Category Archives: In The Papers

The one and only 90s chart topper Chesney Hawkes back in the studio

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

The Phoenix FM studios had a visit from 90s chart-topper Chesney Hawkes last week – just 16 years after his last one!

Chesney came in to see us back in February 2002, when we were broadcasting under a restricted FM licence for just 28 days a year. At that time we had a tiny studio in a room in Hutton Poplars Lodge in Shenfield. Chesney came down during our FM broadcast that year and played some songs live in the studio.

This time he was in town for rehearsals for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which took place last weekend at the Brentwood Centre. Chesney talked to our presenter Scott Ross about his musical and theatre careers and what people could expect to see and hear from him. The interview can be heard again on our website at, where you can also hear an earlier interview he gave to our Saturday morning presenter Naomi Sayers on the phone a couple of weeks ago.

As you can see from the two photos, he hasn’t changed too much over the years! Thanks to Scott who conducted the interview with very short notice and to the team at the Brentwood Centre for helping with Chesney’s appearance.

* Guests coming up on air in the next week include Jessica Kemp from the Beeches talking about National Care Home Open Day and Peter Green and Les Sheppard from the Rotary Club of Billericay who will be talking about this year’s Soapbox Derby.

* There will also be live music in the studio from Ian Perryman, Jessie Dipper and the SoSlam Young Songwriters group.

A packed programme of songs and great chat gave us an Easter treat

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

Easter is usually a quiet time for us at Phoenix as many of our usual on-air guests disappear for the Easter holidays, but the opposite is true for our Friday Night Extra show, hosted by Patrick Sherring.

Patrick has been on air with us on Friday evenings since September 2011 and rarely misses a show. He’s well known in our community as C of E Rector of Ingatestone and Fryerning,
Chair of Churches Together and a Governor of Ingatestone & Fryerning C of E Junior School as well as being a regular columnist on the Brentwood Gazette!

Every Easter Patrick presents a Good Friday special packed full of guests and this year’s show was no exception.

Tim Lee from Brentwood Churches Together spoke about the celebrations for Good Friday held in Brentwood town centre, with over 400 people and a dramatized re-enactment of the first Good Friday. He also talked about the service he had taken at Mountnessing school about an empty Easter egg.

Brentwood School chaplain Revd Dr Adrian McConnaughie explained about the services for Easter that were held before the pupils broke up for Easter and his time in Ypres the previous week.

Year 6 pupil Alfie sang live and talked about Easter at Ingatestone Junior School, singer Marina Bottali-Price sang three songs live in the studio and talked about her faith, and regular helper Jonty was there too.

Hard to believe you can pack so much into a two hour show! If you missed the show you can hear it again at

* Lots more guests coming up on air in the next seven days including Matthew Sweetapple from charity Step2It, Anne and Frank Woods chatting about the Billericay Streetlife Strollers and solicitor Sandy Brown from Shenfield’s Rainer Hughes talking about parenting and divorce.

* We’ve also got live music lined up from Nicola Collis, Jessie Dipper and Marc Hepburn.

How we helped inspire music-loving youngster with a visit to our studio

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

A few weeks ago we received an email here in the studio from Toni Richardson. Toni is mum to her son Taylor.

Toni said in the email, “I wonder if you can help. I have a 17 year old son called Taylor, who has Cerebral Palsy. He loves his music and dancing and I wonder if it is possible to arrange a visit to look around your studios”.

Well we were very pleased to arrange this and Taylor and Toni visited our studios in the Brentwood Centre and thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Presenter Bob Simpson gave them each a Phoenix FM Mug and played some of Taylor’s favourite music on air as well as a special message for Taylor from Rizzle Kicks, one of Taylor’s favourite bands.

If you search Youtube for “Down With The Trumpets Taylor D” you can see an amazing video starring Taylor with a contribution from Rizzle Kicks themselves.

Taylor’s mum was very grateful and in a later email to Phoenix said, “Just got back home and wanted to say thank you so much for your time today. We both really enjoyed the experience! It was lovely to meet you and it was fascinating learning a little about how a radio station works. Taylor has been full of it and says that he wants his own station now!!”

* We’ve got lots more guests lined up over the coming week. Jane Merrigan will be talking about the latest fundraising events for Saint Francis Hospice, Michael Torry will be talking about his charity show for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and Gavin Perrett from Hawkhurst Alternative Investments will offer up investment advice.

* There will also be live music in the studio from Ollie Lincoln, Pondering Hiker and Timely Bloat.

Presenter Michelle and the team pay a special visit to Beeches care home

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

One of the reasons why so many people enjoy community radio – and one of the reasons why I got into it in the first place – is the ability it has to get deep into our local community and look at how we all live our lives. It’s a very personal journey for some people but one that never fails to fascinate.

Our daytime presenter Michelle Ward, who has been broadcasting on Phoenix FM for seven years, visited The Beeches care home in Brentwood last week to talk to three lovely ladies and gents – Greta, Don and Jackie – who have lived in Brentwood and the surrounding area all their lives.

