The first of the fort based offshore radio stations was set up by pop singer Screaming Lord Sutch. He briefly used a fishing boat, as he recalled when interviewed for the Offshore Echos documentary CD "The Radio Forts"
We rented that when it had finished his rounds of fishing so he was fishing and trawling in the mornings and then 12 o'clock onwards it was a radio station. The only trouble was it was covered with fish scales and it stunk to heaven and when all the reporters and press people come on they nearly all killed themselves skating about. But we used that for quite some time until the trawler had its insurance taken away because they said that they insured it as a fishing boat and not for a commercial radio station. The guy panicked and said "You've got to get another boat", or something, you know. We tried to get some other boats round the same harbour, but had no luck. So in the end on one of our last broadcasts out at sea we noticed these disused forts. We said "Well why can't we go on them ? " and he said "Well I don't know, I don't know who they belong to ". We made some enquiries and found out that they were ex. government forts, which hadn't been used for many years. It'd been abandoned out there as far as the government was concerned, so we just took them over and claimed squatters' rights. .
Screaming Lord Sutch
Screaming Lord Sutch had been using the fishing boat Cornucopia, until he discovered the Shivering Sands army fort. Radio Sutch, the first of the fort based offshore radio stations started on 27th May 1964 on 194 metres (1542khz). The first record Jack the Ripper, sung of course by the Screaming Lord himself.
Before all this, Sutch had held a press conference. He recalled I said "the time's about three o'clock" and we all switch on and "you'll hear it on this frequency". Little did they know but we switched on and it come blurting out. They said "God, that's loud! That's fantastic!". The press were really impressed, so was the TV, all the lot. But what they didn't know is just literally about 300 yards away was Reg. Calvert, just over the brow of a hill, under a tree with all the stuff... He was just doing it all on land! So no wonder that day we were louder than the BBC and Luxembourg and everybody. They never did suss out that. We got a tremendous write up "great output", "great power" we had and everything and the guy was just 300 yards away from them.
Three days later the government issued a statement saying that Sutch was trespassing on War Office property We had threats with the Navy at one stage, the British government told them to get us off. Sutch remembered We refused to get off and we had all the press behind us. In the middle of threatening us and telling us to get off, they just pulled up anchor, this huge battleship, and cleared off.
The headline next day was "Lord Sutch turns back the Navy" which was true in a way for some reason or other they changed their mind, they said "get off these forts, you're trespassing" We said "we're not, squatters' rights, and we're claiming this as our own island now". Well call it "Sutch Islands" or whatever. They must have radioed through to headquarters or whatever, and in the end, they decided it was too much of a hassle to get us off. So we stayed. We were getting a lot of respect for being there because we had the guts to take them over and run the radio station from it.
Chris Cross in the Sutch studio
Broadcasting hours of Radio Sutch tended to vary, sometimes to deejays oversleeping and at others due to equipment breakdowns. For most of its short life Radio Sutch operated off equipment powered by banks of car batteries. Programming consisted heavily of Lord Sutchs own records, plus those of other artists controlled by manager Reg Calvert. Late night programming had a different flavour
We broadcast 'Lady Chatterley's lover' and 'Fanny Hill' to break up the nights, the trawlermen were out there they loved it. They were all tuned in and the police patrol boats were tuned in, they loved all that! It made a change from something like "Coronation Street", recalled Lord Sutch. We thought wed really give them something they really wanted to hear. All nice and scandalous, you know, which was good. It kept people listening and people who didn't want to listen could switch off. That's the kind of station we were, we didn't care. We used to play a lot of Max Miller albums, which at the time were banned from the BBC, just because he was a bit saucy. The BBC played certain records but not some of his spicy stuff. We played the whole albums and everyone would be knocked out with it.
Due to touring and recording commitments, Screaming Lord Sutch sold the station to his manager Reg Calvert in September 1964. Calvert installed new, and better equipment and changed the name of the station to Radio City.
RADIO SUTCH DEEJAYS
Candy Calvert, Reg Calvert, Chris Cross, Dick Dickson, Tamara Harrison, Brian Paul and Screaming Lord Sutch.
to Radio City back to the Sea forts go home