The Caroline Convention 2000 in Gillingham on 12th August 2000

 

Last but not least here is Steve Szmidt�s report:

I have been a listener to Radio Caroline since the 1960's. I was just a kid in the 60's, so I did not appreciate that my Mum and I were being entertained by a "Pirate" radio station. In the 1970's, I gained my awareness of "Pirate" and "Free Radio", through a Birmingham land based pirate called "Radio Jolly Roger", "Radio NorthSea International", "Radio Atlantis" and the new album format "Radio Caroline". In my distant past I have been a DJ and helper of land based pirates such as EST (FM) and Empire Radio (Short Wave). Many years ago I left Birmingham, but I have still kept in contact with my free radio friends there. Over the years, together we have been to several conventions, road shows, rallies etc.

The Report.

I met up with two of my friends from Birmingham, near Junction 15 on the M1 motorway, because I currently live in Northampton and this was conveniently "on route". One of these friends, Chris Mould, alias Chris Cooper, was fortunate enough to have worked on Radio Caroline at the end of 1989. My other friend was John Gleeson. We arrived at the venue, the night club of the "King Charles Hotel", in good time for the midday (12.00 hours BST) start.

The anchor man for the event was Rob Le-Roi. He started the proceedings by setting the mood for the day, using a photographic slide show of objects and people from Radio Caroline's broadcasting era. For example the Mini motor car, Cilla Black (?) and the Beatles.

 

Click on the pictures to enlarge:

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Johnny Lewis and Dave "The Fish" Turner

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Johnny Lewis

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Johnny Lewis and Dave "The Fish" Turner

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Mike Plumbley

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Stuart Payne, Evening Standard (News) Journalist

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Peter Moore

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John Gleeson (Caroline supporter from Birmingham) and Alex Hamilton

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Alex Hamilton

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Frank Turner�s presentation of the Estuary forts

 



The first of many interviews that Bob performed throughout the day was with Charlie Wolf. Charlie was not instantly recognisable from the last time I had seen him on board the Laser 558 ship. However, his voice certainly was. He is currently doing one show a week on "Talk Sports".

Next there was some interesting information on the Estuary forts during the presentation by Frank Turner, author of several books on the subject and the interviews with Dick Dixon and Dick Palmer. Frank also had a stand at the convention, with models and photographs on display. What I found most interesting was how the parts of the fort were made in Gravesend, moved to their final locations and erected.

Current Caroline DJ's that Bob interviewed were Johnny Lewis (the visits to the gym are shedding Kilograms off him), Bob Lawrence, Nigel Harris (who seemed uncomfortable telling the story "yet again" of the raid on the Mi Amigo), David Foster, Graham L. Hall (complete with those shorts) and Tony Christian. Other current presenters who attended, but escaped being interviewed by Bob "the interviewer", were Rob Ashard and the glamorous Alex Hamilton and Rachel Hunter. However, the later two were interviewed by the BBC, for the feature that was broadcast on the BBC1 Breakfast TV programme, on Monday the 14th August 2000.

Two behind the scenes people from Caroline's past shared their memories: First there was Dave "The Fish" Turner, who was Captain of the supply boat that made 141 supply runs to the Ross Revenge. Then shortly afterwards, Mike Barrington took the stage to give his account of being a engineer on the Ross.

 

 

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Dick Dixon and Dick Palmer looking at the plan of fort

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Mike Barrington

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Mike Barrington

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Nigel Harris and David Foster

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David Foster

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Nigel Harris and David Foster



Other interviews that took place before the auction were with Kevin Turner, John Aston (Hatt), an ex forts and Caroline DJ, John Harding and Don Scott, recalling their days on Radio Atlantis, Bob Matthews (Bob Mower), a former Radio Jackie (London land based pirate) and Caroline DJ and Stuart Payne, an Offshore radio anorak of many years and a journalist for the Evening Standard (News).

Next on the agenda was the auction. This was good fun, thanks to the humour of the auctioneer Andy Riley. The "lots" on offer, all to raise money for Radio Caroline, included a cap off a generator, part of an anchor chain, several bundles of singles and albums, photographs, Gates turntables, "bits and pieces" from Andy's
garden shed and a weekend break. Shots of the auction appeared in the aforementioned BBC breakfast programme, including one of my back and another the face of my friend John.

The final interviews of the day were with Mike Plumbley, who was involved in running Caroline in the 1980's and Peter Moore. Peter thanked everyone for supporting the convention and the station. He also gave his view of the future of Radio Caroline.

Ronan O'Rahilly was in attendance, but I am sure there were several people who missed his brief stay. Apparently he declined to be interviewed by Bob and preferred to remain in the background (the hall way at the entrance of the night club). I was lucky enough to shake the great man's hand and informed him that this was the first time I had seen him since "Flashback 67". Like myself, he thought that this convention, held 23 years ago at an hotel at Heathrow Airport, seemed like it happened only yesterday.

 

 

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John Astor (Hatt), ex forts and Caroline DJ

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John Astor (Hatt)

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John Astor (Hatt)

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John Harding and Don Scott (Radio Atlantis)

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John Harding and Don Scott (Radio Atlantis)

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Outside the convention hall



The day was very hot and this showed how inadequate the night clubs air conditioning was. It was also very noisy and had to be switched off whenever interviews etc were taking place, which was most of the time. There was also a mix up over the bar. I believe the organisers had requested that it should be open all day, but drinks were only available for a couple of hours and there was no food. Luckily I brought with me a packed lunch and my mates found a local Kebab house, a short distance from the hotel. Apparently there were bar snacks and main meals available from the main reception, but like many, we must have missed that announcement. Despite these few problems, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Special credit must go to Bob Le Roi, who did an excellent job interviewing the many celebrities and keeping the whole event together. I hope Radio Caroline managed to raise a lot of money at the end of the day. They certainly received some good publicity from it.

Unfortunately, my friends and I were unable to stay for the evening Roadshow, due to prior engagements, early the next day. To break the journey for my friend's from Birmingham, we all had a quick drink in the club in my village. I then went home to reflect on the day, whist listening to my new "crackle free" vinyl copy of the "Loving Awareness" album. (This I purchased from the convention and it features a plain white sleeve, which has been signed by Ronan and the current staff at Radio Caroline.) A perfect end to an almost perfect day.

Steve Szmidt.

Member of the Caroline Supporter Group.

 

 

 

Click here for a report with lots of pictures from the Leeuwarden convention