The Freedom Radio Story by Craig Benson
Benson’s final chapter
It had been a very hard few years or so, from the very start with LBCR to the beginning of 1991 in Brierley Hill. A lot of things had happened, 4 different towns, 5 blocks of flats, a house, and an office above a shop. We had constantly been on the move to avoid the DTI, sometimes we managed it, sometimes not. I had been to court a total of 13 times, accumulated fines of over £6000, we had lost in excess of 25 rigs, 4 complete studios and countless records. But still we were on the air.
It all came to a head for me the end of January 1991 after I was released from prison. Things were getting really hard to organize and carry on. Paul Warren and others had done a brilliant job of keeping the station on while I was away, but the change of name to FCR had affected the station, and we were in competition with others like Exile FM and NRG FM.
The listeners were dwindling a bit, and it was time to move from Brierley Hill, we were getting too well known there by the DTI.
By now some of the DJ’s had gone to work for other stations, Simon B, Steve Marshall and Wayne Norris had set up NRG FM with some others, a couple had gone to work for Exile, but the hardcore Freedom DJ’s were still at Freedom.
It was decided to move to Tan-house flats in Cradley Heath (sort of strange really, because that’s where it all began) We managed to get a flat on the 10th floor, got all the gear and set up all over again, the phone line was installed in the flat next door after the guy that lived there stumbled into the studio one night drunk, and asked us what we were doing. We told him, and I persuaded him to let us install the phone line in his flat.
This guy became known as Tony Baxter, and thereafter worked on Freedom as a DJ (respect mate you mad nutter) All was going really well, phones ringing, DJ’s coming back, but to tell you the truth, my heart just was not in it. I decided that the only way to relieve some of the pressure and the cost was to approach another station and suggest a merger. I did this, and the station was NRG FM.
It was agreed and the joint owners of the new Freedom became Simon B, Steve Marshall, and myself. I could see from the start it was never going to work out, I was used to managing things myself, and the situation of having to discuss things with others was completely alien to me. So after a relatively short period, and with little argument, we split.
Freedom was back as Freedom again. By now it’s the summer of 1991, and the station is running great, nights and weekends, We were still very popular, but I was getting increasingly more and more dismayed with the authorities chasing after me (police, courts)
I was continually looking over my shoulder, and moving from house to house to avoid them, and on the occasions they caught me, I ended up in court the next day, wondering if this was “jail time” again.
But the final straw came in September 1991, the police had called at my friend’s place looking for me once again, of course he said he did not know where I was, the police said that they were getting fed up looking for me, and to tell me that they would be waiting to arrest me in 2 weeks at the job centre where I signed on (incidentally this form of arrest has now been classed as illegal).
That was it! I could no longer move freely in the area, nor could I get any money, I had to move. I decided to flee the country and travel around Europe and over to Spain (so the rumours were right) I had less than 2 weeks to sort everything out, tell the DJ’s, and hand the station over, say my good-byes.
This is exactly what I did. I did my last show ever on Freedom radio in the studio at Tan-house flats, the day before I went away. It was a sad affair for me, DJ Trippa was in the studio with me, and I played every favourite record of mine that I had played over the years. I had loads of calls wishing me well, but for one time only they were taken “off air”.
The following night I came to the studio to say my good-byes and hand the station over to Wayne Norris and Paul Warren. I knew they would keep the dream alive (and they did for a few more years).
It was time to leave. If you have ever met me, you will know I’m a big guy with a hardish heart, but I found that rainy night, standing at the bottom of the block in Tan-house, shaking hands with all my friends, saying my final goodbye forever was very hard.
Freedom had been my life for 4 years, I ate, drank and slept around the station, for 4 years I thought of nothing else, and I lost rigs, equipment, records and loads of money.
But it had all come to an end.
What happened to me in the last years? Where did I go?
France, Spain (Barcelona) Greece (Zante) Sheffield, Torquay, and finally America (Georgia and North Carolina)
I won’t give you any more detail, or tell you where I am now, but I will say one thing.
Pirate radio has always been done by the people, for the people, and it always will be, despite the efforts of the DTI and other authorities.
Keep the dream alive!
And if ever you are flicking around one day and you hear the words “this is Freedom Radio” once again. It might be us 🙂
This story was compiled and written by Craig Benson.
I’m not an author, just a normal bloke relating my story as I remember it
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