Brian Gray describes how he came to be part of the North Herts FM Family
Six months ago if someone had told me I would be co-hosting a rock show on a local, community Internet Radio Station I would have laughed. Coupled with being part of a commentary team bringing live coverage of Hitchin Town matches, I would have advised the person to get a reality check.
So how did this strange journey come about?
It all started back in June. A member of the Hitchin Town Football Club Executive Committee called Kate Dellar put a posting on the football clubs supporters forum to inform supporters that the football club had agreed a partnership with community radio station North Herts FM, to broadcast live commentary of Hitchin Town games.
I had previously been the public address announcer at the football club and had sat with media teams from opposition clubs. Some were already doing live match commentary via the internet and I was a big supporter of the idea. I posted a response on the forum praising the idea and offering some ideas of my own as to how this could work.
A short while later I was receiving a message from Kate inviting me to be one of the commentators for the new project. Although Kate and I knew each other from the terraces at Top Field we had never really spoken. We met in Hitchin shortly before our meeting with Becky Phillips from North Herts FM.
At the meeting with Becky, I also met some of our other volunteer commentators. I was older than the rest put together but within a few minutes it was clear we all had a determination to make the idea a reality and a success.
The first match we commentated on was a pre-season friendly. My co-presenter was 14 year old Freddie Cardy who was forty years my junior however we had a rapport from the very first minute. His understanding of the game of football, knowledge and professionalism belying his young age.
That first commentary brought over 700 listeners.
Also part of the team are 15 year old Annie Barnes and 17 year old Patrick Sloan.
The three youngsters have taken the commentary role in their stride putting their own personal trademarks on their commentaries.
I had said at that initial meeting that I really wanted to do commentary on a big mid week, FA Cup replay away from home, where we would get big listener numbers. The commentary has coincided with Hitchin’s best run in the FA Cup for 23 years and as luck would have it, we got that big mid week, FA Cup replay away at Leatherhead. To add to the excitement the match was also a dramatic affair. Hitchin losing in the first half, a fantastic penalty save by the Hitchin keeper just before half time switched the momentum of the game. Hitchin got an equaliser in the second half and found a winner in extra time.
I had hoped for 2500 listeners however by the end of ninety minutes we had 8400 and then by the end of the game we had just short of 15,000 listeners, including the Head of BBC Sport. Incredible figures on an incredible night.
I even had former players telling me they had been listening into our commentaries at North Herts FM. Due to the football clubs and North Herts FM’s excellent social media feeds, I was getting people stopping me at work to say they had seen us on Twitter.
The venture has also forged good friendships. Becky, Kate and I have become good friends.
We decided to take North Herts FM to Bedworth, near Coventry, when Hitchin played there some weeks ago, the commentary team travelling to the game on the Hitchin Town team coach. During conversations on the coach we discussed music tastes. Mine are rock, metal, indie and alternative based, anything that is louder, harder, more forceful than pop and pushing the popular music boundaries away from mainstream.
Becky was looking for a DJ to host a Rock Show on North Herts FM. I won’t lie, it had always been a secret fantasy to be a DJ playing music that is restricted to headphones in our household. I do the housework listening to Judas Priest on my music player. Kate’s music tastes were likewise ‘not for a Heart playlist’ and somehow on a coach trip back from Bedworth, North Herts Rocks was born. I told my family, they were very supportive after they picked themselves up off the floor laughing.
Rock is such a big genre. What is rock music? It’s in the opinion of the listener. The programme works as Kate and I bring our own tastes and personal experiences to the show. Kate will play tracks and groups that I have never heard of and vice versa. I talk to rock fans and tell them our playlists. They will like some tracks but not like others, so hopefully we bring a little something for everyone. Well, a little something for every rock fan!
So, five months on from that first meeting in June I have a new group of friends, a new direction and focus. I’m incredibly proud of what Becky Phillips and North Herts FM have achieved in such a small space of time and equally proud to be a small cog in the big wheel that is North Herts FM.