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Annie Nightingale - 1940-2024

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 19 / 1 / 2024

Annie Nightingale - 1940-2024

When BBC's new Radio 1 station started broadcasting on 30 September 1967, Annie Nightingale, then a young journalist on Brighton's Evening Argus newspaper, was determined to “kick the door down” and become the first female DJ at the station. Within three years, Annie’s sheer determination - plus a personal recommendation from Derek Taylor, then press officer for The Beatles - had achieved her ambition. She had broken into the all-male bastion of Radio 1 and was the station's first female presenter! Few then could have imagined that 53 years later, Annie would be the longest-serving DJ still regularly on the station - and credited with paving the way for many other significant female talents who arrived in her wake - like Sara Cox, Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball. Annie's death on 11 January after a short illness brings to an end her extraordinarily successful career. She travelled the world as a DJ and used to say she had been “mugged in Cuba, drugged in Baghdad and bugged in Russia”. She had an amazing array of rock star stories - including a marriage proposal from Paul McCartney and pub dates with a young David Bowie. However, personal fame and fortune was never Annie's top priority. She eschewed the chance of a daily high profile show preferring to broadcast in evening slots where she could champion her own choices of music. “From Day One I always insisted I choose the records I played on air and I have stuck to that ever since,” Annie said in 2023. Born in Twickenham on 1 April, 1940, soon after the start of World War 2, Annie was soon aware that neither her father, a reluctant businessman who had been pressured into taking over the family's wallpaper firm nor her mother, whose family had refused to allow her to train as a chiropodist, had ever been able to follow their career dreams. So she was determined to do so. By the mid-1960s she had moved to Brighton to work as a journalist and she soon had her own pop column, ‘Spin With Me’ in the local ‘Evening Argus’ newspaper. It was through writing this column that she had come to meet The Beatles (Paul McCartney once jokingly asked her to marry him, mid-interview) - and she interrogated a young Sean Connery in the local Wimpy burger bar. Writing in her column, Annie also foresaw the stellar fame of another musical icon. In 1969, she watched a skinny, 22 year-old David Bowie perform a warm-up act for another band. She was hugely impressed and dragged him to the nearby pub to sing his praises, telling him, “Listen. You are the future”. Despite several more meetings with Annie in pubs, Bowie was not convinced, she later recalled - but within three years he had created his Ziggy Stardust persona! Right from her beginning there in 1970, Annie was a success at BBC Radio 1, quickly gathering a large following of fans who admired her eclectic and forward-looking musical tastes and her acute ear for big hits. She was last on air in mid-December 2023, hosting a three-part show called ‘The Best of 2023’. Her final words to her audience were, “Lots of love, from me to you.” A typically warm sign-off from a remarkable woman whose major contribution to the airwaves, to the BBC and to popular culture will be very much missed.

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Annie Nightingale - 1940-2024

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Nick Dent-Robinson pays tribute to Annie Nightingale, who was the first female DJ on Radio One,

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