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2MT Writtle: the Birth of British Radio Broadcasting

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Thursday 5th October 16:40 - 17:40 | Ballroom

Island based author and historian Tim Wander is widely recognised as a world authority on the early days of radio, Marconi and the birth of the BBC – working with museums and television companies. For the first time on the Island Wander, will tell the incredible story of the birth of radio broadcasting and the BBC – starting in a worldwide pandemic 100 years ago.

This is the story of how a group of young maverick engineers, just returned from the horrors of the First World War, would change the world as we know it. Their work would lead to the modern age of radio broadcasting, mass electronic manufacture, radar, television, computers and the Internet.

On 14th February 1922 a weak and static-laden radio signal crackled out from an old army hut on the edge of a partly flooded field in the small Essex Village of Writtle.

The new art of radio broadcasting had found a home. The first British radio station, call-sign ‘2MT’, would faithfully appear on the air for almost a year. The whole thing was conceived and run by the irrepressible Captain Peter Pendleton Eckersley, a brilliant engineer and natural comedian. For the first time in history ‘PPE’ and the 2MT team offered its listeners news and records, live music, comedy sketches, stories, the first ever radio play, quizzes, competitions, dedicated children’s sections, impersonations, burlesque entertainments and even parodies of grand opera. Nothing like it had been heard before – it was a new type of entertainment for a new age. Six months later the BBC was formed, and Eckersley became its first Chief Engineer.

Based on 40 years of research, with over 190 colourised historic images and a design layout developed from Wander’s work with schools, recognising that children today don’t understand black and white images! – but when they become colour a whole new world opens up.

Today radio has been largely overtaken by other forms of media and entertainment – but they all owe their invention to the humble crystal set radio connected to the washing line… and a genius known as Captain Eckersley.

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