Skyport Radio was one of the land-based Short Wave pirate stations which appeared as a result of the closure of the offshore pirates, and began transmissions in 1971. A few readers have asked where the name came from; other than the obvious proximity of the station to Heathrow Airport (the planes could often be heard in the background of programmes). The name was actually chosen from an old 1966 Post Office Telephone Directory, in those days numbers in the London area were the first 3 letters of the area name followed by 4 digits. The dialling code for Heathrow Airport was SKYport, or 759. The station pioneered many dedicated show music formats (in Europe) including Hindi Film Music (Mark King), Punk (Mark King and Terry Anderson) and Heavy Metal (Rob Holland). Other formats included Electronic music, New-Wave, Dancehall, and Progressive Rock
Mark King writes "From 1973-75 I was studying for my City & Guilds in Radio and TV Electronics at Isleworth Polytechnic College, my classmates were almost all overseas students from India and Pakistan, they introduced me to Hindi Film Music, we went to the cinema in Southall to watch films such as "Bobby" and "Roti Kapada aur Makaan". They lent me the vinyl soundtracks which I taped and used in the radio show. I also had some help with the pronunciations and learnt a little of the language which I used in some of the shows although my pronunciation was not very good. I think we did the first Hindi Film music show in Great Britain; a little later in 1976, BBC Radio London started a weekly one hour slot on 206m MW hosted by Vernon Corea called "London Sounds Eastern". I also featured Chinese music in some programmes, this was provided by my friends on Radio Peking who sent cassette tapes of the latest sounds, these were songs influenced by the Cultural Revolution rather than the traditional style."
Skyport finally closed down in 1982 after first merging with Radio Corsair as the Skyport Corsair Network, and after a last transmission as Workers Radio on May 1st 1982, Workers Radio originally broadcast a one off on April 30th 1978 on 41m, 7395kHz, the final transmission was on 7405kHz to commemorate the frequency first used in 1971, there were irregular transmissions made as Skyport Radio until the end of 1982. Meanwhile the station Uptown Radio carried on the successful Skyport format but on VHF in the London area. Based on the number of letters received at 134 Eastworth Road, Skyport Radio (and Radio Corsair) had a few thousand listeners, the majority in Great Britain, West Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic "East Germany". Other countries listeners were mainly Scandinavian and The Netherlands, with the occasional report from France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. The map on the wall of the station's office showed the estimated reception area, which was corrected when we received rare reports from Egypt and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Our audience figures were probably helped by a mention on Radio Österreich International's DX Programme, where they featured a "blooper" episode where Mark King was not sure of the stations broadcast frequency, this was actually because the frequency had to be moved due to interference the previous week, he knew the frequency would be either 6260kHz or 6243kHz when the show was taped, so he announced "6260 or 6243 not too sure at the moment" this was to maintain the illusion of a "live" transmission, but it gave the Austrian DX show hosts a good laugh.
More on both stations including some recordings can be found on the Radio Eric site. There are also some ID clips and information on the Pirate Memories site.
The Bob Earl Show 1977 Part 1 and Part 2 together with Uptown Radio Rob Lynsay and Terry Anderson, Uptown Radio 1981 featuring Terry Anderson, Bob Earl & Rob Lynsay are also available on this site as a backup courtesy of Radio Eric.
It is not widely known that outside the transmission hours of Skyport Radio the transmitters were used to broadcast taped programmes from Radio Rastafari International (Nederland), and Kraut Rock Radio from West Germany.
The operators of Skyport Radio (Mark King) and Radio Corsair (Roger Stevens) were both members and supporters of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Regular adverts for the party newspaper the Morning Star and various rallies were heard on their programmes, and Communist Party leaflets were sent out to listeners. If any listener remained in doubt over their allegiances, they ended transmissions with Communist anthems "The Internationale" or "The East Is Red". It should be added that the other DJ's did not share the political views of the station operators and no attempts were made to suppress their narratives (e.g. Rob Holland's plugs for the Conservative Party).
