Radio Legend, Broadcasting First, National Favourite: Janice Long, 1955 – 2021
I first met Janice Long in a field at the back of her brother, Keith Chegwin’s house in June 1986.
By this time she was a well-known and well-loved radio and TV personality at the height of her career; chatty, personable and full of humanity. I had been asked to photograph her for The Sunday Times’ A Life In The Day series, briefed that I was to capture her in a situation that was not her usual habitat of screaming teens or the radio recording booth.
I don’t remember the details of that day, over 35 years ago, but what I do recall with absolute certainly is that I was made to feel so very welcome…and nothing had changed when I met Janice again to photograph her for the First Women UK project in 2015.
This time, we met in the slightly more formal studio setting of her BBC Radio 2 show, ‘After Midnight’, but she was no less welcoming and open; there was no boundary of professional fuss that you had to get through to connect to the woman.
I worked with her through the night as she broadcast and I was amazed at how we would be talking about family, friends and women in the vinyl industry one moment, and then smooth as silk, she would seamlessly turn to the mike as a track ended and address her listeners.
Janice joined Radio 1 in 1982 and started presenting Top Of The Pops in 1983; the latter earning her a place in the First Women Portraits collection. I will always remember Janice’s dad and son coming to see her portrait hanging in the Royal College of Art and how proud they were to see her there.
When the show moved on to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall, Janice kindly agreed to come and open the show – showing her support of the project and of the celebration of women’s achievements, but also a reflection of how devoted she was to her beloved Merseyside.
At the opening party, she said she remembered the buttercup field shoot at the back of Keith’s house all those years ago. She stayed for the whole St George’s Hall event – generous with her time as always.
Her enthusiasm for the First Women UK project also extended to her having me on her BBC Radio Wales show to be interviewed; she even let me choose the songs she played on air in that segment (The Ting Tings, That’s Not My Name, Kokomo’s Rise And Shine and Proud by Heather Small). A woman with a huge musical knowledge, she was massively keen for me to celebrate women in the music industry – and that included behind the scenes, not just the artists.
I feel honoured to have worked with and met Janice Long on more than one occasion and also managing to interview her for 1stwomenuk.co.uk (read the chat we had with her in 2019 here) A great loss, a wonderful woman, a broadcasting inspiration.
Portraits: Anita Corbin.
Tune in on February 15th, 6.30-7.30pm for the next First Women:LIVE! Zoomcast
Our next episode features two sporting world Firsts! Michaela Tabb, the First Woman to officiate a World Championship snooker final and Charlotte Budd, who in 1977 became the First Woman to ride in the Grand National sit down together on February 15th to talk about the highs, lows and never-forgotten lessons learned from their experiences.
As ever, the session is free and hosted by Anita Corbin.
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