The BBC today announced plans for an unprecedented global simulcast across its radio networks – including every UK station (local, network and national) and many World Service outlets – curated by Damon Albarn to mark 90 years of radio.
The simultaneous broadcast, called Radio Reunited, will take place on November 14 at 17:33 GMT – 90 years since the first broadcast from the British Broadcasting Company in 1922 - to a potential global audience of 120 million people across every inhabited continent.
The three-minute transmission will be based on recorded messages from listeners around the world on the theme of the future. Each of an estimated 60 BBC radio stations will choose one message and many of them will then be mixed together and set to a musical score specially composed by the Blur frontman.
It will form the centrepiece of the on-air celebrations to mark 90 years of BBC Radio, which will also feature a wide range of special programming across BBC stations, full details of which will be announced nearer the time.
The process of gathering the messages begins this week, when listeners will be invited to contribute a single, short missive to their radio station addressed to future generations to be listened to 90 years from now. The message could be a hope, a fear, an observation, question or piece of advice, and could be tweeted, texted or e-mailed. Listeners whose messages are chosen will be invited by their chosen station to record their thought. One message from each of the stations involved (listed below) will be sent to Damon, who will use the recordings as the basis of the simulcast.
All the messages received by the BBC will be passed on to the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex to ensure they are preserved for another 90 years and can be made available for academic research.
Listeners can find out more about the project and how to get involved at bbc.co.uk/reunited. The website will also showcase the best of the messages contributed by members of the public once the project is completed. Listeners will be encouraged to use the hash tag #bbc90 if tweeting their message.
Tim Davie, Director BBC Audio & Music, said: “This ambitious project will bring all of the BBC’s UK stations together for the first time in their history to mark 90 years of radio broadcasting. It is great news that Damon has agreed to curate Radio Reunited and join us in looking forward to the next 90 years of radio.”
Damon Albarn said: “I love the idea of stations across Britain and the World Service coming together, with all of our different lives and circumstances, even if it's only for a few minutes. It's a powerful idea.”
Radio Reunited is one of the key broadcasts to mark the anniversary. Two of the other major programming projects launched today to celebrate 90 years of BBC radio are:
- The Listeners’ Archive – on October 11 the BBC begins a major initiative to recover the lost gems of the broadcasting archive by calling an ‘amnesty’ on recorded media. Listeners are asked to scour their lofts, garages and cupboards for tapes, cassettes and other recordings of BBC radio programmes from 1936 to 2000, and hand them in at BBC Centres around the UK on ‘Amnesty Day’. BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5live, BBC Local Radio in England and the BBC Nations are all involved. Central to the project will be a series of shows on Radio 2 and 6 Music around the 90th anniversary, where clips of the recovered content – and possibly whole programmes - will be played, and introduced by the person who originally recorded them.
- 90 x 90 (from November 14) – a series of 90-second miniatures that celebrate, calibrate and curate the diversity of radio in its widest form. Serious, funny, evocative, personal, provocative - each episode represents one year of the 90. They will be broadcast across BBC Radio 4 Extra starting after Radio Reunited and continue for the next 11 days. They will also feature across other BBC radio networks over the same period.
The BBC stations taking part in Radio Reunited are:
BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1xtra, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6music, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio 5live, BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Oxford, BBC Sussex, BBC Surrey, BBC Radio Solent, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Essex, BBC Three Counties Radio, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Newcastle, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Cumbria, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Stoke, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, BBC Radio Derby, BBC Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio Leicester, BBC Lincolnshire, BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC WM, BBC Wiltshire, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Cornwall, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Guernsey, BBC Radio Jersey, BBC Somerset, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle, BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and many BBC World Service outlets, including Arabic, Swahili, Hausa, English Language services.
Notes to Editors
The first transmission from what was then the British Broadcasting Company was on 14 November 1922, following the creation of the Company on 18 October of the same year. The broadcast came from the transmitter 2LO, located at Marconi House in London, and was launched with the now famous words ‘This is 2LO calling…’. And so the BBC hit the airwaves.
As part of the wider anniversary celebrations, the BBC will be partnering with the Science Museum (which now houses the 2LO, one of the gems of its collection) and the National Media Museum in Bradford to explore the impact of BBC innovation over time.
The in-depth history of the BBC, past, present and future, will also be covered on BBC History website.
Further information on 90x90 on BBC Radio 4 Extra:
The 90 x 90 second miniatures each represent one year of broadcasting - a “hooray for radio” in 90 very different ways.
They will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra for 11 days following the Radio Reunited moment (up to and including 25 November) and will also be available on the BBC Radio 4 Extra website. Other networks will play a variety of the miniatures best suited to their audiences.
BBC Radio 4 Extra hosts this ambitious project because its purpose is to celebrate the best of the speech radio archive. BBC Radio’s history is the heartbeat of the station.
The miniatures are intended to capture the unique scale, creativity and diversity of radio. We want people to reflect on the 90 years but also on what can be achieved in 90 seconds – a story, a memory, a point of view, an experience, an artwork. These are small ideas but executed on a grand scale.
Some examples of these 90-second miniatures in production:
1926: Radio’s first spoof news broadcast – audiences widely believed there was a murderous riot in Trafalgar Square thanks to a mischievous show presented by a priest.
1935: A teenage broadcaster threatened with the sack for sounding cockney on his late night “jazz” programme.
1940: Arthur Smith breaks into Arthur Askey’s flat in a secret location in Broadcasting House in a memory of Bandwagon, a pioneering comedy show.
1957: Samuel Beckett influences what will become the Radiophonic Workshop.
1978: The never before heard radio debut of 13-year-old Jeremy Vine on his own homemade station.
1985: A Radio 3 presenter has to fill for thirty minutes because a piano is in the wrong place.
2011: Sports broadcasters weep at the death of Gary Speed.
90 x 90 are made by Testbed Productions
BBC Radio Publicity
I love the idea of stations across Britain and the World Service coming together, with all of our different lives and circumstances, even if it's only for a few minutes. It's a powerful idea.”