Main content
This programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer

The Last Pirates: Britain's Rebel DJs

Rodney P presents the untold story of Britain's second wave of pirate DJs who played a cat and mouse game with the law to create a platform for black music in the 1980s.

In the 1980s a new generation of pirate radio stations exploded on to Britain's FM airwaves. Unlike their seafaring swinging 60s forerunners, these pirates broadcast from London's estates and tower blocks to create a platform for black music in an era when it was shut out by legal radio and ignored by the mainstream music industry.

In the ensuing game of cat and mouse which played out on the rooftops of inner-city London across a whole decade, these rebel DJs used legal loopholes and technical trickery to stay one step ahead of the DTI enforcers who were tasked with bringing them down. And as their popularity grew they spearheaded a cultural movement bringing Britain's first multicultural generation together under the banner of black music and club culture.

Presented by Rodney P, whose own career as a rapper would not have been possible without the lifeblood of pirate radio airplay, this film also presents an alternative history of Britain in the 1980s - a time of entrepreneurialism and social upheaval - with archive and music that celebrates a very different side of Thatcher's Britain.

Featuring interviews with DJs, station owners and DTI enforcers - as well as some of the engineers who were the secret weapon in the pirate arsenal - this is the untold story of how Britain's greatest generation of pirate radio broadcasters changed the soundtrack of modern Britain forever.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 31 Jul 2020 22:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:02

    David Joseph

    You Can't Hide (Your Love From Me)

  • 00:04


    Dancing In Outer Space

  • 00:04

    Paul Anka

    Make It Up To Me In Love (feat. Odia Coates)

  • 00:05


    You're Lying

  • 00:06


    Here's To You

  • 00:06



  • 00:07

    The Jones Girls

    Nights Over Egypt

  • 00:08

    David Ruffin

    Everything's Coming Up Love

  • 00:08

    Beggar & Co

    London Town (feat. The Funk Jazz Collective)

  • 00:10

    Roy Ayers

    Love Will Bring Us Back Together

  • 00:11

    Young & Company

    I Like (What You're Doing To Me)

  • 00:12



  • 00:13


    Soilder Takeover

  • 00:13


    Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)

  • 00:15

    New Order

    Blue Monday

  • 00:18

    Sound Dimension

    Real Rock

  • 00:19

    Wayne Smith

    Under Me Sleng Teng

  • 00:20

    Nitro Deluxe

    Let's Get Brutal

  • 00:22

    Brentford All Stars

    Greedy G

  • 00:22


    Jam On It

  • 00:24

    Loose Ends

    Hangin' On A String

  • 00:24

    Cheryl Lynn


  • 00:38

    Mr. Fingers

    Can You Feel It

  • 00:28

    Serious Intention

    You Don't Know (Special Remix)

  • 00:27


    Material Girl

  • 00:30

    Sister Sledge

    Thinking Of You

  • 00:31

    Maze featuring Frankie Beverly


  • 00:32

    Ladies of The 80'S

    Turned On To You

  • 00:35

    Public Enemy

    Public Enemy No 1

  • 00:42

    The Blackbyrds

    Rock Creek Park

  • 00:44

    Boogie Down Productions

    Criminal Minded (Album Version)

  • 00:45


    Just Call

  • 00:47

    Loose Ends

    Slow Down

  • 00:49

    Soul II Soul

    Keep on Movin' (feat. Caron Wheeler)

  • 00:51

    Inner City

    Good Life (Buena Vida)

  • 00:51

    Inner City

    Good Life

  • 00:52

    Eric B. & Rakim

    Paid In Full

  • 00:53

    Cocoa Tea

    Pirates Anthem (feat. Shabba Ranks)

  • 00:53

    Alison Limerick

    Where Love Lives

  • 00:54

    Windy City Orchestra

    Windy City Theme

  • 00:55


    Pump Up The Jam (feat. Felly)

  • 00:56


    Pump Up The Jam

  • 00:57

    The Family Stand

    Ghetto Heaven (Soul II Soul Remix)

  • 00:59

    Unlimited Touch

    I Hear Music In The Street


Role Contributor
Presenter Rodney P
Producer Vanessa Van-Yeboah
Director Jaimie D'Cruz
Assistant Producer Evie Buckley


Featured in...