Lord of the radio

Much has been said in praise of Dickie Attenborough, who so sadly died recently. The breadth of his activities, however, might not be so well known given how wide his net was cast.

Lord Attenborough, an icon of theatre and film, was also the founding chairman of the UK’s second “legitimate” commercial radio station,Capital Radio, which launched in London in the teeth of an economic blizzard, the miners’ strike and three-day week during the unhappy days of Edwards Heath’s government in 1973.

A measure of the man was that, the evening before the launch party, Lord Attenborough could be seen on his hands and knees in the corridors laying carpet tiles and later that day while the glitterati feasted and drank Champagne in the foyer, he took the time to come up to the newsroom where I was young duty editor and handed around a plate of sandwiches and orange juice.

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Later, when the station hit a cashflow crisis and the bank refused any further credit, Capital faced an end to its short childhood. Nothing daunted, Lord Attenborough jumped into his car, rushed home and took a painting off his wall, returned and slapped it down on the surprised manager’s desk. “Will that suffice as collateral?” he said. “That will do nicely,” said the manager, and Capital survives to this day at the centre of a vast radio empire.

By the by, rumour has it that the painting was a Picasso!


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