Skyport Radio countered Radio Enoch's far-right broadcasts with CPGB support, but was never officially attached to the party. The operators of Skyport Radio were party members but later Mark King fell out with them over their Labour Party support in the British Road To Socialism Manifesto. The station operator was suspected of entryism Maoist, a CPGB official (the late David Howell 1943-2014, a really nice guy) noted the large Chinese Communist Party posters on the office walls of the station. Mark King writes: "I would say we were more broad in our support for many groups on the Left, associate members of the ANC in South Africa, supporter of some of the policies of Radio Moscow, Tirana, Havana and Peking. I was influenced by the excellent broadcaster Vladimir Pozner of Radio Moscow, and the female (probably June Taylor) announcer on Radio Tirana".
Skyport Radio was never raided by the GPO over 12 years of operation (8 of which were from a single site), as the GPO were closely related to GCHQ/MI5 (they shared some monitoring sites e.g. Baldock) we can surmise that this was either because they liked opening our listeners letters from the GDR, or they had indeed been infiltrated by communist sympathisers which was the narrative at the time, or maybe they just didn't bother with Short Wave stations. Another factor may have been the relatively weak signal on 48m, this changed when 41m was used with a much higher power.
There is a article written in October 2019 about how Skyport Radio has been used as part of an art exhibit, this can be found at the site of the artist Magz Hall, it is 40 years since Skyport Radio moved it's transmitter site from the Heathrow Airport area to the next site at Southall.
As we have made a few live broadcasts recently from Prague, it is our 50th Anniversary in 2021, of course it has not been continuous, so we can hardly claim it, nevertheless for those historians who are interested in such things, the first transmissions in 1971 were around the 25th and 26th of December, as my mother had purchased my first transmitter for me as a Christmas present. DJ Mark King and DJ Winkel in Medellín 2022. Our recent transmissions have also been broadcast on 106.5MHz to the North West of England courtesy of our colleagues at TenSixtyFive Overdrive, and we streamed live for our 50th Anniversary on 25th December 2021.
We are using other platforms for our programmes now, and you can follow the DJ's or the station, just use the links on the Music Platforms page, and follow the blog and Mastodon for updates, our limited output no longer justifies a dedicated stream or FM frequency.
Rigs: 38 Set AFV, 19 Set AFV, 15W (807 PA, 6L6 Mod), 120W (TT21 PA, 2x 6L6 4x KT88 Mod.), KW Vanguard (6146 PA 2x 6L6 Mod.), Pye SSB 130 (2x 6883B PA, solid state Mod.)
Antenna EFHW Zepp with no vertical element (to reduce ground wave radiation) L-Match tuner
Staff: 1971 to 1982: Terry Anderson, Bob Earl, Rob Holland, Mark King, Paul Richards, Roger Stevens 2021: DJ Winkel, Lord Dialup and Mark King
Locations: Feltham (1971-1979), Southall (1979-1982), Hillingdon (1982) London (2021-22) Prague (2021) Medellín (2022) Falmouth (2021-22) & North West England
First broadcast: 25th December 1971 7405kHz 10W WS No19 Set 1900-2200 GMT
Last broadcast : 10th October 1982 7385kHz 50W KW Vanguard 1000-1300 GMT
Anniversary broadcast: 25th December 2021 106.5MHz 30W (North West England) 2000-2300 GMT
The owner of the station and the driving force behind it was Nick Catford (DJ Mike Knight). Also well known on site (and to the DTI) was Brian Horne aka Abie Cohen, he was the most inventive when in court and regularly reduced the magistrate to tears of laughter with his unlikely reasons for being in close proximity to an illegal transmitter. On one occasion he explained that he was in the vicinity of Beddington sewerage works to collect daphnia for his OAP neighbours goldfish, the neighbour was duly called as a witness (Brian paid him £10 outside the court). When asked why he had a VSWR meter on the dashboard of his car, he said that it was to tune the engine. Brian was also responsible for setting up the London Transmitter of Independent Radio (LTIR), this broadcast a different station every night of the week on VHF. FM broadcasting was somewhat new to pirates, previously only using AM. Brian became a respectable radio amateur G4NLB, sadly Brian died in 2017. Mike Knight now works on the revived Radio Jackie on 107.8MHz for the Kingston area, the format these days better reflects the original station and makes a refreshing change from most of the local commercial stations in the UK. Radio Jackie celebrated their 50th Birthday on March 19th 2019.
