Dorothy Calvert

1928 - 2010

Dorothy Calvert in the studio of Radio City. This photo was taken by Peter Powell of Broadstairs and kindly provided by the other person in the picture, DJ Eric Martin. He says “it was taken in the ‘new’ studio on Shivering Sands, probably very late '66 or, perhaps more likely, early '67 not long before the plug was pulled on 299.”

Dorothy Calvert's name and photograph were propelled onto the front pages of the newspapers by the tragic events which surrounded Radio City in the summer of 1966. A dispute over ownership of a radio transmitter resulted in the station being boarded and put off the air and, soon afterwards, by the fatal shooting of Dorothy's husband, the station owner, Reg Calvert. Although this was the first that most of us knew of her, Dorothy had been a major presence, alongside Reg, for many years. She had been an equal partner from their earliest days as they ran dances, promoted concerts and managed pop groups - many of whom lived with them in the family home, Clifton Hall, in Rugby.

Reg and Dorothy Calvert at Clifton Hall in 1961. Photo kindly provided by their older daughter, Susan Moore.

It may have been Reg who had the idea of launching an offshore radio station - first Radio Sutch, later Radio City - but it was Dorothy who knocked the output into shape. When they sold Clifton Hall and Dorothy was able to move south to join her husband, she took over responsibility for the programmes. She came up with the format and she made sure the disc-jockeys stuck to it. To the listeners, Radio City seemed a welcoming, informal and exciting radio station. No doubt it was those things, but Dorothy worked hard to make sure it sounded like that on the air and, despite the constant turn-over of DJs, she created a consistent station sound.
After Reg's shooting, Dorothy took over the reins. Now she was not only looking after the programming, she had to run the whole thing. Having just lost a husband and with two young daughters to care for, many people might have walked away from the challenge of running a radio station too, but for Dorothy, after many years in show-business it was unthinkable. The show had to go on.
Those last few months of Radio City's existence must have been very difficult but the station sounded better than ever. It was as if everyone was pulling together to make it work, to make sure that Reg's legacy was remembered fondly. And it has been.
When Shivering Sands, Radio City's fort, was boarded by intruders in June 1966, the police were adamant that they could not help as the fort was outside the territorial limit and, therefore, outside their jurisdiction. The following year, however, the fort had somehow moved inside the three mile limit and Radio City was found guilty of broadcasting illegally. It closed down at midnight on 8th February 1967. Dorothy Calvert faded from public gaze to look after her family. She did not keep in touch with the offshore radio fraternity. When she was invited to the Radio Academy's Celebration of Offshore Radio in 2007 she was recovering from a family bereavement and did not feel up to attending. Her younger daughter, Candy did come and Dorothy wrote to one of the organisers: “After Reg's death when I ran Radio City, Candy helped me in things like compiling the charts. She came out to the towers once or twice with me. It was a big job remodelling the format for the radio. Reg was more interested in the technical side while I was more practical. Anyway, it's a long time since but I think that the pirates revitalised radio and the broadcasting industry and maybe we wouldn't have radio today without them .... Just writing to wish you luck with the get together and hope everything goes well. Best wishes, Dorothy Calvert.”
Dorothy's daughter, Susan, tells us that her mother had suffered health problems for some time: “She had a heart by-pass operation some thirty years ago and decided to have another operation in the slim hope of a few more years but, sadly, did not manage to pull through this time.” She died at about 3.30pm on Sunday 21st February 2010. She was nearly 82 years old. Susan again: “Over the years she has done many things, organising dances, managing pop groups, running a pirate radio station, having a music publishing company etc., etc. She got very frustrated with being old and frail as she always thought she was still 21 and going to live forever.”

A number of former Radio City DJs and listeners have sent their tributes to Dorothy Calvert:

Radio City poster, kindly provided by Susan Moore. Ricky Michaels tells us he helped design it.

Radio City DJ Ian MacRae: “Very sad news. Even though I never got to meet up with her again after Radio City closed she will always be in my memory as the lady who showed immense strength and courage when her husband was murdered, (because, let’s face it, that's what it was), and kept the station going until we were forced to close when map boundaries were redrawn. In a way it's the end of a very important era in the history of British pop music.”
Radio City DJ Ricky Michaels: “I remember Dorothy's active role not only with City but with the promoter's side of the business. She was very much part of promoting the Fortunes. As you remember You've Got Your Troubles was not only a chart buster but also our ‘code red’ song for problems on the Tower of Power.”
Radio City DJ Alan Clark: “Thanks for letting me know. I'm very sorry to hear this sad news.”
Radio City listener Alex McKenna: “As a great fan of the station, I used to phone up their office after school and ask them when they were going to up the power, and stuff like that. Mostly it was poor Jill Wileman who got my calls - imagine that at the end of a hard day! - no wonder she emigrated to South Africa - but I am fairly sure Mrs Calvert must have fielded at least a few from me. No doubt she was used to silly young fans phoning up with daft ideas and questions. I managed to get Dennis the Menace to play a Tamla Motown side (Road Runner) on ‘The 5 by 4 Show’ one night! Totally against the rules but my constant postcards must have worn him down. He wasn't normally on that show, so didn't realise the seriousness of the offence maybe. Dorothy sacked him shortly after that ... she could be strict with the boys if they veered off the format and played instrumentals or suchlike.”
Radio Sutch DJ Colin Dale: “Sad news indeed. Dorothy Calvert, a lady who stood by her man, Reg. Respect.”
Radio City Senior DJ Tom Edwards: “The courage shown by Dorothy Calvert when her husband Reg was killed I admired even to this day .. she also had two young daughters to look after, Susan and Candy who survive her. With no hesitation she took over the running of Radio City and indeed some of her memos to me 43 years ago can be found on sites such as yours. She was a strong lady .. not only my boss but a friend. When Radio City closed down she promised myself and others we would get work and was instrumental in my going to Radio Caroline South together with Ian MacRae. The rest of course is history. My condolences to both Susan and Candy and their respective families. I am heartened that Susan and I have been in contact via the internet .. something we never ever imagined all those years ago on the Shivering Sands towers. Rest in peace Dorothy Calvert .. you will never be forgotten.”

See also this tribute to her mother by Candy Calvert-Ansari.
Obituary in The Times (only available to subscribers).
Obituary in the Coventry Telegraph.
See here for a fascinating account and some wonderful photographs dating from the early part of Reg and Dorothy Calvert's careers in show business.
There is more on the story of Radio City here.

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