Radio Waves set to premiere in Tilbury

The death of a pirate has dramatic consequences

Directed by Bob Hickey, with music by Gareth Goddard (AKA DJ Cherrystones), Radio Waves, a film about the shooting of Radio City’s Reg Calvert, will premiere at the Estuary Festival in London on 17 September 2016.

Initially called Radio Sutch, after co-founder Screaming Lord Sutch (of Monster Raving Loony Party fame), historian Adrian Johns described Radio City as “perhaps the most truly piratical of all the pirate stations”. It began broadcasting in May 1964 from a disused sea fort in the Thames estuary.

Radio City’s owners, music impresarios Reg and Dorothy Calvert, were soon approached by Liberal politician Major Oliver Smedley, the owner of Radio Atlanta, who hoped to use pirate stations to destroy the BBC and weaken the welfare state. When their business deal soured, former paratrooper Smedley paid a gang of gun-toting dockers to seize Radio City by force, setting in motion a dramatic chain of events which included the fatal shooting of Reg, the outlawing of pirate radio and the creation of Radio1. Dorothy was left with a lifelong sense of injustice.

Bob Hickey said: “We filmed rehearsals for the play The Death Of Pirate Radio, written by Dorothy and Reg’s daughter, Susan, and linked the most poignant moments to interviews and archive footage. As the project developed, I became increasingly interested in Dorothy’s responses to her younger self and, in particular, the aporia created by contradictory accounts and lost truth. Storytelling requires edits, we are all guilty of it – in life, newspapers, theatre or film – but Radio Waves shows how these edits can have dramatic consequences.”

Gareth Goddard (AKA DJ Cherrystones) said: “Innovators like Reg Calvert and Lord Sutch pushed freedom of expression and broke down post-war values, bringing excitement to the masses with their anti-rule manifestos. The whole scene was very futuristic, but this film has opened my eyes to the greed within it. Reg was a visionary with the courage and insight to pursue his dreams as a businessman, as a svengali of sorts, but his success attracted non-music people, charlatans motivated by revenue and domination, which led to his sad demise.”

The final scene shows Dorothy watching a theatrical interpretation of her life. Multiple conflicting narratives are presented. Which version of history rings true?

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