Big L '97, The Walton Time-warp

A knee-jerking account by Mary Payne

Part 1 - Fulfilling a Lifetime's Ambition

(Picture - Mark Roman with Mary's Knees)

I guess I've always regarded myself as a part of Big Lil's clan, ever since I first tuned into Radio London in the 'Sixties, so I am extremely proud to have participated in Big L '97. This greatest family reunion ever, took place between 18th July and 14th August 1997, the thirtieth anniversary of the Summer of Love and Radio London's enforced closure.

I would like to think that my part in the RSL was to represent the Big L Listener.

"Is that a typical listener?" someone remarked incredulously, at the strange spectacle of me rising to my feet at the reunion dinner, resplendent in psychedelic Flower Power gear and bedecked in face paint, love beads and bells. In the heat of the moment, I had taken it upon myself to make an impromptu speech. I hope that in doing so I became The Big L Listener. Having talked to many of my pier peers during my sojourn in Walton, I believe that yes, I am a typical listener; happy to admit to being a little batty, and proud to be someone whose love for Big Lil has never diminished over the years. If all I had contributed to Big L '97 had been a guest appearance on the Coffee Break, and the brewing of a few cups of tea in the galley, I would still have gone home quite contented. As it was, I was privileged to become an integral part of the team. The lovely people of Big Lil's family recognised that this was my homecoming, and they accepted me with open arms. I am truly grateful to them for doing so. Now my task is to bring you into that family.

I can truly sympathise with anyone who very much wanted to make a personal visit to the ship for this Thirtieth Anniversary event, but was unable to do so. That was exactly my sentiment concerning Radio London back in the 'Sixties, when my home town of High Wycombe in Bucks was so far removed from Frinton-on-Sea that the mv Galaxy seemed to me as distant as some heavenly galaxy. I can feel especially for those who actually made the pilgrimage as far as Walton pier to gaze wistfully at the Yeoman Rose, never actually managing to tread her decks because of the vagaries of the weather. If it's a dry, hot and sunny day and the North Sea gets it into her head to go surfing, no-one can stop her. For anyone who suffered this ultimate disappointment, I hope I can succeed in capturing the essence of Big L '97, making you, too, feel a part of the event.

For me, this adventure of a lifetime started when I had a chance meeting with an old acquaintance who was to become a friend. I describe this as a 'chance' meeting, yet, as subsequent events unfolded it became clear that there had to be far more to all this than mere coincidence. The way the whole thing came together, it was as if some unseen force was pulling the strings. Who knows, maybe TW was our Guardian Angel, manipulating us to ensure that the new Lil sounded equally as good as when she had ruled the waves under his watchful eye?

In my role of aspiring comedy writer, I had travelled to Manchester on March 6th 1997, for a weekend seminar, run by the Comedy Writers' Association UK, and one of the guest speakers turned out to be Ray Anderson.

At this point, I shall take the opportunity of introducing my husband, Chris, who from here on will be referred to by his old nickname of 'Fluff', to avoid confusion amongst the plethora of Chrises involved in this Radio London saga. (Or should the plural of 'Chris' be 'Chrisii'?) Fluff and I had been in contact with Ray in the early 'Seventies when we had contributed assorted pirate recordings to one of his original Jumbo albums, but we had never met him. As soon as I introduced myself to Ray, we ritualistically donned our best anoraks and kept them on for the rest of the weekend. (It's no dafter than rolling up your trouser leg and exchanging funny handshakes.) Ray told me of his application for a 28-day RSL (Restricted Service Licence) to recreate Radio London in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of her demise.

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