Richard Spendlove MBE

Programme Achievements & Awards

A hospice was visited and a listener and dying patient was given the opportunity to co-present the show. She died the following Saturday evening and the family requested the presence of the presenter at the funeral. He was ushered in and sat with the principal mourners at their specific request.

Prisons and prisoners who are Listeners have been visited at Whitemoor, Highpoint and Perry and, indeed, even after their release, many of them have kept in touch with the shows and gone on to offer support in various tangible ways.

The sick have been - and are - visited. These visits have been a regular feature of the work of the presenter almost since the inception of the shows, and still go on today, regularly. This is both as a result of requests from the families and, in some cases, on the presenter's own initiative.

Funerals have been - and continue to be - attended. This has been another common feature of the presenter's disposition since the outset of his career.

Twin brothers were re-united after fifty-three years, having lived only twenty nine miles apart. They were both to die within a year of the meeting and within weeks of each other. One had lived for all those years in Harold in Beds, and the other in Cambridge.

Families and long-lost friends have been put into contact. Such a spot appears regularly as an integral part of the show. In some cases, the results are spectacular - and achieved in minutes.

A bridesmaid was re-united with a bride (the first time they had met since the week after the wedding) in time for the Diamond Wedding celebrations, sixty years on. As a direct result of the show, the bridesmaid attended the festivities.

A Kent listener, thought to be too disabled to travel, was presented with two tickets for her and a friend of her choice, to travel by chauffeur-driven limousine, to see a Daniel O'Donnell concert in Surrey. Because of the intervention of the presenter, no cost was involved, either for the travel or for the tickets.

Another lady listener, whose son's ashes were scattered by the railway line at Essendine, over forty five years before, was taken - at the age of ninety nine - back to the site. She was given first class rail travel and a further limousine, in the company of her sister - also in her nineties. Afterwards, they were taken to lunch, before being returned to their home in Suffolk. The whole day cost them nothing.

Listeners are regularly assisted to regain lost or un-issued Campaign and War Medals, and given help to secure refunds from various 'utilities' and from such bodies as insurance companies. Along with these kinds of things come regular successes in tracing out-of-print books, records and sheet music.

A disabled senior citizen who was robbed of one hundred pounds in a shop before Christmas received a cheque for the lost amount the day after the news was imparted to the presenter and,within a week, had also recieved a boquet and christmas hamper from Tescos (WHO'S STORE WAS NOT HITHERTO IN ANY WAY INVOLVED) It should be pointed out that the hundred pounds was not a loan, but the lady in question, in fact, returned it within three weeks.

Dear Richard.,

I would like to place on record my thanks for coming into the station at short notice yesterday to present a special afternoon programme following the tragic news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In an extraordinary situation such as this, each broadcaster is tested to the limit of their capability. Your experience and measured performance was just what was required at that moment. The opportunity for ordinary people to pour out their emotions and feelings was a very necessary outlet. The fact that they did so in great
numbers, and felt at ease talking to you, is a tremendous tribute to your professional skills and abilities. I recognise that, given the emotional nature of many of the callers, this was no easy task for you. I am most grateful for the tactful, sympathetic and carefully measured way in which you handled all the calls, and the programme as a whole.

In short, an extraordinary performance at the most extraordinary of times.

My grateful thanks

Nigel Dyson,
Managing Editor
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Listeners to the shows with professional qualifications, such as solicitors, surveyors and doctors (and there are many) and policemen, magistrates and councillors will spontaneously call in with advice if they hear a query which falls within their field, and often the matter is settled there and then and certainly within the week.

In a show last year - to make the point - a ninety year old Kent lady rang in to say that someone had backed into her gatepost and smashed it. Before the show was over, a local listener had made arrangements to go and put repairs in hand for her. Something like this happens on every programme.

A Norwich listener approached the show about her DSS entitlement. She had had no joy elsewhere. The presenter received a letter, and subsequent phone-call to say that, after taking his advice, she had now (a) been granted a pension of £20-00p per week for life, and (b) was being paid TEN THOUSAND POUNDS; the equivalent of ten years arrears.

A Northampton listener, aged eighty four, asked if the location of her brother's war-time grave could be found. The 'machinery' ground into action and found it. She then asked if it were possible to obtain a photograph of it. The result of that is that she was given the opportunity to be taken by first-class rail and sea travel from Northampton (with a friend of her choice) to THE SITE of the grave in Bayeaux, in France, at no cost to her. As it happens, she eventually decided against going, because of her age. BUT THE OPPORTUNITY WAS THERE AND THE ARRANGEMENTS MADE.

Another significant achievement concerns a listener in Wheathampstead (where the show is not even supposed to be heard) The lady in question burst a varicose vein, and in running to the phone to call for an ambulance lost much blood on the carpet. She claimed from the Royal Insurance Company, who said that not only was she not entitled to claim for any damage, other than 'water damage' but that they had - three times - advised her to take out extra cover for just such incidents of staining. They therefore declined the application. The presenter intervened again, and they have now paid up in full DESPITE NOT BEING REMOTELY LIABLE.

The creation of the fan club attracted more applicants in the first eleven days than the two thousand believed to be in the Emerdale fan-club after twenty two years.

When there was a suggestion that the show be abolished in its present form, literally countless thousands of letters were sent in by infuriated listeners. Not only did they contact the BBC, but also Government Ministers, Councillors, Bishops, MP,s, and many other pressure groups. Indeed, probably FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, such an issue was raised in Parliament and THIRTEEN MP'S signed an 'EARLY DAY MOTION' requesting the return of the show. At the time of its reinstatement, the Essex audience alone were in the process of organising a fleet of buses to take furious listeners to the BBC in London to picket the building.

On a previous occasion when it was taken off, the protest promised to be equally great, and the then head of Local Radio, Ian Kennedy intervened, and said publicly that, "We ignore this kind of listener reaction at our peril" and that never in seventeen years in broadcasting had he known such reaction against the removal of a programme. He ordered the return of the show the following week. THAT was when the show was only on ONE county.

As a matter of policy, every eight or nine weeks - or thereabout - the presenter calls for a complete night of 'First time Callers only1 and gets sufficient to sustain a four hour show - usually about sixty. He has never failed yet, and has never had to invite previous callers to make up the numbers. Is there another show anywhere on Regional Radio which can make this boast and substantiate it? Is there another show which dares to try? It is profoundly doubtful.