Damon Albarn unveils a piece of radio history


Global simultaneous transmission of unique composition to mark 90 years of BBC broadcasting

Musician Damon Albarn will mark the 90th anniversary of the first BBC broadcast by playing a specially commissioned three-minute experimental composition to radio listeners around the world at 1733 GMT today (Wed 14 Nov).
More than 55 BBC radio stations will come together for Radio Reunited – the first attempt at a simultaneous broadcast since what was then the British Broadcasting Company was formed in 1922.  Each BBC station will play the composition - a combination of specially written music, iconic sounds from radio’s past and present, and messages to the future from listeners around the world.

The broadcast will be hosted by BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo who will present his show from the Science Museum, now home to the original 2LO transmitter on which the first broadcast was made. Damon Albarn will be on the show to hear his piece played out across the globe and talk about the elements within it.

It is estimated that the historic broadcast has a maximum potential reach of more than 120 million listeners worldwide.

Damon Albarn said: “It was quite a pretty daunting challenge to put together a piece which might mean something to so many different audiences around Britain and the world. I’ve tried to capture a snapshot of voices, particularly of young people, and to reflect some of the history of the first 90 years of radio.”

Tim Davie, BBC Director of Audio & Music, said: “We are incredibly lucky to have someone as talented as Damon turn their attention to this exciting experimental project.  We wanted to mark this radio milestone by bringing together audiences around the world for a few minutes and by trying to bridge the diversity between them.”

The Science Museum is marking the anniversary with a small display featuring part of the original 2LO transmitter that made the first BBC broadcast on 14 November 1922. The display takes visitors back to the time of that first broadcast and will also feature two radios used to receive the BBC’s early broadcasts, a ‘meat-safe’ microphone used in the early BBC Savoy Hill studios and an early copy of the Radio Times from 1923.

The same 2LO transmitter will be shown in its entirety in an exhibition about the development of communication technology, due to open at the Science Museum in 2014.

Tim Boon, Head of Research and Public History, Science Museum, said, “The first broadcast by the 2LO 90 years ago, marked the moment when radio moved from the realm of the ‘amateur enthusiast’ to the first proper public broadcasting service in Britain. This exhibition takes visitors back to a time when everything, from the technology to the content of the programmes was still new.”

As part of its 90th anniversary celebrations, the BBC has also gifted a collection of almost 1,000 historical broadcasting items to the Science Museum’s sister museum – the National Media Museum in Bradford. A selection of these objects will go on display to the public on Wednesday 14 November.

Radio Reunited will form the centrepiece of a series of on-air events to mark 90 years of BBC Radio, which will also feature a wide range of special programming across BBC stations.

Listeners around the world were invited by their favourite BBC station to contribute a single, short message addressed to future generations to be listened to 90 years from now. Their contributions ranged from hopes and fears to observations and advice.  Some were selected for use by Albarn in his composition. All the messages are being passed on to the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex to ensure they are preserved for another 90 years and can be made available for academic research.

The BBC stations contributing and taking part in Radio Reunited are:
BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1xtra, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6music, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio 5live, BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Oxford, BBC Sussex, BBC Surrey, BBC Radio Solent, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Essex, BBC Three Counties Radio, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Newcastle, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Cumbria, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Stoke, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, BBC Radio Derby, BBC Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio Leicester, BBC Lincolnshire, BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC WM, BBC Wiltshire, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Cornwall, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Guernsey, BBC Radio Jersey, BBC Somerset, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle, BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Wales and many BBC World Service outlets, including Arabic, Swahili, Hausa, English Language services.

Notes to Editors

Science Museum Group

The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.

The Group consists of: Science Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, National Railway Museum (York), National Media Museum and National Railway Museum (Shildon).