We wouldn’t normally ask a lady her age but Greta was very happy to tell us she is 102 years old, so she is probably the oldest person ever to appear on Phoenix FM!

We’d like to say a big thank you to Jess and Tamara from the Beeches for helping to arrange the interviews for us, which you can hear again at

We’re always looking for local people to talk to about anything so please get in touch if you’ve got memories you’d like to share with us.

* You can hear lots more local interviews in the next seven days, including Gill Burgess from Cancer Research talking about this year’s Race For Life, and Louise Henderson from Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society talking about her group’s new shows.

* There will also be live music in the studio from Josie Tullett, Marina Bottali Price and Mr Happy Chainsaw.

Female bodybuilder revealing some top tips on Feelgood Saturday show

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

We were continuing the International Women’s Day vibes in the studio last week with a number of interesting female guests and stories, including a chat with a very strong lady – literally, as she’s a bodybuilder!

Suzie Volkes of The Valkryie Solution came in to chat to Feelgood Saturday presenter Naomi Sayers. Suzie talked all about the female fitness phenomenon she’s kicked off with her women’s health club and what it’s like on the women’s bodybuilding circuit. She even gave us some tips for exercises you can do at home while listening to the show every week and managed to get Naomi working out during her show too.

Suzie’s always on the look-out for new female warriors to drive the movement and you can find out more about it at

* We were all sad to hear of the passing of Ken Dodd. Ken spoke to our lunchtime presenter Bob Simpson back in 2013. He was warm, very funny and engaging and talked about his childhood, his early days in showbusiness and a very funny interview with The Beatles. You can hear it again on

* Guests coming up in the next week include Keith Ball, son of jazz legend Kenny Ball talking about his new album and Andrew Newell, who will be starring for Jamaica in lawn bowls at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

* There will also be live music in the studio from The Young Machetes, The Goodbye Look, Milena Lainovic and Mr Happy Chainsaw.

David Gold scoop: “It’s important that I speak directly to the fans …”

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

We had what could possibly be our most-listened-to interview ever last week when we welcomed David Gold to the Phoenix FM studio for an exclusive in-depth interview.

David Gold is one of the joint owners and chairmen of West Ham United, and he came down to talk for two hours to our West Ham Way show presenters Dave Walker, Kevin Slade and @exwhuemployee.

He hasn’t given many interviews like this for a long time, but chose to come on our show to answer fans’ questions.

He started the show by saying, “I believe that it’s important that I speak directly to the fans. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had many requests to go on different radio shows, but I’ve decided to go on this show as I feel that this particular show goes directly to West Ham supporters”.

As a lifelong supporter of the club, I’m used to suffering the highs and lows – and there are many more lows than highs! I found it very interesting to hear his thoughts in response to concerns about the new stadium, club finances and transfer policies.

We’re obviously very proud that David came to Phoenix FM over much bigger organisations and even after being full time for 11 years it shows that our reputation is continuing to grow, and that we’re getting more and more people’s attention. Naturally we’d like to thank David for coming down and his daughter Jacqueline for making it all happen.

The interview can be heard again at, and at the time of writing it had been listened to over 5,000 times in the first four hours of it appearing on our website, so we’re expecting it to be a record breaker for us.

Football – no matter at what level – is a big part of any English community and West Ham United are still, of course, the most popular club in our area. Other clubs are available though and we do feature them on air too!

* We’ve got lots more coming up in the next seven days. Alex Thurgood and Victoria Copeland will be talking about running the 3 Peaks Challenge for local charity The Maddi Foundation, Jake Dipper from the BOSSY Theatre Group will be talking about his new shows and Claire Mackaness will be chatting about how Brentwood residents can get free crocheting lessons!

* We’ll also have live music in the studio from Jessie Dipper, the Young Machetes, Josie Tullett and Red and Orange Chips.

Determined guests braved the snow to help keep local airwaves alive

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

Despite the snow chaos last week it was pretty much business as usual at our Brentwood studio!

We had our usual crop of interesting guests in last week including Tony Tiyou and Girard Newkirk . Tony is a renewable energy specialist who runs local company O&TT Smart, and has also recently published a book on The Wind Energy Outlook in Africa.

Gerard is the CEO of KWHCoin, a new cryptocurrency which backed by units of clean, renewable energy. It’s the most unique subject we’ve had on air in a long time but it’s also a fascinating listen, hearing how two concepts which have a big future – clean energy and virtual currencies – can come together to help businesses prosper. The interview can be heard again on

I had the smart idea of getting them to pose in the snow instead of the warmth of our studio, just to prove that they’d managed to brave the elements too.

Our daytime team of Mike Porter, Michelle Ward and Charlie Davy kept the airwaves live by getting in each day either on foot or by car, as did many of our evening presenters too.

One of the great things about community radio is the service it can provide when the weather goes haywire. We spend a lot of our time with updates about school closures, travel news and bulletins from the emergency services. Not everyone has the internet and a lot of local people rely on what they can tune in to over the airwaves. It’s just not as much fun recording it – the joy is in doing it all live!

