Thursday, August 07, 2014

Pirate Radio Caroline drops anchor at the River Blackwater

Radio Caroline (

An iconic pirate pop radio ship has dropped anchor in the River Blackwater for the first time since the mid-1990s, with plans to take over the airwaves.

Radio Caroline, the world's most famous pirate radio station, which is housed on the ship MV  Ross Revenge, has docked just off the shore of Bradwell after leaving its home of 10 years in Tilbury docks last Thursday (July 31).

The station altered the face of pop music by challenging the established radio format in the 1960s, 70s and 80s by playing 24 hours of pop music a day, and tracks  that other radio stations wouldn't.

Now the team is back on the Blackwater for the first time since 1993, and plan to use a temporary 28-day radio licence to give Maldon and the Dengie a taste of the famous station whilst they apply for an AM licence to operate  permanently.

Manager of the Ross Revenge Peter Moore, 67, who lives in Maldon and who has been involved with  Radio Caroline since 1976, said: "It's nice to be back at Bradwell on the Essex coast again.

"We've had a lot of support from the local community and we hope to get more involved.

"It was a hard old slog to get the boat here and we're glad to be back – we've had a great reaction so far from the local community."

The radio station, currently based on its third ship, has a cult following throughout Europe, after a turbulent history of international police raids, fires, shipwrecks and financial ruin, all of  which inspired the movie "The Boat That Rocked" starring Bill Nighy and Phillip Seymour  Hoffman.

At the height of its power the station had up to 20 million listeners from the UK and Europe and changed the face of radio as we know it by challenging the BBC's monopoly over the airwaves.

Peter told the Chronicle: "It's a totally different time now to when Radio Caroline was over the airwaves and to think of the risks that you took even getting on the ship and playing music is hard to believe.

"Legally you could find yourself in prison for two years for just playing music and the boat was hardly sea worthy.

"But it was a fantastic time to be involved with music. Radio Caroline is like an addiction now we all work here as volunteers and love it."

Self-confessed Radio Caroline geek Ray Clark even wrote a book on the subject entitled 'Radio Caroline: The True Story of the Boat That Rocked' about the history of the ship.

He said: "I used to listen to Radio Caroline when I was nine years old and I just loved it. It excited me.

"Before Radio Caroline I had a number of jobs but after going on the Ross Revenge in 1987 finally radio stations wanted to listen to me, it was so hard to get on any stations back then."

In fact the first time Ray boarded the Ross Revenge –  in 1987 –  he was picked up by a trio named  Cosmic, Captain Keith and  DJ  Kevin Turner and   taken to the ship via a ferry to Zeebrugge and  on to Dunkirk, taking 48 hours, to avoid detection by police.

On arrival he spent eight weeks on the ship and first played under the pseudonym Mick Williams – a real-life friend from Witham.

"It was all very cloak and dagger back then – but I learned more about radio in those eight weeks on board than most do in a lifetime," he added.

"I suppose it's hard to imagine now, but pop music wasn't around like it was after Caroline. After that, radio bosses took note and new stations followed."
The station relies on donations, running  on a laid-back philosophy which welcomes contributions but doesn't push them.

In recent years it has enjoyed a revival with the rise of internet radio described by Peter as a "miracle".

He said: "It's a marvellous invention and we know anyone can listen from anywhere in the world, and indeed our DJ's can if they want to."

To tune into  Radio Caroline go to

(Curt Phillips W4CP/Larry Van Horn N5FPW