BBC Radio Leeds celebrates 50th birthday with return to Merrion Centre

BBC Radio Leeds celebrating 50th birthday with presenters broadcasting from the Merrion Centre
BBC Radio Leeds celebrating 50th birthday with presenters broadcasting from the Merrion Centre

BBC Radio Leeds is celebrating it 50th birthday with a return to its roots - it will broadcast live all week from its original home at the Merrion Centre.

Special programming will also mark half a century since Liz Ambler was the first voice on the station when it all began on June 24,1968, at 5.30pm,

The current studios are in St Peter’s Square.

But every day this week - Monday to Sunday, June 25 to July 1 - it will broadcast over 25 shows from a glass pop-up studio on the main mall of the shopping centre in Leeds city centre, 6am to 7pm weekdays; 6am to noon at the weekend.

And listeners are being invited along to watch how the station works 50-years on.

Breakfast show host Richard Stead will launch the weekday programming (6am to 9am).

Other shows coming live from The Merrion Centre are The Stephanie Hirst Show (9m to noon), The Big Yorkshire Phone-In with Liz Green (noon to 3pm), The Teatime Show with Gayle Lofthouse (3pm to 6pm) and West Yorkshire Sport Daily (6pm to 7pm).

Andrew Edwards’ Weekend Breakfast Show will be there on Saturday (6am to 9am) along with Nick Ahad (9am to noon) and, on Sunday July 1, the week of broadcasts from the Merrion Centre will conclude with Gardening with Tim Crowther (9am to noon).

There will be photo opportunities with some of the presenters broadcasting live from the pop-up studio and guests from across the region will be featured on the shows throughout the week.

VIDEO: Watch Graham Walker's Facebook Live stream chat with Stephanie Hirst, Liz Green and producer Julie Langford as we look back over 50 years and at nostalgic footage from that big day back in 1968. - CLICK HERE or watch of YouTube - CLICK HERE.

RETRO VIDEO: Radio Leeds opening night - 24th June 1968, a package broadcast on BBC 1's 24 Hours current affairs show on the same night to coincide with the opening of BBC Radio Leeds, was uploaded to YouTuber by SandPicProductions - CLICK HERE.

LISTEN: BBC Radio Leeds at 50, a special documentary about the past five decades, was broadcast on Sunday, exactly 50 years since the station went on air. Hear it now on demand, on the BBC iPlayer Radio - CLICK HERE.

Using archive material, the programme features extracts of the first day of broadcasting in 1968 before working its way through the decades to relay the sound of the radio station as it grew and matured into what it is today.

Extracts of old programmes have been gathered following a six month search for old recordings of the radio station made by former members of staff and even listeners who have sent-in their old reels of quarter-inch tape and cassettes.

BBC Radio Leeds original home in 1968 - now the site of the Merrion shopping centre

BBC Radio Leeds original home in 1968 - now the site of the Merrion shopping centre

The material gathered goes as far back as 1968 and paints a picture of how BBC local radio has evolved over the past 50 years.

The Durbevilles folk show on Sunday evening featured a song the late Jake Thackray wrote to promote BBC Radio Leeds on that opening night. Fake Thackray, Jake Thackray’s estate approved impersonator and biographer John Watterson, has written a modern version of the opening song which was also aired. Listen back to that show on the iPlayer Radio - CLICK HERE.

According to the latest RAJAR audience figures, the station mow reaches more than 193,000 people every week.

Sanjiv Buttoo,Managing Editor for BBC Radio Leeds, said: “Radio Leeds has enjoyed 50 wonderful and varied years of broadcasting to West Yorkshire. Our listeners are constantly changing and the station tries to reflect everyone in the content we produce, providing essential information, connecting communities and entertaining them with great music, engaging guests all held together by a talented mix of professional presenters.

"But we’re always looking for ‘what’s next’ and hope that we continue to attract an ever changing audience who we know are now accessing what we do not only on radio, but through their TV’s, computers, tablets and mobile phones.”

Edward Ziff, Chairman and Chief Executive of Town Centre Securities, owners of the Merrion Centre said: “We are pleased to welcome BBC Radio Leeds back to their original home at the Merrion Centre to help celebrate their 50th birthday.

Philip Sidey, first BBC Radio Leeds station manager

Philip Sidey, first BBC Radio Leeds station manager

"Both the station and shopping centre have been part of the city’s history for a significant amount of time, which is testament to the hard work of all involved over the years. We wish BBC Radio Leeds all the very best, and look forward to welcoming regular and new visitors to the Merrion Centre during the week to help them celebrate this momentous milestone.”


BBC Radio Leeds was the sixth BBC local radio station to launch following BBC Radio Leicester (Nov 8,1967), BBC Radio Sheffield (Nov 15, 1967), BBC Radio Merseyside (Nov 22,1967), BBC Radio Sussex (February 14,1968) and BBC Radio Stoke (March 14,1968).

The full schedule of programmes to be broadcast from The Merrion shopping centre is:

Monday 25 June – Friday 29 June
06:00-09:00 Richard Stead’s Breakfast Show
09:00-12:00 The Stephanie Hirst Show
12:00-15:00 The Big Yorkshire Phone In with Liz Green
15:00-18:00 Gayle Lofthouse
18:00-19:00 West Yorkshire Sport Daily

Saturday June 30

06:00-09:00 Andrew Edwards

09:00-12:00 Nick Ahad

Sunday July 1

09:00-12:00 Sunday Gardening with Tim Crowther

Our listeners are constantly changing and the station tries to reflect everyone in the content we produce, saysSanjiv Buttoo, Managing Editor for BBC Radio Leeds

Our listeners are constantly changing and the station tries to reflect everyone in the content we produce, saysSanjiv Buttoo, Managing Editor for BBC Radio Leeds