From the Archive: TX magazine and pirate radio

Currently showing at the ICA, Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s (26th May – 19th July 2015) is a visual exploration of the tower block pirate radio movement that radically transformed British popular music culture and listening habits in the 1980’s. Shout Out! documents the emergent and progressive unlicensed broadcast scene through the considered usage of archival material and ephemera from the period. The timely adaptation and re-purposing of authentic content enables the audience to engross themselves in the excitement and creativity of the new wave of UK pirate radio.

Pirate radio is re-emerging as an artisitc interest due to a legacy of cultural activism during the politically turbulent years of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. At the time, the BBC and other licensed commercial stations were offering limited access for voices within marginalised communities and alternative forms of popular music. Often broadcasting with makeshift antennas from the roofs of residential tower blocks, pirate radio circumvented traditional restrictions on breaking innovative new sounds to potential audiences. The now practically institutionalised Kiss 94.5 FM was among other stations such as Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC), Alice’s Restaurant, Radio Invicta and London Weekend Radio (LWR) making a noise in the first wave of UK pirate radio stations. Whereas the previous incarnations of pirate radio tended to broadcast from offshore locations such as ships and rigs, this new generation defined itself by commandeering the rooftops of inner city tower block buildings for broadcast. With the now ubiquitous rallying cry of ‘lock down your aerial’, these stations were critical in allowing exposure for black and alternative music, blazing a trail for the explosion of rave, jungle, garage and house that followed shortly thereafter.

No cultural scene is complete without public spaces to distribute information and frame discussion. As music releases proper had the NME and Melody Maker to get word out about new independent releases, so pirate radio enthusiasts found imaginative ways in which to reach audiences. TX, a magazine dedicated to offering insider information on the pirate radio scene, was one such publication whose ascendancy and eventual prohibition very much mirrored that of the subject matter it reported upon. TX began life as the project of Stephen Hebditch, who became interested in the pirate radio scene after leaving university. TX‘s first run was as a free fanzine. Its popularity would steadily grow until Hebditch was able to get limited copies in some London based record shops and newsagents. TX ran for 18 issues before the time constraints of returning to university forced Hebditch to withdraw from print publication and move towards a telephone hotline format, where he and other enthusiasts were able to continue getting the most up to date insider information about pirate radio out to an eager public. Hebditch’s own website AM/FM chronicles the history of TX and offers an online version of its published output.

Here at Goldsmiths Library’s Special Collections and Archives, we are lucky enough to hold three physical print issues of TX. These are housed within the Terence Kelly collection. Terence Kelly was a broadcast specialist reporter for the UK Press Gazette – Britain’s trade magazine for journalists. He amassed a unique collection of cuttings, papers and reports during research and writing of his weekly articles. As someone covering the inside detail of the radio broadcast world, it is understandable why TX would be of interest to Kelly.

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Leafing through TX reveals a goldmine of insider information about running a pirate radio station. The layout was composed on Hebditch’s own Sinclair Spectrum with a rough and ready 8-bit aesthetic. The DIY feel of TX absorbs readers into an alternative version of 1980’s subculture as it reports breaking news and new trends in the pirate way radio community. All the issues held with Special Collections and Archives date from 1986 and vividly illustrate the fast paced lifestyle and sense of camaraderie that underpinned pirate radio at the time.

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TX offered listings of pirate radio broadcasts, useful for finding out when a young Tim Westwood would have been broadcasting on LWR.

As well as monthly briefs on individual stations activity, there is also plenty of logistical advice on how to best place a broadcasting UHF aerial and the cheapest and most mobile equipment to use in case of a police raid. Included in the August issue is an interview with an anonymous activist group in the process of a plot to jam the signal of Capital radio and other commercially licensed radio stations, intended as a dadaist inversion of the governments own attempts at the time to block broadcast signals. Amongst all this are a liberal amount of swipes at the DTI (Department of Trade & Industry), the government organisation aimed at bringing down pirate radio stations in what must have felt like a perennial game of cat and mouse to all parties involved.

As the guerrilla aesthetic of TX elicits, the history of pirate radio has been one of sourcing new modes of transmission met with swift responses of censure. The Telecommunications Act of 1984 allowed the Radio Investigation Service powers to enter properties without a license and detain equipment suspected of being used in illegal broadcasts. Ironically, this only served to inspire broadcasters to adapt and develop alternative strategies to outmaneuver the authorities. The glamorous peril of pirate radio and move towards more easily mobile equipment ended up adversely increasing the number of pirate radio stations and heralded a new wave of stations with over 600 stations nationwide by 1989, with 60 in the London area alone.Scan209

The implementation of the Broadcasting Act of 1990 sounded the death knell of the TX era of pirate radio by prohibiting advertising and offering the more popular stations the opportunity to obtain legal broadcasting licenses. The excitement of the period can be revisited through the Shout Out! exhibition and TX magazines held in Special Collections and Archives. The Kelly collection of which TX is a part of contains further official radio industry documentation and applications by some of the radio stations that would go on to become legitimate broadcasters, such as the now pervasive Kiss FM.

Stephen Hebditch recently published a personal account of UK pirate radio in the 1980’s London’s Pirate Pioneers: The illegal broadcasters who changed British radio (2015), and is highly recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn more about the subject.

