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The view from Mid Wales: Radio waves and 25 years on

A quarter of a century

A quarter of a pound of liquorish allsorts seems quite a large amount, when you’re near the bottom of a bag and you’re left with the jet black liquorish rolls and those strange blue and pink squidgy round ones with the hundreds and thousands on.

So why does a quarter of a century seem like not that much time after all when you come to look back over it?

Keith Morris decided to capture the faces of Aberystwyth in 1986 - now 25 years on those pictures are on display in the town's Ceredigion Museum

Our cameras trekked down to a very wet Aberystwyth to see Keith Morris’ exhibition – This is Aber ’86 at the town’s Ceredigion Museum.

And because the portraits – Keith originally took around a thousand in the eighties, which somehow he had to whittle down to 31 this time round – are in black and white, you find yourself looking at the faces rather than examining the clothes, as you would do if the shots were in colour, and going ‘I had one of those’ or ‘Oh Dear, I remember that’.

Watch Rob Shelley’s report online at ITV.com/Wales

There are spooky parallels: a Conservative-led government now, and Mrs Thatcher back then. Kenny Dalglish was managing Liverpool, and it’s more than likely that Liverpool fans would swap the 1986 vintage for this lot. And there was a royal wedding: good luck to William and Kate/Catherine, because we all know how the 1986 version with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson turned out.

There are also vast differences. The telly used to close down at night, rather than give you re-runs of Zorro and Bonanza at 4 in the morning. It had four channels. There were mobile phones – just – but mobile was stretching it when the things were brick sized with aerials that could have someone’s eye out. If you’d have mentioned the World Wide Web – or alcopops – or people carriers – or blogs – or laptops –  you’d have been looked at in a very strange way and possibly asked if you could really speak English. We are now in a digital world: and looking back at an analogue one feels weird. And weirdly comforting.

Thanks to Kim and Joe who turned up to see themselves as they were 25 years ago – I asked Kim if she’d take the time machine back to 1986 and her answer was a pause, followed by a ‘yes – no – yes’ – personally speaking I don’t want to go back to all that German homework and cross countries, so I’ll just set the clock for 1992 instead…..

Radio Waves

If you go to America, the land that invented commercial radio (they also invented the telephone, a drink called Mountain Dew, the angst of Don Draper in Mad Men and The Wire, so there’s quite a lot to be said for that bit over the Atlantic)  you flick around the radio dial and you’ll hear a whole quilt of local voices. AM radio is big and small at the same time – incredibly local, comfortingly so, so also incredibly numerous. So if your dirt track road has a boulder at the end of it or the grizzly bear season has started, they’re likely to tell you about it.

In a smallish cabin in the middle of Newtown’s biggest car park, their down country equivalent has taken to the air again. Radio Hafren took over from Radio Maldwyn, the old station, when a group of volunteers thought they would exchange a lie-in in the morning for cranking up the CD player and doing the early show instead. As someone who spent a couple of very happy years in radio, a wonderful medium to work in, it was great to wander back into a studio and feel the surge of the red light as it flicks on to tell you that you’re broadcasting.

Which reminds me to add another note to the ongoing master class – how not to be a broadcaster. One radio station I worked for had a duff bit of wiring that meant the special alarm signal which sounds when something very important happens – the death of a major figure or member of the royal family – sounded three minutes before the hours. I was all prepared to rewrite the entire bulletin, use my especially sombre voice (you slow down, and think of something very sad – easy) and announce the death of – well, I won’t say who. Then one technician wandered by, looked round the corner and said – ‘Is that thing going off again? Just ignore it. I’ll unplug it at the mains’

Every journalist has a healthy self respect for a scoop, getting there well in front of the opposition: but we don’t want to announce that sort of thing before it actually happens……

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