My first foray into pirate radio was around 1990, when I joined Hardcore FM under the name DJ Tat, in partnership with my old friend, Inspiration. We broadcast once a week between eight and ten, playing the latest house, techno, rave and piano tracks.

The first thing that caught my attention was the network of people involved in the station, from those in the background running the broadcasting equipment, to advertisers, the DJs and helpers answering the phones and taking shout-outs.

Hardcore FM grew in popularity, but was usurped by a new station run by people with pseudonyms that made them sound like seventies reggae acts. Along with me came the local talents of Asterix and Space, Easy D, DJ Dream among others. Fantasy FM grew to be a leading station in the north very quickly and could be heard as far away as Hull and Leeds. The station was so popular that it hosted a launch party at City Hall’s Ballroom which sold out in days. From about 1991 for the next couple of years, Fantasy FM ruled South Yorkshire’s airwaves and rival stations also started to appear.

While the station ran, there were many club and illegal rave nights that the station promoted. These helped pay for rent, equipment, security, electricity and our phone, so it became paramount to run the adverts that promoted these nights, and as DJs, if we ever forgot, we would get a phone call prompting us. The management never seemed to sleep. The studios were sparse, often located in the living room of a flat and usually at least six floors up. If you were lucky, you had a balcony where you could see the city lights sprawling out in front of you. Back inside, there was usually a settee, a couple of chairs, and a long table where the turntables, mixer and microphone were situated.

After a year on Fantasy, I decided to go it alone, as my musical path had become very different to Inspiration’s. I started my own Tuesday night show and joined Fantasy’s sister station, Sheffield Community Radio. SCR had a huge reputation and had been long established within Sheffield’s Afro-Caribbean community.

The flats were an insight for me into how many people in inner cities lived, and as a boy from a working-class housing estate I realised how lucky I was. Dirty nappies in lifts, drug dealers, sex workers and other things I’d only heard in the lyrics of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ were suddenly much closer to home. A steel plate on the station’s front door was an indication that the police could arrive at any time, or possibly a rival station wanting to steal our equipment. It was the ultimate game of cat and mouse.

On occasion we were taken down by the police, but after a few days or weeks we’d be back up again, in a new location with new equipment. In the six years I spent on Hardcore, Fantasy, SCR and Dance FM, I must have broadcast from a dozen different flats. One had clearly been recently vacated by a goth, as the walls in each room were painted the darkest black imaginable. Just a few hours in there left you feeling like the life had been sucked out of you.

Soundwaves

The Arctic Monkeys have announced their first live date in three years. The Sheffield group play Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival in June and are expected to announce more dates ahead of their upcoming sixth album.

In a bid to cut plastic waste, Yellow Arch Studios have announced they’re removing plastic straws from the front of their bar. They’ll also be “encouraging people to refuse the straw”, following similar moves by The Harlequin and Gardeners Rest pubs.

After two successive festivals that saw acts including Jagwar Ma and Roots Manuva come to Sheffield, Outlines Festival has been permanently cancelled. The Tramlines spring spin-off cited financial reasons for its downfall, saying they would “not be able to afford to run it again”.

After running into licensing problems at their current home, The Lughole have at the time of writing raised £6,280 towards a £10k target to open a new venue. The punk practice space are already in talks with the owners of a new site and are asking for donations at gofundme.com/lughole-ii.

Andy Tattersall