* Guests coming up on Phoenix FM this week include local solicitor Brian Hughes from Rainer Hughes talking about legal matters, local singer Lydia Lucy who will be chatting to Vicki Michelle about her appearance on The Voice, and West Ham United co-owner David Gold.

* We’ve also got live music in the studio from Spencer Carter, The Mighty Fallen and Stray Feathers.

Legendary Hammers defender has plenty of stories to tell during visit

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

Exciting times in the studio last week for our many listeners who also support West Ham United, as we welcomed Hammers legend Julian Dicks to the studio.

Julian spent ten seasons at West Ham between 1988 and 1999, and was a fans’ favourite having been voted Hammer Of The Year four times. Unusually for a defender, he scored 64 goals in that time, mainly due to his ferocious and accurate penalty-taking.

Julian had a lot of stories to tell and after the show was finished the presenting team took him into our off-air studio and recorded many more stories, which allowed us to publish an interview lasting over two and a half hours – not bad for a one hour radio show!

It was our longest one to date and hopefully will push listener figures higher – the show recently broke the 6,000 barrier for iTunes subscriber numbers and regularly appears in the national sport podcast charts, alongside shows from the BBC, Sky and national newspapers.

As a community station we’ve always covered local teams at grass roots level and our football in particular has been going well – our dedicated Leyton Orient show is also in our top two every week.

I have been trying to get other teams involved in regular programming too, so if anyone thinks we should be featuring their team more, you know what to do …

For those of you who aren’t so keen on football we’ve got lots of other things going on too. Actor Dan Richardson visited Karin Ridgers’ Friday night House Of Fun show last week. Dan is also an animal rights activist and spoke about his work with the Born Free Foundation, of which he is a director.

Karin’s show features on vegan issues and activism and animal rights, a subject which rarely gets covered in depth on other radio stations despite its growing popularity – nearly two million people in the UK now identify as vegan or vegetarian.

* Lots more guests coming up on Phoenix FM in the next seven days. Commonwealth games medallist Elizabeth Cann will be talking about badminton, Penny Hollington will be updating us on the local job market and Jess Kemp will be chatting about the Beeches’ Open House event. And for those interested in cryptocurrency, Girard Newkirk and Tony Tiyou will be trying to unravel it all on air.

* We’ll also be featuring more live music sessions, including visits from The Mighty Fallen and Billy Collins.

Chicken and Frog bookshop hops to it for children’s literary festival

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

There are some interesting and highly worthwhile events taking place in Brentwood this year and we’ll be involved once again in publicising the best of them.

Last week we welcomed in Natasha Radford from local children’s bookshop Chicken and Frog, not once but twice!

Natasha chatted to Charlie Davy about her own recommendations, and then came back in to chat to Michelle Ward about this year’s Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival, which aims to educate, inspire and delight children of all ages.

We’re delighted to be a media partner of the event once again and will be featuring more news and features nearer the time.

And if you’ve ever wondered why the bookshop has that name, try a Google search for “a chicken walks into a library” – I won’t give away the punchline!

We also welcomed in four Brentwood girls aged between 15 and 17 – Sophie, Lauren, Ciara and Nicole – collectively known as up-and-coming rock act Let’s Be Strange.

The band have been taking part in a number of emerging band tournaments, including the Undiscovered Live Music Project competition, reaching the final which was held at the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford.

We first played the band on air two years ago and it’s great to see them progressing.

* In the next week we’ll be chatting to Andy Grant from Essex band Tamarisk who will soon be playing live again for the first time in 30 years. The band were originally formed after their previous outfit Chemical Alice broke up, after keyboard player Mark Kelly joined Marillion, where he had a long and successful career.

* There will also be live music in the studio from local artists including Sway, Keeley Smith and Mr Happy Chainsaw.

Fundraising success, business people and some random acts of kindness

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

We welcomed the man behind a great new initiative to the Phoenix FM studio last week – Matt Everard.

Matt has formed a new group called BARK – Billericay Acts of Random Kindness. The idea is to gather up an army of local people who are willing to donate a few hours every month and pool resources to help others.

He chatted to Bob Simpson about how he wants people in Billericay to tell the group what needs to be done, so they can set about solving it, but overall the aim is to encourage and engage in random acts of kindness.

Matt’s group already has over 1,500 members and although they haven’t been together very long they have already helped to collect items for a new outdoor play area. You can find out more about BARK by listening to the interview on

*** We were delighted to hear that our recent fundraiser that we hosted with Shenfield Cricket Club raised £1,940 for Saint Francis Hospice. I would like to say thank you to Keeley Smith for another fantastic live performance, to our very own Steve Roach for his organisational skills, and to all those people who kindly donated raffle prizes.

*** We’ll be chatting to local businesspeople over the next few days on air including Dr Pragyan Sahu from the Revive Hair and Skin Clinic.

We’ve also got live music in the studio from Leigh Luscious, Olivia-Jayne, Daniel Molyneaux and Adam Nichols.