QUEEN OF THE AIRWAVES: Liz Franklin in the studio she has created at her Startforth home
QUEEN OF THE AIRWAVES: Liz Franklin in the studio she has created at her Startforth home

For the best part of a decade the dale was home to its own community radio station before a lack of cash led to its closure. Reporter – and former rock show host – Stuart Laundy caught up with one volunteer presenter who was determined not to be silenced

IT’S two years this month since the airwaves fell silent when community station Radio Teesdale ceased broadcasting. However, one volunteer presenter was determined that wasn’t going to be the end of her time behind the mic.

In fact, since then Liz Franklin has gone global.

As well as broadcasting her popular folk music show on Penrith-based Eden FM each Wednesday, she has been picked up by a Canadian-based station called Blues and Roots Radio and broadcasts a weekly two-hour show on a Tuesday.

And she does this from the comfort of her home, where a small utility room has been converted into a studio.

“It was an old fashioned wash house. We had it dry-lined and put the electrics and windows in,” says Liz.

She had long held a dream of hitting the airwaves, but it was only with the launch of Radio Teesdale in the mid-noughties that it was realised.

“I had always had a fancy for doing radio. I am a non-driver and the only way in seemed to be hospital radio. The only two of those were Darlington and Bishop Auckland,” she says.

“With a young family and a husband on night shift, I never did anything about it at the time.

“Then when I heard Radio Teesdale was being talked about, I jumped at the chance. I was one of the originals – I went to the very first meeting about it.”

Despite being a big fan of the likes of the Beatles, Bowie and Queen, it was Liz’s passion for folk music that helped make her mark at Radio Teesdale.

“I used to get to the old folk club in the Black Horse years ago. I really loved the music, so when Radio Teesdale started, I volunteered to do the folk show,” she adds.

Liz made a point of messaging artists she was featuring and made good use of social media to increase the profile of her show.

Before long, a steady stream of musicians beat a path to the Radio Teesdale studios at Enterprise House, in Barnard Castle, to record sessions and interviews.

“The show became popular and it went from one to two hours,” she says.

Then it all came to an end one Monday afternoon in the summer of 2016 when the station simply ran out of cash, ceasing broadcasts immediately.

“I was gutted when Radio Teesdale ran out of money.

“I got such a lot of messages from musicians from all over the world saying how sorry they were,” adds Liz.

It was thanks to one regular guest – Brian Willoughby, of The Strawbs fame – that Liz found herself back on the air.

He put Liz in touch with an expat Scotsman called Stevie Connor, who runs Blues and Roots Radio.

“He emailed me and said he had heard one of my shows and was prepared to take me straight on,” says Liz.

There was just one problem – what to do about a studio?

“All I needed was a computer and a microphone. I downloaded free audio editing software, looked it up on Youtube and taught myself how to do it.

“Three weeks later I sent my first show to Canada by drop box. I am now onto show 96.”

It was shortly after this that officials at Eden FM got in touch to say the incumbent folk presenter was moving to the rock show and would Liz be interested.

Rather than travel each week to Penrith, Liz got the go-ahead to produce her show from home.

As in the past, folk musicians are welcomed to what Liz describes as her “cubby hole” at home to record interviews and sessions.

“The most we have had is six from a Newcastle band called Appletwig Songbook. We had them set up in the living room and dining room,” she recalls.

“I enjoy doing it. I would have been lost without it and it helps keep me young,” adds Liz.

Born and brought up in Ryhope, on Wearside, Liz has lived in Startforth with husband Michael for 48 years, where they brought up their three children.

So what does the family make of this DJ grandmother and her custom built home studio packed to the roof with CDs containing 40,000 folk songs?

“My granddaughter says I am pretty cool for a grandma,” says Liz.

Both Liz’s shows are streamed online.

Go to edenfm.co.uk, where the show is broadcast on a Wednesday between 8pm and 10pm or bluesand rootsradio.com on Tuesdays, 6pm to 8pm.