'We have lost a broadcasting legend': Tributes to BBC Radio 1 pioneer Annie Nightingale

'We have lost a broadcasting legend': Tributes to BBC Radio 1 pioneer Annie Nightingale

Tributes are being paid to BBC Radio 1’s legendary DJ Annie Nightingale, the station’s first female presenter.

Nightingale, who has died aged 83, joined the station in 1970 and remained on air until last year with Annie Nightingale Presents. 

She became the network’s longest-running presenter and, for 12 years, was the only woman on Radio 1 until she was joined by Janice Long in 1982. During her decades on air, she supported numerous artists and helped them to break through.

Nightingale was a champion of underground music across multiple genres. She was still on air in December with a three-part best of 2023 show featuring acts such as James Hype, Meduza, Barry Can’t Swim and Christine And The Queens.

Into her eighties, Nightingale remained an industry tastemaker, particularly for electronic music – a genre she had notably supported since the rise of acid house.

Nightingale was also among the co-hosts on the legendary BBC Two music show The Old Grey Whistle Test. During the 2010s, she also presented on BBC Radio 2. 

Annie Nightingale’s family said that she passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness.

In a statement, her family said: "Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many. Her impulse to share that enthusiasm with audiences remained undimmed after six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio globally.

"Never underestimate the role model she became. Breaking down doors by refusing to bow down to sexual prejudice and male fear gave encouragement to generations of young women who, like Annie, only wanted to tell you about an amazing tune they had just heard.

"Watching Annie do this on television in the 1970s, most famously as a presenter on the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test, or hearing her play the latest breakbeat techno on Radio 1 is testimony to someone who never stopped believing in the magic of rock 'n' roll."

A memorial service celebrating the life of Annie Nightingale will take place in the spring.

Aled Haydn Jones, head of Radio 1, said: "All of us at Radio 1 are devastated to lose Annie, our thoughts are with her family and friends.

"Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists.

"She was the first female DJ on Radio 1 and over her 50 years on the station was a pioneer for women in the industry and in dance music.

"We have lost a broadcasting legend and, thanks to Annie, things will never be the same."

Annie was the first female DJ on Radio 1 and over her 50 years on the station was a pioneer for women in the industry and in dance music

Aled Haydn Jones

BBC director-general, Tim Davie, said: "I’m deeply saddened by Annie’s passing and our thoughts are with her family, many friends and the whole of Radio 1.

"Annie was a uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism, for over 50 years. As well as being a trailblazer for new music, she was a champion for female broadcasters, supporting and encouraging other women to enter the industry. We will all miss her terribly."

Lorna Clarke, BBC director of music, said: "She was a fierce pioneer for new music and supporting female talent and will be hugely missed by her many supporters from around the world."

Fellow BBC DJs past and present have paid tribute including Annie Mac and Zoe Ball.

Annie Mac posted on Instagram: “What a devastating loss. Annie Nightingale was a trailblazer, spirited, adventurous, fearless, hilarious, smart, and so good at her job. This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and radio broadcasting forever. You can't underestimate it."

BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball said: "She loved music like no other, she sought out the tunes and artists that shaped our lives, she interviewed them all, opening doors for musicians, DJs and broadcasters alike."

Annie Nightingale launched her Radio 1 career in 1970. Her popular request show ran in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s on the network. She later moved to an overnight slot.

Nightingale was awarded an MBE for her services to radio broadcasting in 2002. In 2004 she was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.

She marked her 50th anniversary in broadcasting at Radio 1 in 2020 with a series of BBC specials, as well as publishing her memoir.

The DJ also encouraged other women to enter broadcasting and music. 

The Annie Nightingale Presents Scholarship was launched by Radio 1 for its third edition last year. The initiative is designed to champion up-and-coming women and non-binary DJs in dance music.


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