April Fools Day is often popular with radio stations. It gives the DJs a chance to do something a bit different in their shows and the audience enjoys the joke. For Saturday April 1st 1967,
the DJs on Radio Caroline South and Radio London planned something truly spectacular - they were going to swap ships! Listeners would wake up to hear DJs from the rival station on the air. It was a great idea
but unfortunately the bosses got wind of it and memos started flying. The idea was quashed. There was no way that the DJs could get away with it so, on board the Galaxy, the Radio London team came up with an
alternative April Fools scheme. They would launch a new radio station - Radio East Anglia! Radio London's programmes would appear to be drowned out by this new more powerful station, testing on an adjacent
wavelength. It was a clever plan - and it worked.
The main players in the Radio East Anglia fool were DJs Keith Skues and Ed Stewart with engineers Ian
West and Dave Hawkins. The first hint the listeners had that something was up was in Keith's 8-11am show. During the 9.30 news, a voice interrupted the bulletin saying
“1-2-3-4 Radio East Anglia testing”. An hour later, the 10.30 news contained some very odd items indeed:
Keith Skues reading the 10.30 am news bulletin on 1st April 1967 (duration 2 minutes 32 seconds)
The Slough telephone number, if anyone chose to enquire about the zebra, belonged to Radio London Programme Director Alan Keen. Interviewed in Chris Elliot's book
The Wonderful Radio London Story he said: “My telephone started ringing and people were asking questions
about the zebra in Slough .... I must have had, without any exaggeration, at least two dozen telephone calls within the course of an hour.”
As Keith's programme continued, his show was interrupted again by someone counting.
Keith Skues interrupted by tests for “Radio East Anglia” (duration 33 seconds)
At 11 o'clock Keith handed over to Ed Stewart - but Ed's programme suffered from “interference” too.
Ed Stewart interrupted by “Radio East Anglia” (duration 33 seconds)
The interruptions continued, with middle-of-the-road music being heard occasionally either in the background or obliterating the Radio London programme completely. Then, at 11.26, “Radio
East Anglia” began broadcasting.
Ed Stewart editing tape. Photo published by the Free Radio Association and kindly provided by George Morris.
Ed Stewart's show disappears as Bob Parkin (engineer Ian West) opens “Radio East Anglia” (duration 3 minutes 3 seconds)
Ian West, Radio London's Norfolk-born engineer had the perfect accent for this spoof radio station. The address he gave for reception reports belonged to offshore photographer David Kindred who
received dozens of complaints from listeners, angry that their favourite radio station's signal was being wiped out by this new more powerful broadcaster! He is quoted in Keith Skues's book
Pop Went The Pirates saying “I received more than 100 letters, mostly abusive, asking for Radio East Anglia
to get off the air. It's the April Fool that worked. Everybody took it so deadly serious, that's the funniest thing.”
Radio East Anglia claimed to broadcast on 267 metres with a power of 250 kilowatts. Radio London was on 266 with 50 kilowatts so it was quite believable that one would blot out the other.
Apsley Guise, alias Dave Hawkins. Photo published by the Free Radio Association and kindly provided by George Morris.
The newspapers had been reporting that the Government would be allowing the BBC to launch local radio when the offshore stations were closed down and, although there had been no approval for
commercial radio, it was almost believable that a local station could be testing. In keeping with the generally held view that no new station could be as exciting as the pirates, the Radio East Anglia programmes
were particularly inept with discs ‘wowing’, the DJs misreading scripts and an uninspiring choice of music.
After a while, Bob Parkin handed over to his colleague Apsley Guise (Radio London's Australian engineer Dave Hawkins). As the time approached 12 noon, the traditional time for April Fooling to end, Radio London cut
Bob Parkin and Apsley Guise on “Radio East Anglia” (duration 3 minutes 10 seconds)
At noon Ed Stewart's show continued as if nothing had happened and Radio East Anglia was never heard from again.
On land, irate listeners phoned the Post Office to complain about what they took to be an official station interfering with their favourite programmes.
As a stunt it was a great success but Radio London bosses were not impressed. Ed and Keith received severe reprimands from Managing Director Philip Birch and Programme Director Alan Keen. However the Sunday papers
were full of news of the stunt, giving the station some wonderful publicity, so they can't have been too upset. Radio East Anglia was a great idea, brilliantly executed .... and your web-master wasn't the only one
to be fooled!
Thanks to Hans Knot for the audio and to the books by
Gerry Bishop, Brian Long, Chris Elliot and Keith Skues for the information.