Radio Kaleidoscope 1973-1976 phase two | read about phase one here


Kaleidoscope founder Colin King explains how it all started

In 1973, the offshore pirates had gone. Radio North Sea was back off the Dutch coast and not strong in London and Radio One had Jimmy Young as the main morning deejay. He was easily a generation older than us and was struggling with the 30% needletime restrictions that the government had laid down. Frankly it was slow, mostly talk, patronising to youngsters, and appallingly wooden in its presentation. The concept of fast modern 'Music Radio' was dismissed as vulgar and American and simply not wanted over here in Britain. I wanted prove that 'Music Radio' was the way forward that the general public wanted.

As I recall, Kaleidoscope (as we knew it) started at the Free Radio Association (FRA) rally in Trafalgar Square in August 1970. I was on the committee of the FRA (chairman Geoffrey Pearl and President was Sir Ian Mactaggart a leading libertarian) which was based at Rayleigh in Essex. I hosted that rally and, at the end, a chap called Maurice Ogden started a conversation with me that finished up in a pub not far away. I realised that, as well as being wildly eccentric, he was a brilliant radio engineer. I then discussed the meeting with my brother Robin and we agreed to work together to bring a station to the airwaves that reflected our views on 'Music Radio' programming.

Maurice was not easy to work with but test transmissions were made and some programmes broadcast with some hair raising stories. It was evident that we had to make our transmitters portable and Maurice had been brilliant in reducing the weight of the modulation transformers required and had been able to create, not a portable but 'luggable' transmitter.

We needed some programmes, especially for a Boxing Day transmission. This was most likely in 1972. I knew nothing about programming techniques so I left that to Robin. He then suggested that we use the name Kaleidoscope because we had the Kaleidoscope record. Robin (who by now was living in Holland) was a great friend of Tom Mulder at the time, (of Radio Veronica and now Programme Director of Radio 10 Gold in Holland). They recorded some jingles together. The voice on the jingles was Nelly Verschuur, Robin's first wife. Remember, jingles came from America and to buy a set was out of the question. Bearing in mind the facilities available, I think they did quite well.

At this point, I heard of a small group of like minded people, led by Dave Cliff, who were disillusioned with Radio Jackie but who had all the 'Hit and Run' skills that we lacked. So meeting was arranged in the front room of Dave Cliff's parents' house in Wimbledon. Present were Dave Cliff, Dave Owen, Pat Edison, Maurice Ogden and myself. I left the meeting with a feeling of elation. All the pieces had come together. I now had an engineer, an excellent studio as well as some very talented deejays - many of whom went on to successful careers in radio. I was no longer dependent upon my brother in Holland to mail the programmes to me each week. I had no ambitions to present on air but was happy to organise and watch the project flourish, which it did.

The programmes were recorded in the studio which was in Pat Edison’s house. It was from here that some of the most modern and progressive programmes ever heard in Britain, at the time, were produced.

Radio Kaleidoscope proved the point, was mercilessly copied by the legitimate stations although it took many years before the restrictions were relaxed. The beauty of Radio Kaleidoscope as a protest, was that THE MEDIUM WAS THE MESSAGE. A purer form of protest would be hard to imagine and rank alongside the underground broadsheets that revolutionised political thinking throughout the previous couple of centuries.

From Jackie to Kaleidoscope – Pat Edison's personal view

In the beginning there was Radio Jackie. Between 1969 and 1973 Jackie was the undisputed champion of the Sunday pirates in South West London, being both regular, having a good signal and better than average programmes. But there were rumblings in the Jackie camp in early 1973 and some people decided to leave and set up a rival station. The reason for this is not important now, like all groups of people who work together there are bound to be differences of opinion and clashes of personality, especially in a 'voluntary' situation where no one was being paid to take the hassle.

The scene shifts to South Essex where a station called Radio Kaleidoscope had broadcast between 1970 (later we learned it was 1967) and 1972, but had closed due to staff shortages. Now the man behind that Kaleidoscope, Colin King, contacted the Jackie leavers to arrange a meeting to see if the two groups could join forces. This would be good for both parties as Kaleidoscope had an established identity including a set of custom jingles made at the studios of Radio Veronica in Holland, but no presenters, and the ex-Jackie group were mainly presenters looking for a radio station. The two groups met at Wimbledon, South West London in February of 1973 and decided to become one!

The new station would be called Radio Kaleidoscope, but would now broadcast mainly to South London with the option to move about to other parts of London and even Essex as the need arose. Colin King also had a access to a transmitter and our first collaberation was a test transmission from a site near Guildford. This, whilst not being a complete disaster, was not heard as well as the ex-Jackie people would like, but things could only get better and it was felt important to get back on air and sort out technicalities later.

Radio Jackie's programmes had been unstructured, there was no binding programme policy, and were very much left to the individual. Kaleidoscope was to be different. It may seem odd that people involved in what was called at the time "Free Radio" would want to place restrictions on freedom within programmes. The BBC had such a structure but the BBC was seen, if not as 'the enemy' certainly as authority playing at youth culture, and as such not to be used as a role model. Instead Kaleidoscope looked both across the Atlantic for our inspiration and nearer to home to the best of the offshore pirates the late lamented Radio London.

Colin King was very fond of 'Big L', as Radio London was affectionately known, and wanted to model Kaleidoscope on it. So much so that we were to transmit on the old Radio London frequency of 1133KHz and (along with just about every other landbased pirate) use part of their jingle set to base our jingles on. This wasn't seen as plagiarism but of homage!

Kaleidoscope's programmes were to be tight and bright and as 'professional' as we could make them sound. In addition to the jingle set already mentioned, the theme "Kaleidoscope" by the group "Kaleidoscope" was an inspired addition to our identity. The fact that no one knew what an earth it was about was neither here nor there – it sounded great and fitted like a glove!

We were off – the station started in ernest with a presentation team of Dave Owen and Pat Edison both ex-Radio Jackie, Tony Rocket and Colin Kings's brother Robin as 'Uncle' Phil Hazleton. The team was soon expanded to include ex-Jackie man Dickie Allen (who only stayed a short while) and Denny Tewson.

The first real Sunday broadcast was on 3rd March 1973 with the shows recorded at the home of presenter Pat Edison. The studio had been put together to record programmes for Radio Jackie's VHF service. Now it was put to use to rival them!

Over the next three years we had our peaks, and our troughs. Some great transmissions and some that were only heard by the site crew! But soldier on we did and by 1974 we were producing five hours a week of original programming as this General Information sheet proudly shouted.

| Home | Beginnings | Music | People | Listeners | Equipment |
| Pictures | Sounds | The End | Truth and Lies| Pirate Links |