The UK’s first and only 24-hour commercial Greek radio station to hold a FM license in London is celebrating 34 years of success this month, weeks after its unofficial 40th anniversary.
London Greek Radio exists to enlighten, amuse and improve the lives of our community both in the UK and abroad. In preserving our Greek and Cypriot heritage and bringing together London’s vibrant Greek community, the LGR brand is thriving by celebrating its Greek and Cypriot roots.
On 8th October 1983, LGR began transmitting to the Greek and Cypriot community as a pirate radio station and officially joined the FM airwaves on 13th November 1989. Based in North Finchley the station began its official broadcasting in November 1989. However, LGR’s origins stretch back to the early 1980s, when Akis Eracleous and Chris Harmanda launched the pirate station. It was the first-ever British station to target an ethnic minority group with its pioneering service to the Greek and Cypriot communities.
Chris Harmanda entered broadcasting to give the London Cypriot community a voice, which he and Mr Eracleous indisputably achieved.
Akis, who DJ’d under the name ‘George Power’, later became a co-founder of Kiss FM. Before this however, he and Mr Harmanda decided to launch LGR in 1983, broadcasting from Finsbury Park to North London with a Greek music format. Programmes initially came from the studio above the Quality Fish Bar in Finsbury Park, owned by the Harmanda family, and the offices in Akis’ house in N4 Grenville Road. Eventually the station spread its wings across the city, with help from friend and engineer Pyers Easton. They moved transmissions to above a Cypriot delicatessen in Muswell Hill, where LGR’s tall aerial mast took it’s programmes to the whole of the North London area. Even in the early days of its arrival on the airwaves, LGR gathered a dedicated following very quickly.
In 2018 we tragically lost both Akis and Chris, but they left with us their incredible legacies. The perseverance and bravery of these men, who scaled the rooftops of sites, ensuring each morning we all awoke to the sound of LGR, can never be forgotten. At the Haringey office, there was an iconic image that proudly hung of its founders and DJ ‘Kokis’ putting up the FM aerial for the pirate station on a rooftop.
The staff and volunteers endured great adversity and went to great lengths during the 1980’s to keep London Greek Radio on the air.
“Growing up in North London in the 90s, the whole family was listening”. Ask a Greek or Cypriot and this is what they will tell you. LGR’s real timeless traits, which helped trigger a sense of nostalgia and a connection to their culture. This is where LGR plays to its strengths and is the reason why London-born Greeks and Cypriots come back to it. This is the modern legacy of London Greek Radio.
LGR presenter Tony Neophytou mentions that “the Greek speaking community have a penchant for radio because of the strength of their attachment to back home. Whether they come from Cyprus, Greece or the Diaspora, anything that recreates a sense of their roots stirs them emotionally. That’s partly due to the music of course, with its lyric content, but it’s also about the culturally relevant topics we talk about.”
For Mr Neophytou, “family and community” is what comes to mind when thinking about LGR. For many London Greeks and Cypriots, the station has provided “a safe space” to go to, affirming roots and heritage and comforting its listeners 24/7. It’s a ‘safe and secure space’ of a trusted-family member, he describes.
In the mid-1980s, tens of thousands of people signed a petition demonstrating the need for LGR to have a real presence within the community. The signatures were handed to the relevant authorities which subsequently contributed to the station being licensed by the radio authorities.
A number of fundraisers with community artists and DJs, i.e. at the Camden Electric Ballroom had thousands come out in support of the beleaguered illegal pirate station. It took a great deal of documentary evidence, correspondence, press campaigns, and petitions to eventually convince the radio authorities that LGR should be granted a licence.
The pirate LGR left the air at the end of 1988 having decided to apply for one of the new incremental radio licenses. They decided to work together with Afro-Carribean station WNK to share a frequency, winning the North London license with a 12-hour daily allowance.
LGR returned to the air legally as London’s first Greek community radio station in November 1989.
The book, ‘London’s Pirate Pioneers‘ (2015) by Stephen Hebditch tells the story of the capital’s pirate radio stations and the people who helped change the British broadcasting system. He writes about LGR’s undeniable legacy in the eighties and the intense pressures it faced to shut down.
However, London Greek Radio became one of Britain’s first-ever licensed ethnic radio stations upon being awarded its license.
On November 13th 1989, LGR opened its doors as a fully legal station, with offices and a studio located on Vale Road, Haringey. In 2003, LGR purchased a freehold in Finchley and moved to its current studios at the LGR House.
One of London’s first-ever licensed ethnic radio stations began official broadcasting on 13th November 1989 upon being awarded its license, breaking ground in changing the landscape of UK radio.
John Kyriakides, Chairman of London Greek Radio, described the twists and turns in the station’s turbulent history.