Key DTI personnel at this time were Jim Crow, Victor Frisby, Eric Gotts, Brian Holder, Brian Williams and Stanley Smith. Jim was known for his leniency in dealing with pirates, and turned a blind eye on many occasions. When he raided the station Swinging Radio England in Shepperton he ignored the glowing valves of the medium wave transmitter and concentrated on a defunct ex-army No.19 Set which he agreed could not transmit. Gotts and Holder in particular were fond of their work and took almost sadistic pleasure in prosecuting pirates. They were so dedicated that they even tracked down pirates on Christmas Day, which was an unofficial amnesty day for pirates in London.
Another key person on site was engineer Mike Barrington, in addition to running his own station Radio Free Atlantis, he was a DJ on Radio England 254. Mike was the first person to successfully prosecute the DTI (namely Eric Gotts) for assault. He went on to work for several years as a radio engineer and one time DJ for the offshore Radio Caroline, a DJ on Radio Sovereign and is currently (2020) the Head of Homeland Security on Roughs Tower. Roughs is unique among offshore ex-military forts, in that it lays outside of British territorial waters and is technically an independent island, known as the Principality of Sealand
The Flag of the Principality of Sealand
Radio Concord and Dynamite 235 were my introduction to the frontline of the battle for free radio in around 1974. I spent months corresponding by letter with Philip Day, eventually we met and Radio Concord used my location in Feltham for one of their broadcasts. Unfortunately it was short lived that day as the rig caught fire!
After that I met up with the Concord crew on various sites, squats in West London, Scratch Woods, and a reservoir not far from Phil Day's place in Hendon, then I made a weekly trek to Westbourne Park station on Friday evenings to meet up for the night time Dynamite 235 transmissions. Keith York (Hunter) and his pal (Keith Russell ) took me under their wing and introduced me to the many characters who lived in the Notting Hill, Elgin Avenue squats. Looking back they probably thought I was a pain in the arse, but I tagged along anyway and learned the ropes. We smoked a lot of hash, occasionally took LSD, and the Keiths used to take these little white pills which kept them chatty all night. Years later I found out they were speedy slimming pills known as "tombstones", Tenuate Dospan (diethylpropion hydrochloride), selling at for 3-4 for a quid. Keith York worked for GPO telephones in London and was terrified of being caught by the GPO radio investigation department as he would lose his job. He would ring me at work to chat during the week and route our calls via many international exchanges so there was always a delay in our conversations, as he said, it must have cost the GPO a fortune. This photo shows me and Keith at an FRC meeting (courtesy of Arnold's website), Keith is on the left, and I have the mauve shirt, Dave Grainger (Ed Hatvany) is in the foreground , Nik Oakleigh to my left and probably Nicola Oatley in front. Keith York went on to work for the Voice of Peace, the Irish pirate stations and then moved to Murcia, Spain. We corresponded for the last time in 2009, Keith was very ill at the time and sadly died in 2010. Phil Day (Philip Bendall) ran a few other stations, Radio Personality is one I remember. He moved to New Zealand, became a TV chef, we last corresponded in 2020.
I remember one particular Radio Concord transmission where three sites had been prepared in advance, the first was a house in Elgin Avenue where there was only power for the rig, but no lights. The rig was enormous, built on a milk crate, it had 813's in the pa, and another huge tray held the power supply and capacitors. We sat in the bay window looking out on the street (where the aerial was strung the whole length of the road), suddenly there was Eric Gotts (GPO) in the front garden peering in. He could not see us in the dark, one of the Concord helpers (a French army deserter) ran down to the basement unplugged the rig and PSU, ran with it and climbed over the back garden fence. How he managed this I'll never know, must have been the army training.
Anyway Gotts started to look bemused, the signal bearing had suddenly changed, when our site went off air, the next one had turned on. He eventually wandered off and we drove to the next site which was now on air, if I recall correctly this was located at Hornsey Rise in Goldie House, a squatted block of flats. These flats had open balconies connecting the front doors, and while we were there a woman decided to throw over a washing machine (or fridge I can't remember) at her bloke who was legging it away at ground level. Certainly an eventful night which culminated in Arnold (driving his red open top MG sports car) being hailed down by the police at about 5am, they were parked facing the wrong way and Arnold just put his toe down and we escaped back to our HQ in Quex Road Kilburn.
