Merseyside folk host Geoff Speed retires

Geoff Speed Geoff Speed has featured on Radio Merseyside since its launch

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A Radio Merseyside presenter who once provided American singer Paul Simon with a place to stay has retired after 48 years.

Geoff Speed has been on the station since its launch on 22 November 1967, and has shared presenting duties with Stan Ambrose on Folkscene, described as radio's longest-running folk programme.

"Merseyside was very, very busy in folk music in those days," Geoff tells Ariel. "It still is, but not as much as it used to be - but we've got lots of younger players coming in now, which is excellent."

Born into a musical family, he and a school friend decided to open a folk club in their Cheshire hometown of Widnes. They expected an audience of 40 but instead 200 turned up.

Geoff even booked a young Paul Simon for a £12 fee during his tour of northern England in 1963. The singer stayed at his home for a few days, and also wrote the song Homeward Bound around this time, reportedly at Widnes station.

Geoff also balanced his folk music duties with a day job in electrical installation, working in hospitals and schools. But his favourite moments include meeting folk singer-songwriters like Tom Paxton and the late Pete Seeger.

"The highlights have been the marvellous people who inhabit the folk scene. I've never known anyone to be nasty or anything of that nature - it's not quite like the pop world, you know.

"The people at Radio Merseyside have also been very kind because, 12 years ago, I acquired multiple sclerosis so getting in and out of doors in my wheelchair wasn't all that easy, but they've been wonderful."

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