A presenter speaks!
Every Saturday during his final year at university, Nik Rawlinson presented Thorpe Park Radio. Today. he presents The Lab on LBC (Thursday, 7-9pm on 1152 AM, London). Here, he tells us about his experiences of Thorpe Park Radio, how it worked, what they played, and why it ended. Thanks Nik!
Thorpe Radio ever took me on, I don't know. The demo I sent was totally unsuitable.
It was a long chunk of speech, punctuated at regular intervals by hic-ups. Someone
liked it, though, and in late spring 1996 I got the job.
was £40 a day. Not much, especially when you take out the cost of travelling
67 miles each way, but enough to give a poor student, which I was at the time,
some extra money for the week.
opted to work on Saturdays, the busiest day of the week, while another presenter
did Sunday, and a third handled Monday to Friday. We never met, but wrote notes
to each other in a large red log-book book in the studio. 'Don't let levels
peak above four in the Fungle Jungle', 'Please note Splashtacular showtimes
have changed this week.'
an in-house station, the set-up was fairly impressive. The mixing desk was a
good five feet wide, with more channels, faders and gain and balance controls
than you'd find in a professional broadcast station. Into this was fed a single
microphone, two CD players and a couple of turntables, one of which ran slightly
Behind where the presenter sat, a large wooden unit, about the size of a filing cabinet, served as a rack-mount for half a dozen tape machines. These played pre-recorded output to some of the queues on the top rides. Loggers Leap and Depth Charge, in particular, opted out of the Thorpe Radio feed, prefering to promote themselves rather than the rest of the park, even though their audiences were already captive.
studios were located in what is now called Calypso Quay, looking out on the
Teacup Twisters, Model World and, if you streched across the desk and craned
your neck to the left, Burger King. They were two rooms, fronted by three panes
of chunky glazing that weren't quite thick enough to stop you hearing guests
bang on the outer window. There was enough of an insulating gap between each
piece for you to safely ignore them if you felt unsociable and still get away
with it though, especially if you had the music up loud.
the music was always turned up loud. Very loud.
was nothing in the way of a playlist. No prescribed set of tracks to be played
at a certain time, apart from a general edict that after four we should slow
down the pace in an effort to encourage people out of the park. We often brought
in music from home, but the studio was stocked with an impressive range of material.
To the left of the desk, CD racks mounted onto the wall held a range of compilation
discs. A green floor-to-ceiling curtain sectioned off the opposite end of the
room, which was filled with spare parts and several hundred 7in singles. Many
were scratched, but there were some true classics, among them a dance remix
of the Roobarb theme tune.
most fun was the half hour before the park opened up, though, when all areas
except for the entry gates were fed direct from the desk, bypassing the tape
was a chance to play loud tracks, as the team assembled at their positions and
got ready for the day. The theme from the film version of Mission Impossible,
practically anything by Bon Jovi, or U2's 'Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me'
were common. It was a small audience, but lots of fun, and there was no need
to play the jingles or ads.
jingles themselves were very well made, and all led well into songs. They had
definate start and end points, and some had no backing so they could easily
be played on top of a track. One in particular, Mr Monkey asking visitors to
come and see him in the Fungle Jungle, was exactly 28 seconds long, and fit
perfectly into an instrumental half way through Like a Prayer.
have happy memories of Thorpe Radio. They made me cut my hair, which was long
overdue, but warned me to take it no shorter than a number four, and I got away
with never wearing a uniform. There was a sticky moment checking in one morning
when the people who took the register had changed, and they asked where my uniform
was. I spent an anxious few minutes sitting on a bench to one side while the
tried to track down my manager, but as time wore on we got closer and closer
to opening time and eventually they had to let me go, in my jeans and trainers,
without a shred of a Thorpe Park outfit about me.
I walked through the empty park, past the static rides, cutting by the deserted central square, and I felt I had made a lucky escape.
Towards the end of the season the days got longer as the nights drew in and the management saw it as an opportunity for a fireworks display over the lake. There was no need to tone the music down - it could be loud and fast right up until eight, after which I would slip out and join the crowd, free of any uniform, and enjoy the display like a paying guest.
was sad when the park closed for the winter, and fully intended to return the
next year if I was not doing other things by then. But when the call came the
following spring it was no longer quite so appealing. The Performing Rights
Society had noticed that the station was more than just background music, and
as far as they were concerned it was proper radio. The music licensing fees
were too high to sustain the station, so the presenters would be reduced to
mere button pushers, occasionally permitted to announce a show or the temporary
closure of a ride.
so I never did go back, but the further away I get from it the more I enjoy
looking back on the long hours spent locked away in a noisy room all by myself.
Thorpe Radio - the best radio station there never was.-- Nik Rawlinson
Hear The Lab, Thursdays 7 - 9pm, LBC 1152AM