The Freedom Radio Story by Craig Benson
Old Hill flats
We had outworn our welcome at Eve Hill in Dudley, it was time to move location and re-do some stuff. After being raided 3 times in 4 weeks, it began to have an effect on the DJ’s-quite a few of them got worried that they might end up in court, and although they wanted to carry on, some of the lost the “bottle” to do it.
The DJ’s to depart after the Eve Hill fiasco were Steve Walsh, Stan the man, Tony Mendoza, Brian J, Wayne James and a few others (although some of these were to return at a later date).
We had been offered a flat by one of our listeners in Old Hill, Cradley Heath, her name was big Sam. So after a couple of months off the air, with everybody ringing me every day asking when we were going to come back on, it was decided that in the early part of 1990 that we would start up again from a studio at Old Hill flats.
But this time there was to be a difference!
So far we had “gone direct” from our studios and that proved to be quite unsafe. So I decided this time to push the boat out and get a link, this is how it worked.
For all of you techies
The main studio was on the 9th floor of the flat in Old Hill, on the outside of the kitchen window of that flat was the link transmitting aerial. This is placed horizontally. The link TX is 5 watts (rough estimate is that on a clear run, that you should be able to link 1 mile for every watt). At the other end (Eve Hill flats lift room) the main TX is situated with the link receiver built on top. Another link aerial is fitted horizontally coming out of the link receiver (to receive the link signal from Old Hill). And the normal dipole aerial is fitted as usual coming out of the main TX (erected as high as we can get it).
The main TX and link receiver are on a timer in the lift room, to start just before 6pm every night. The link TX is switched on manually in the studio about the same time. Wait for the dead carrier (this is a great feeling, as far as I am concerned “the best sound on radio” the silence!) you know its good then). After a couple of days messing about, trying to get the best link possible (this isn’t as easy as it sounds) we were ready to broadcast to the West Midlands once more.
New DJ’s were joining the station, together with the old crowd, here is a few names, remember these? Lee Clarke, Paul Warren, DJ Kidd, Pete Lewis, Jules, and many more. DJ’s that joined the station shortly after included: Wayne Norris, Wayne Logan, DJ Trippa, DJ Griff, Nikki D, Steffi C, Jenson, Tony Baxter, DJ Haggis, Andy Young, Steve Wilson and lots more.
We were ready with new equipment, new premises, and new DJ’s. But the same format was going to remain, because it had done us proud in the past. We started transmissions from Old Hill, and after an initial quiet start, the calls began to slowly come back, (but if I am to be totally honest the calls in Old Hill never came near to what we had in Eve Hill).
We were not transmitting 24/7 now. We started at 6pm closed down at 1am, and did 48 hours through the weekend.
Advertising was down a bit as well, but we still had a massive fan base. I tended to do my shows on most nights between 8 and 10, which gave me chance to do other stuff connected with Freedom, but outside the studio. If I had to be honest, I was never happy with the studio in Old Hill, yeah we had some great times, we had loads of laughs, and the people that worked on the station were some of the most dedicated people you would wish to meet. But I was always looking for that feeling we had in Eve Hill.
I’m not really sure how long we lasted at Old Hill altogether, I know we had the main TX aerial cut a few times, (blowing the rig up, this was cured later by having a cut out switch installed in the rig) but I remember the day we were raided as if it was yesterday.
It was sometime in the afternoon, and the station was “on air” and I had gone to pick up the guy who made our TX’s. We were on our way to Eve Hill because I had been having trouble with the main TX drifting a bit off frequency. My mate (the TX guy) always carried around with him a 200-channel scanner (you know the type you listen to the cops on). He knew the exact frequencies that the DTI transmitted on, so we had it tuned in on our way up to Eve Hill.
Nothing of importance happened, we clambered on the roof, he got his testing gear out, give the TX a once over, everything was OK. So we decided to make our way back to Old Hill to check the other end.
About a mile away from the studio we hear this on the scanner “OK Les we are on the roof at location one now, let us know when the guys at location two are ready”
I had a horrible thought. Was location 1 Eve Hill where we had just left? ? I put my foot down to race back to the studio. I am just pulling into the road where the studio is located in Old Hill, and I heard that dreaded sound “hiss” the main TX was off. I pulled up outside the studio block, where I was met by 5 or 6 DJ’s running toward me.
“Get the f**k out of here Craig, the DTI are upstairs in the studio doing on a raid, and they are looking for you”. Reverse gear, foot down, off I went. Old Hill had lasted about 3 to 4 months, and the DTI had decided this time, not only to take the main TX, but to take the studio as well.
By now I was wondering if it was all worth it? This was gear I could really not afford to loose at that time, so I went into hibernation for a few weeks, would this be the end of Freedom Radio? Could we ever reproduce the sound and the good times we had at Eve Hill? Things were beginning to get difficult.
I had some very good people around me, a special mention must go to a few of them, Paul Warren, Tennants, Wayne Norris, Steve Kennedy, Simon B, Pete Lewis and a few others.
The above people would not let me get down or give in, they continually called me, pushed me, harassed me, and generally made a nuisance of themselves, to get me to start up again (respect to all of you). Freedom was down, but not dead, the battle had been won, but we would win the war.