Chillin’ with Gilly: BBC Radio Lancashire presenter John Gillmore reflects on Preston broadcasting

Posted on - 22nd November, 2013 - 10:00am | Author - | Posted in - People

John Gillmore


John has been destined to be a Radio Broadcaster ever since he was 11 years old, he’s interviewed everyone from Michael Caine to the devoted listeners of his shows. This time, John is taken under the spot light and speaks about his favourite city.

So John, you’ve been a presenter for BBC Radio Lancashire since 2005, along with many places such as The Bay in Lancaster and Red Rose in Preston. What made you want to become a presenter? Where did it all start?

Well, going back a few years to 1967 whilst I was still in school, I heard my very first BBC local radio station, Radio Merseyside on the 2nd of November 1967.You could only get it at the time on a radio gram, I was off school and I was messing about with it and I came across Radio Merseyside and I thought to myself “wow this is great, this is only 8 miles from where I live, I’d love to be involved in radio”.

But at the time there were no media courses, nothing at school, we were not encouraged we were laughed at “hey pft, get a proper job” but I stuck at it, I wanted to desperately get into radio. Obviously, opportunities weren’t there; found myself a little part time job at the co-operative. In the 197os commercial radio came along so I started applying for jobs at radio city in Liverpool. Unfortunately, nothing came from there.

Yet I saw another way into it through voice over by doing ads for commercials. On my day off on a Thursday I would go from Piccadilly in Manchester, radio city in Liverpool and record commercials on my day off, I probably earned more on my day off than I did at the co-op!

You worked as a volunteer with your local hospital radio station at Whiston, did you learn much of your trade there?

Hospital radio came along at my local hospital in Whiston, were looking for presenters. “I thought brilliant, I could make demo tapes using professional equipment” and thought this was excellent. It was great because you had to home your people skills, apart from doing the show, the station manager kicked you out onto the wards to get requests and meet the patients. Great grounding hospital radio, many people have come from there, it is great experience.

Getting Busy in the Kitchen at The Cookery Theatre Company
What is the typical normal day for a broadcaster?

It’s a full time job, I get in at 9.30 and get away at 5.30, I do 12-4 Monday –Friday, and Saturday breakfast 6.30 – 9. The 12 until 1 hour is the hour of music and memories from years gone by, songs don’t normally play people request them, that’s put together by me and ,my great producer Gary Scott,. 1-4 is a lifestyle program lots of outside broadcasts, work with a great producer Carol Turner, we like the outside broadcasts; we like to get out and about.

Can you remember your first big live show? What happened?

It was an overnight program at the Red Rose; they didn’t have any one to do the 2am-6am show in the morning. It was June 17th 1985, they were really desperate and Derek Webster who I knew from there put my name forward to Mike Henfield who was the program controller, who gave me the shift, then a couple more, then a full time job in 87’. Doing the graveyard shift is a great grounding; 2-6 brings a different type of audience.

Do the nerves ever go away?

No I still get nervous coming up to 12 o’clock!  Once I’’ve read the weather and introduced the program I’m okay, it’s good to get nervous.

What’s the strangest event/topic you’ve had to cover?

We’ve done lots of events; it’s hard to answer as every day is a different day. Every day is your favourite program you know; you’re only as good as your last program. We did the guild last year that was important. We’ve done Blackpool illuminations; we’ve done the battle of the Atlantic in Liverpool, the Southport flower show, everywhere!

Being on the radio, you’ll of interviews many famous, interesting people, do any stick out?

In this job you do get to meet very famous people, but the best people for interviews are the ordinary interviews, they’re really interesting. But, I interviewed Tony Blair when he was prime minister; I interviewed Michael Parkinson, Sir Michael Cane, many, many people.

John Gillmore and Sir Michael Caine

Ever had any embarrassing accidents during a live show?

My most famous one was when I was reading the news for Red Rose and I couldn’t say the word ‘Plutonium’ I had 5 attempts to which the presenter with me said “let’s hope they don’t press the button again”  (referring to the nuclear crisis in the early 1980s.)

Outside from being a busy radio presenter, what are your interests?

It’s great job to do, it’s like being paid for your hobby. But I enjoy walking, reading, just an ordinary person!

You Presented in Preston for almost 13 years, what changes have you seen to the city during this time?

When commercial radio came out, the IBA Independent Broadcasting Authority) wanted their presenters to live in the region where they were presenting. So we moved from Prescott to Lea in 1980, I love Lancashire, I love the area, I love Preston, It’s a great place.

Did you ever visit Preston North End football club?

I did stuff on the pitch at North End, when my lad was at school he used to get vouchers to go watch Preston in the Pontins league, we saw David Beckham score a cracking goal, people in the crowd were saying “who’s this guy”, it’s a shame he didn’t last long at the club.

The infamous bus station has caused a lot of bother over the years over its condition and relevance, what do you make of it?

I quite like the bus station; I’m one of those who do enjoy it, especially for the free car parking at Christmas! *chuckles*

Have you ever thought it is too much? Ever felt like quitting?

Never, I’ve wanted to do this since I was 11 to do a job like this it’s not like work at all. Getting paid to do something you love doing, not many people can say that.
John Interviewing Mary Porter
Quick fire questions;

What’s your Favourite place to drink?

‘Tiggis’ (Italian Restaurant)

What reminds you of Preston?

The university, when I first lived here it was nothing compared to the size of what it was now, it’s good that it’s in the heart of the city.

 Do you ever miss working in Preston?

Preston is a big part of Radio Lancashire we do lots of stuff here, once a month we broadcast the program from the Harris museum. There’s enough stuff to keep the program going from 12-4. Preston also features with the BBC bus on the Tuesday of ‘Lancashire week’

You can catch Johns afternoon show on BBC Radio Lancashire from 12 o’clock Monday to Friday.

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