Arnold Levine has written a book on the activities of Radio Concord, visit his site for more details
DJ's, Rhoda Orange, Philip Day, Joe Lung, Anne Nightingale Force 5 ( Rose Lewis), Robbie Ryan, Matt Black, Len Deevish (Keith York), Don Stevens, Jeff King, Tommy Arnold. For more about Radio Concord read the new book by Arnold Levine
Swinging Radio England 254m (1974-77)
Originally started by Roger Stevens, Rob Holland, Bob Earl and Tony Jackson the former staff of Chertsey based Offshore Magazine, it replaced their first venture Sunkhead Radio around 1974. The original transmissions came from Rogers house in Shepperton until it was raided by Jim Crow.
After the Offshore Magazine staff met up with Mark King the station expanded to include Dave Grainger, Allen Reeve, Mike Barrington, Peter Shaw, Kid Grant , Bobby Constable, Paul Richards, and probably a few more I've forgotten. The station initially broadcast on Sundays from 10am-2pm on 254m, and then 239m before moving to all night Friday transmissions from Midnight-0800 on 227m, the programme schedule was:0000-0200 Bobby Constable, 0200-0400 Jerry King, 0400-0600 Kid Grant, 0600-0800 Pete Shaw. After the station ceased transmissions in 1977 Dave Grainger went on to start Radio Celebration and Allen Reeve started Radio 239, (later Radio City 238). There was a lot of in-fighting, and intrigue at SRE which if anyone involved is reading this, rest assured I will never publish.
Apart from the early raid by Jim Crow on the Shepperton site, we were pretty unlucky with our other sites and none due to the GPO. At Crane Park we were reported to the police by a member of the public who thought we were the IRA wiring up a bomb, the first we saw was a panda car bumping over the grass towards the transmitter and aerial which was up a tree. We persuaded the police that we were radio amateurs, we were almost sussed when the officer tried to push play on the cassette recorder used for the programmes, the tape was still in it, he was a bit clumsy however and pushed the battery cover off, the batteries fell out and we were off the hook, he couldn't be bothered to put them back. They stood and watched us load the transmitter and car battery back in our car and drove off.
At the farm in Chertsey we were shot at (above our heads) by the owner, he accused us of stealing electricity from one of the outbuildings, we admitted to trying, but finding the power off we were using batteries. He accepted this as he had attended the previous week when the electricity board had removed the main fuse, little did he know we had already jumpered it back on. We packed up and left in a hurry.
At Feltham disused marshalling yard we were tracked down (DF) by some belligerent radio amateurs from the Echelford Club, they were pretty miffed when they found out our rig had been built by one of their members. Finally the derelict Harefield Place used for the Friday all night transmissions was pretty scary, it had been used as a Tuberculosis isolation hospital, and a film set for Hammer Horror films, who were located at nearby Denham studios. We rigged the meter to get a mains supply and there were loud bangs as the antiquated wiring started to explode under the floor, we transmitted there for several weeks with no visits from the GPO, it was mid winter and despite the cold everyone sat outside in the grounds too frightened to go in except to change the tapes and that after a large dose of Vodka.
10W MW VFO 5763 PA
807, EF86, 6L6, ECC83. hybrid solid state PSU
Solid State converted 160m RSGB design 10W Xtal controlled
Harefield Place (derelict at the time)
Farm House Chertsey
Crane Park Hanworth
Feltham disused railway marshalling yard
Comments or corrections, just contact me and I will get back to you. To chat about Pirate/Free Radio visit the Free Radio Forum . To read more about Pirate Radio in London see London's Pirate Pioneers by Stephen Hebditch. For news and information about current pirate radio activity go to Radio Necks To reminisce about the 70's and 80's there are podcasts from Mark Wakely at Pirates of the Airwaves, and Mark's Facebook group Land Based Pirate Radio of the 70’s & 80’s. The RSS feed for the Skyport Radio Blog with all the latest updates is here
For playlists see Skyport Radio on YouTubeMusic. After leaving the pirate radio scene, I moved on to the clubbing and rave scene, starting with Delirium at the Astoria in the mid-eighties, and then various others here. Read the excellent interview with Noel Watson about the history of House music in London.
Last updated January 2023
Baron Mark of Sealand