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Mark Radcliffe

Mark Radcliffe with sunglasses on

Radio has featured heavily the life of Mark Radcliffe - but he was not always in front of the microphone.

Born in Bolton in 1958, Mark led a pretty bog standard life, going to school and then Manchester University to study English and American Studies. During those years he repeatedly tried to attain fame and fortune in a variety of bands, but failed on almost every count which meant radio was the perfect place to go to.

From Manchester to London

But music was in his blood, and he ended up working at Manchester's Piccadilly Radio producing plays and classical music output - at a time when tin-pot local radio tended to bother about these things. This in turn led him to the doors of Radio One in London, producing live gigs and sessions for the legendary John Peel.

Amongst those bands which (by all accounts) he produced for John's show, were The Fall, at the time including a certain Marc Riley.

And back again

A few years later and it was back up north with a job as Head of Programmes at Piccadilly Radio again, before making his way onto the other side of the microphone, presenting programmes, where he met Frank Sidebottom - the comedian with a papier-machied head who would later become known as Pumpy Boy to listeners of Hit the North. and it was at Piccadilly that a certain Mrs Merton first made her appearance when it was revealed that she lived next door to Frank in Timperly.

Piccadilly was a hotbed of talent, with such future stars as Timmy Mallet and a young Chris Evans. Indeed when Chris managed to accidently erase an exclusive interview with rock legend Bob Geldof, it was Mark who saved him from getting the sack.

In front of the mic

Mark Radcliffe
in his duffel coat

In 1987 Mark returned back to production for the BBC, and was persuaded by Frank Mansfield, the head of the fledgling Radio 5, to present one of the many shows from the regions that he had planned - Hit the North was born.

During those early days Mark was rather shy (or was he just trying to be mysterious?) and refused to be photographed without a large duffel coat hood over his head and a pair of sunglasses on - rising to the jingles proclaiming he was 'The man in the duffel coat'.

The duffel coat however is not the most important thing to happen during the run of Hit the North - a show which set about a chain of events that are now legendary - well would be if anyone knew about them.

A double act is formed

Marc Riley was working as a record plugger at the time and Hit the North was a natural target for plugging Northside and the Cocteau Twins. As such Marc spent much time trying to get his bands onto the show. So much so that he was eventually given a gossip slot on the show, and became a regular fixture. The two became firm friends and a double act was born.

The double act was initially kept for Radio 5, as Mark was quickly snapped up to present a number of programmes for Radio 1 including The Guest List, Skyman and the seminal Out on Blue Six, as well as presenting The White Room and Glastonbury coverage for Channel 4.

Mark Radcliffe
sitting on a step

However the cult following of Hit the North was not to be overlooked forever and in 1993 Mark and Lard were offered the weekday 10-midnight slot on Radio 1.

For over three years The Graveyard Shift built up an even bigger cult following but despite its fame in certain circles, neither Mark nor Marc were particularly well known when they were thrust into the limelight of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1997.

Although it flopped spectacularly, the pair were firmly in the public eye, and the first show ever to fail, was quickly followed up by the amazing success of the afternoon show.

Even with a popular daytime radio show, Mark found time for some solo broadcasting, writing and narrating documentaries for Radios 1, 2 and 4 on music and comedy, presenting shows on BBC7, and became the face of BBC Four's coverage of the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Alone again

The decision for Mark and Marc to go their separate ways on a professional basis, saw him move to a solo nighttime show on Radio 2, and in 2004 returned to Glastonbury to present the BBC TV coverage of the festival as he quickly

Mark quickly and easily moved back into being a solo presenter on a full time basis, although is of course, still good friends with his former co-worker.

It's not the end forever for Mark and Lard as a double act - the two are close friends, and plan to work together in the future. But sometimes people need to do something else for a bit. And so they do.

Other Stuff

Outside of the radio, Mark released his first book, 'Showbusiness: The Diary of a Rock and Roll Nobody', a semi-autobiographical tome tracing the stories behind the plethora of unsuccessful bands he has been in over the years. It was published in 1998.

His first novel, Northern Sky, about the northern folk scene was published in 2005.

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