From Hucknall basement to High Peak Radio airwaves- broadcasting brothers reflect on career success

Hucknall Steve Jenner
Hucknall Steve Jenner

Many Dispatch readers might remember the days of WHAM radio in Hucknall and Bulwell and the two brothers who broadcast the shows alongside their mobile disco entertainment. But what became of the Jenner brothers and their dreams of turning tracks and ruling the airwaves? Jackie Derbyshire finds out..

From playing records in the basement of their family home to broadcasting in the High Peaks and campaigning on television, two Hucknall brothers have proved that you can follow your dreams to success.

Steve Jenner and his younger brother Paul are the directors and part-time presenters on High Peak Radio, broadcasting across the area from Glossop to the edge of Derby and beyond. But it is a far cry from the early days over 40 years ago when they set up Hucknall’s first mobile disco that many Dispatch readers might remember.

“I lived at my grandmother’s house on Bacon Springs in Hucknall until my mum and dad had saved up enough money to buy one of the first new houses on the Vaughan Estate,” remembers Steve who is now aged 57. “By then my dad had left the pit and had gone to work at Rolls-Royce.”

Steve was joined by his brother Paul in 1961 by which time his love of music was already evident.

“I’d shown early promise as a DJ by cramming my mum’s record collection into her Dansette every time her back was turned,” laughs Steve whose earliest memories of Hucknall are ‘the sounds of steam engines lugging heavy coal trains into the distance at night and the sounds of shunting from the pit tops at Hucknall and Linby’.

Both boys went to National Junior School. But after Steve passed his 11 plus exam, the two got separated as Paul went to the National Comprehensive and Steve went to Annie Holgate Technical Grammar.

“Despite going to different schools we came together with our hobby and started one of the town’s first mobile discos in 1973 with a rig built by a mate of ours out of old bits and bobs,” added 52 year-old Paul who is the sales and marketing guru for their broadcasting business. “We called it the Sound City Disco for the first few years but I ran it as the Paul Jenner Roadshow from the early 80s onwards and went on to tour it all over the country.”

It was in 1992 through a chance encounter with a Nottingham pirate station called Horizon Radio that the pair got their first big break into broadcasting.

“We slowly helped to change the Nottingham dance station into a legitimate, licensed temporary broadcast outfit,” says Steve who now lives in Staffordshire.

The pair learned a lot in those early days that stood them in good stead for their future career as they attempted to set up their own station covering Hucknall and Bulwell called WHAM.

“We built a broadcast studio using all the old 60s technologies in the cellar of my Linby Grove home,” explains Paul. “We played vinyl records on turntables and used cartridge ‘stack’ players for the jingles and commercials. It didn’t matter much about the scratches and crackles because we were licensed to broadcast on Medium Wave.

“However it meant we had to put up with having a 10 metre aerial in our back garden which had to be surrounded with chicken wire and sprayed with water whenever it wasn’t raining to ensure the signal was as strong as possible.”

The pair provided a regular national and local news service with music on the station assisted by numerous presenters from across the district.

“Our first local newshound, was the extremely talented David Heathcote, who would often turn up to cover stories on his push-bike,” says Steve who is also the media spokesman for the Plain English Campaign.

Following their success both on air and off, with Paul successfully funding their enterprise by attracting advertising revenue, the brothers tried to obtain a full–time commercial radio licence for Chesterfield but it wasn’t meant to be.

“After a long and hideously expensive campaign where we headed up our own consortium we came a close second. Had we won we would have done very nicely but we funded the whole thing and we lost thousands.”

Where others might have given up and turned their back on broadcasting, Steve and Paul showed great tenacity and strived to chase what they believed was their destiny.

“In order to recover financially we set up a mobile studio to broadcast for short periods at events like the Ilkeston Fair (Fair FM), Newark show (Newark FM) and Newark Music Festival and the Moor Green Show.

“We interviewed all sorts of people from ABC, Go West and The Rubettes, through to the late Fred Dibnah,” adds Steve. “This gave us the financial backing to bid for the High Peak commercial licence.”

The rest they say is history as the pair continue with their quest, expanding their station with new licences being granted from OFCOM (the communications regulator) stretching their broadcasting area with the potential audience on their two stations now over 100,000 people.

There have been highs and lows for the brothers of broadcasting who put their success simply down to hard work and their early days.

“When we come back to Hucknall to visit mum we are always struck by the changes.It is a shame to think of the Co-op Hall when Northern Soul was the sound of the town, now looking rather forlorn and the Miner’s Welfare, where we used to gig regularly, flattened and lying under a mixed residential/retail development.”

Their nostalgic trip down memory lane sits alongside a new show the pair are launching which will run on the first Monday evening of each month called Vinyl Years Extra on High Peak Radio.

“We will be using our old vinyl records from our WHAM days and used to tour the local pubs and clubs with,” explains Steve. “It will also feature stories and guests which anyone in the Hucknall and Bulwell area will be able to listen to through the ‘Listen Live’ feature on the website, from probably November.”

Looking back, the brothers hope to inspire the next generation from Hucknall to ‘follow their star’ too.

“People will line up to tell you that you’ll fail and if you think you’re beaten - you are,” says Steve. “But if you work at it and can genuinely look yourself in the mirror the next day and say ‘well, I gave it my best shot’ then you won’t have any regrets.

“Paul becomes really exasperated when people describe him as a ‘natural’ when it comes to the sales and marketing thing. Yes, he has a gift; but he’ll tell you every time it’s actually about how much work you put in. There is no substitute for graft. And that’s very Hucknall.”