Friday, January 09, 2015

King of the Midlands in the 1980s

Although never as prolific as the MW pirate scene in the Netherlands, England had more than its fare share of illicit broadcasters on the band during the 1970s and 80s. The south-east, in particular, was renowned for a proliferation of pirates, many of whom would qso just like their Dutch counterparts and others who would come on air with a full line-up of presenters. Considering the dearth of MW pirates from this side of the North Sea nowadays, it is hard to believe how it used to be. 

One of the stations on the scene in the Midlands was Radio King, which was a sister station to Mystery Radio, and came on air for the first time in 1980 on 229 metres (1305 kHz). 

In those very early days a homemade transistorised transmitter with just a couple of watts was used before an upgrade the following year to 12 watts and then around 25 watts. The station, like many at that time, hit the airwaves each Sunday, transmitting full programmes from around 8am through to 5pm. 

Some months ago Radio Pacman sent me a recording of Radio King made during a marathon 48-hour broadcast on August Bank Holiday weekend in 1982. A borrowed 100 watt transmitter was doing the work on that occasion and beaming the signal from a back garden shed in Leicester Forest East to the local area and further afield to neighbouring cities including Birmingham, Nottingham and Northampton, and no doubt further.

The aerial system spanned the entire garden from its highest point, which was a pole at the apex of the house which was twice the height of the top of the house, down to a wooden post sticking out of a tree at the end of the garden, and then back to the shed. It reversed all the way back. True pirate style!

The transmission you hear on the recording used an FM link from the studio, which was in a friend’s house approximately two miles away.

All good things must come to an end and in September 1982 King was raided and taken off the air by British Telecom.

Several transmitters were taken from the MW site including a spare transistorised 100 watt unit and a 10 watt valve transmitter being built for a friend who ran another station in Leicester. The studio was raided in sync with the MW site, and two other stations in Leicester were raided at exactly the same time of 5pm. With more pirates than legal stations on the dial in Leicester at this time, the authorities clearly took the business of ridding illegal signals from the air as quickly as possible.

Radio King was also active at that time on shortwave. Most transmissions were made on 6230 kHz and used the same antenna and the 25 watt mediumwave transmitter with a coil change and retune.

Rumour has it that Radio King held the record for the longest MW pirate in Leicester on air without being raided. Many other stations in the area, such as Radio Gloria and Radio Conquest, were caught regularly with raids or attempted raids every week.

If you have any archive recordings of British MW pirates, please send them to me and I will post them on this blog together with any details and history I can find. The email address is

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