To learn more and arrange possible viewings of the TX magazines and other items from the Kelly Collection, visit us in Goldsmiths Library, email us here, or alternatively call on +44(0)20 7717 2295.

Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s is currently on at the ICA in London till 19th July and tours to the Phoenix in Leicester, 23 July – 24 August 2015.

By Jack Mulvaney

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Rutherford Building (Library and IT&IS) Service Changes, 11-16 July 2015

The Library will be closed from Saturday 11 July until Tuesday 14 July inclusive (except for the IT&IS Help Desk and Media Equipment Centre which will be accessible only from the Education Court).

Electronic resources are not available during this time.

No access to the first floor for both IT and Library from Saturday 11 July to Monday 20 July.

Book collections will not be available during this period.

Why is this happening?

The IT network is being shut down from 11 – 16 July to allow for vital upgrade work to take place. While it is clear that there is never a good time to take the network down, the Senior Management Team has approved the works following extensive consultation with all stakeholders.

The project is being undertaken to provide Goldsmiths with a better, faster IT service, this includes the installation of new, greatly improved fibre-optic network cables which will result in better network speeds and reliability – as well as creating improved network links between buildings.

We are taking advantage of the closure period and some time afterwards to replace the well worn carpet on the first floor of the building, this necessitates removing all furniture and computers, taking all the books from the shelves, dismantling the shelves replacing the carpet and then putting everything back.

There will be no access to the first floor from 11 – 20 July in order to carry out these works.

How can I prepare ahead?

If you need to use books from the first floor reading room, remember to take them out in advance of Saturday 11 July. You may take additional books to your normal allocation from Monday 6 July.

Check out alternative library spaces and sources of material in advance of the closure period, see below.

Help and alternatives

From Tuesday 14 July do contact the library by phone on 020 7919 7150 or by email at library@gold.ac.uk .

to ask about alternative places to study within the campus. We will be available in person from Wednesday 15 July.

We will keep you up to date on Twitter @GoldsmithsLib

Using other Libraries

We will be able to advise you which other libraries you may use, and do look at ‘Using other libraries’ on the library web pages in advance which also give information on how to join the Sconul Access scheme.

Using Senate House Library

The online resources at Goldsmiths Library will not be available for some of the time, however all members of Goldsmiths can join Senate House Library which has extensive online resources. You will need to visit Senate House Library in advance of using online resources for the first time.

Please check the following websites for further updates on IT Systems

Staff: https://goldmine.gold.ac.uk/AdviceInformation/Pages/IT-shutdown-FQA.aspx

Students: http://www.gold.ac.uk/student/latest-news/itnetworkshutdown.php

Wednesday 8 July and Thursday 9 July

Library: Building open as usual 09.00 – midnight. Library Help Desk open 09.00 – 18.00

IT&IS: Help Desk & Media Equipment Centre open 09.00 – 17.00. May be some disruption in RB100 to install new cabling

Friday 10 July

Library: Building open as usual 09.00 – midnight. Library Help Desk open 09.00 – 18.00

IT&IS: Help Desk & Media Equipment Centre open 09.00 – 17.00. May be some disruption in RB100, RB102 and RB103

Saturday 11 July and Sunday 12 July

Library and IT&IS: BUILDING CLOSED. No library electronic resources available and IT Systems unavailable

Monday 13 July

Library: BUILDING CLOSED. Library services closed. No library electronic resources available

IT&IS: T&IS Help Desk and Media Equipment centre (open 09.00 – 17.00), accessible from the Education court entrance. IT Systems unavailable

Tuesday 14 July

Library: BUILDING CLOSED. Library staff can be contacted by phone – 0207 919 7150 or email library@gold.ac.uk. Access to library electronic resources may not be available

IT&IS: IT&IS Help Desk and Media Equipment centre (open 09.00 – 17.00), accessible from the Education court entrance. IT Systems may not be available.

Wednesday 15 July and Thursday 16 July

Library: Building open until midnight. First floor library reading room closed, books and journals (000-699) will not be accessible, this includes: School Practice section, Languages, Psychology, Education, Social Sciences, Science & Computing. Library Help Desk open 09.00 – 18.00. Some services may not be available.

IT&IS: IT&IS Help Desk & Media Equipment Centre open 09.00 – 17.00. First floor IT rooms 100, 102 and 103 will not be accessible. IT Systems may not be available

Friday 17 July

Library: Building open until midnight. First floor library reading room closed, books and journals (000-699) will not be accessible, this includes: School Practice section, Languages, Psychology, Education, Social Sciences, Science & Computing. Library Help Desk open 09.00 – 18.00.

IT&IS: IT&IS Help Desk & Media Equipment Centre open 09.00 – 17.00. First floor IT rooms 100, 102 and 103 will not be accessible. IT Systems may not be available

Saturday 18 July and Sunday 19 July 

Library: Building open until midnight. First floor library reading room closed, books and journals (000-699) will not be accessible, this includes: School Practice section, Languages, Psychology, Education, Social Sciences, Science & Computing. Library Help Desk open 09.00 – 18.00.

IT&IS: IT&IS Help Desk & Media Equipment Centre open 09.00 – 17.00. First floor IT rooms 100, 102 and 103 will not be accessible.