February 14th 2017 marks the 95th anniversary of the start of Britain’s first ever regular, advertised broadcast radio station, 2MT, which came live from Writtle in Essex.
To commemorate this anniversary, and to celebrate the young, pioneering team of engineers, the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society will be transmitting from the same building from where the original broadcasts commenced. One of their members, Jim Salmon, will also be operating a three-day internet radio service, Radio Emma Toc, featuring radio related documentaries, vintage comedies and live programmes from various locations.
The first 2MT broadcast started at 7.15pm on 14th February 1922 from an ex-army Marconi hut – a ‘Long Low Hut’ – sited in a waterlogged field in Lawford Lane Writtle. This famous hut is now on permanent display at Sandford Mill, Chelmsford, and can be visited during the summer open days at the Mill.
Members of the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society – CARS – regularly transmit to fellow amateur radio hams from this historic hut and, for this celebration, a team from CARS will be making contact with fellow amateurs on the 12th and 14th February. A special event call sign, GB95 2MT, will be used to mark this occasion.
Tim Wander, Consultant at Sandford Mill and Chelmsford Museums, describes the original 2MT broadcasts. He says: “The 2MT team offered its listeners impromptu comedy sketches, the first ever broadcast radio play, dedicated children’s five minute spots, impersonations, guest artistes, burlesque entertainments and even parodies of grand opera. Nothing like it had been heard before – it was a new type of entertainment and it made history.
“The power behind the microphone was Marconi engineer, Captain Peter Eckersley, who as Britain’s first ‘DJ’ brought an amazing light-hearted spirit and comic skill to the new art of radio broadcasting. His sheer joie de vivre bubbled across the ether and he was not only the first, but also talked to his listeners as if they were in the room with him – and his listeners, estimated at over 20,000 people, loved him and the station.
“Often a one-man show, but always a team effort, 2MT at Writtle wrote a crucial chapter in the history of radio and broadcasting and directly led to the formation of the BBC in 1922.”
Jim Salmon, of Radio Emma Toc, says: “We will not try to recreate station 2MT – how could we? We live in a very different age. What we would like to recreate is the spirit and adventure of 2MT, to be ‘born in laughter and nurtured in laughter’.”
He continued: “If all goes to plan, our online radio station will be available to a worldwide audience via the internet, and the amateur radio transmissions will hopefully be beamed across the ether to distant shores. Of course, as with the best laid plans – there is a vast potential for things to go wrong, however this would be in keeping with the pioneering character of radio experimenters of the time!”
The team is also planning the centenary celebrations of the birth of British broadcasting in Chelmsford, and if you would like more detail please visit www.emmatoc.com.
For a programme schedule and information on Radio Emma Toc, visit www.emmatoc.com.
For details on the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society and training courses provided by them, visit www.g0mwt.org.uk.
Sandford Mill will be open to the public on Sunday 9 July for the Science Discovery Day: The Great Outdoors!, which will give school children the chance to experience the Long Low Hut and view Marconi’s radio technology and TV cameras. To discover more, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums .