“Can you hear me Mother?”
I remember saying that to my late Mum - with some amusement - after I told her I was going to be broadcasting live on radio (with the now defunct station Leith FM). Just writing that down reminds me that was more than 10 years ago!
Despite coming from a BBC background my first proper (and properly perplexing) experience of sitting behind a large, spongey, microphone was with another former Leith based radio station: Scot FM, who were based down at Leith docks.
I quickly found myself cast in the guise of ‘post-midnight guest contributor’, over a three-year period in the 1990s. Before the station abruptly imploded into the stratosphere, never to be heard from again.
Forward to 2011 when I decided to volunteer with Leith FM, grateful that those in charge were going to gift me my own late-night radio show. Being an ‘ex-Beeb’ man probably helped guide me through the studio doors, where I soon settled in to a comfy seat behind the, now familiar, microphone.
My first show was called Magnificent Movie Music and, taking my cue and inspiration from Classic FM’s Saturday Night At The Movies, my plan was to focus upon the works of the great film composers – past and present.
It was a dream come true, and I had to remind myself often that I was actually writing, producing and presenting my very own radio show, for Leithers at home and abroad.
Typically, after my first show, an old friend brought me crashing back to earth with a resounding thud by giving me some sage advice: “You need to cut out the jokes because you’re not actually very funny.” Point taken!
Around the same time I also became the co-host of the Saturday morning breakfast show, with one Jimmy Rainbow.
Jimmy and I delved into Leith folk-lore whilst sharing laughs, music, chat, and the odd quiz for good measure - not forgetting a regular contributor’s weekly assessment of Spanish football.
Jimmy was always mystified as to exactly what the current state of Catalonia’s soccer scene had to do with old Leith. I suppose the station was attempting to spread the station’s remit further afield by discussing a whole range of subjects.
Jimmy then decided to take a break and stepped aside, with his place behind the Saturday morning microphone taken by the immensely talented Ricky Callan.
I became Ricky’s straight man for a year and we shared a bundle of laughs and stories in between the music. It was a constant joy to work alongside a seasoned professional who embodied warmth, talent, and wit, in abundance.
At that point the station decided to ‘change course’, undergoing a rebranding and reinvention, eventually evolving into Castle FM. I guess it’s initial plan was to appeal to a much wider audience - many at Leith FM thought the plan a tad ambitious at the time. (Castle FM? Surely a red rag to a bull? - Ed)
To be fair it all started out okay. Then, like a Scottish summer’s day, the dark clouds descended and things began to look much bleaker on the radio front. Despite a bright beginning, all was not well. And behind the scenes the atmosphere got a little tense and fraught, you might say.
From various sources it became apparent that bad blood was about to be spilled. More acrimony, ill feeling, back stabbing, name calling and power grabbing followed - think Shakespeare tragedies, with King Lear and Macbeth at the head of the queue.
Accusations of bullying and monstrous bad behaviour quickly began to poison the well of the station’s much loved community spirit. With many of the long-established presenters throwing in the towel (whilst collecting their headphones) and seeking refuge with rival outfits.
In due course, a number of the broadcasters (myself included) found ourselves being locked out of the studios, as our shows were unceremoniously taken off air. The whiff of rebellion was all pervading, with the end results turning very nasty indeed.
There was also overwhelming speculation floating around concerning the alleged misappropriation of funds, along with the continuing failure to settle outstanding bills. Unsurprisingly, this aroused the interest of the licence regulators, eventually leading to the inevitable collapse of the station’s much-loved reputation amongst the Leith community.
The final indignity was being ejected from our offices and studio in Leith Dockers Club.
The last I heard was that the faint echo of CASTLE FM - like Heathcliff calling for Cathy -could occasionally be heard online. Emanating from the basement of a Polish Deli…
A curious, almost elegiac, end.
What a sad, unnecessary and tawdry demise for a once entertaining enterprise that brought much needed enjoyment to the local community.
With a bit of luck, at some future date something resembling the original ethos at Leith FM could be ripe for resurrection: A station rising nobly from the ashes of so much rancid squabbling, once more bringing music, chat, and laughter, to the good people of Sunny Leith. ■