“It was a difficult and protracted journey. George Eracleous and Chris Harmanda, two young men who intended to launch a Greek-language pirate radio station in the early 1980s, are credited with founding the station. Eventually, the station became a target for the authorities, who prosecuted the founders and repeatedly threatened to arrest them. Though we had to share the frequency with an Afro-Caribbean channel, Eracleous and Harmanda never gave up, and with the help of the Greek and Cypriot communities, a few directors, and myself, the radio station was given a licence at the end of the decade.
“We were only permitted to broadcast for twelve hours at first, however after five years, the Afro-Caribbean station disbanded, and London Greek Radio was then granted a 24-hour radio licence and became an independent radio station.”
Over the years, LGR 103.3 FM has become steadfast to a wide range of listeners; from maturing-settlers-to-the-UK to the coming-of-age London Greek-speakers – connecting listeners to their roots through a carefully balanced programming of music, speech, entertainment and news.
The LGR DJs who went on-air during the Covid pandemic, felt the responsibility to be not only informative but be a form of escapism. Its enduring qualities during the tough times is a testament to the powerful connection it holds within the community.
It also serves advertising for many Greek and Cypriot run businesses in and around North London. LGR has recently increased its English language airtime encouraging more Greek-speaking young people to listen in, particularly during the daytime, drive time and evenings as part of the schedule. LGR is also recruiting younger presenters, who combine Greek music with discussions on everything from cultural identities to chart trends.
The station is an integrated part of the communities’ social lives, including the organised Greekology events. Mr Eracleous suggested launching LGR nights at a local club, which helped to boost the credibility and impact of the station. In 2012, its debut at the Marquee Club with most notably, Cypriot Eurovision star Ivi Adamou, was sold-out with over 500 people in attendance. LGR Club Nights are currently the station’s biggest event, with more than a few dates in London taking place each year.
Today it is the go-to station for the championing of up-and-coming Greek/Cypriot music talents and recently launched its own LGR Productions. It has provided a platform for young music talents, while welcoming big-name guests such as Konstantinos Argiros, Stan, Nikos Vertis, Helena Paparizou, Giannis Ploutarhos and Michalis Hatzigiannis. The attendance of music stars in recent years sprinkled some stardust at the LGR studios.
LGR has supported charities including Radiomarathon, London Autism Group Charity, UK Thalassaemia Society and Alkionides UK Charity. The Leukaemia Cancer Society even gives the credit to LGR in inspiring the creation of the cancer charity. The charity’s website acknowledges this fact.
“In 1994 London Greek Radio (LGR) put out a mother’s appeal for her son. Flushed with success the group decided to carry on recruiting new donors, raising awareness of blood cancers, and supporting patients with the disease. Within a year of hearing the appeal on London Greek Radio, the group had formed a committee and registered the charity.”
The station gives a voice to charity fundraising initiatives with its scheduling of specialist shows. LGR recently organised National Thalassaemia Day in partnership with #UKTS and its patrons, raising awareness of an issue which affects many Cypriots today.
LGR is a commercial station and survives on the income generated from its loyal and valued customers and whilst this is the case, it offers a free service to local charity and community interests.
The LGR brand is alive and thriving to this very day. In addition to serving the Greek and Cypriot communities on air, LGR has broken into 21st-century broadcasting by joining the Digital Radio platform.
LGR can now be heard in two major cities on DAB+ (digital radio), namely London and Birmingham.
Furthermore, listeners extend worldwide at lgr.co.uk and the station has a free app for mobile devices which listeners can download from the App or Play stores embracing the ‘on-the-move’ audience.
The audience base of LGR, which includes listeners from the Italian, Spanish, Arab, Jewish, Armenian, Bulgarian, and Turkish Cypriot communities, is well-established and diverse.
LGR’s Managing Director, Tony Jay, said, “More listeners are discovering the ever-growing London Greek Radio family every day, not only Greek-speaking listeners but English, Jewish, Albanian, Arab, Bulgarian, Turkish, Russian and many more that frequently tune in.
He added, “LGR is undergoing a revamp with fresh ideas to attract an even wider audience. Exciting times ahead ‘onwards and upwards’.”
LGR’s Chairman John Kyriakides, added, “With LGR’s edgier playlists of the biggest Greek and Cypriot tunes, Modern Laika, Greek Pop, Entehna, Golden-Oldies, Alternative, Folk and Current Chart Hits, we continue to serve the listener. It’s this enigmatic reason that the station remains the preferred choice in most Greek and Cypriot homes, offices, shops, factories, workplaces, vehicles and venues.
In conclusion, he states that “our multilingual programmes–English and Greek–reach a large and diverse audience on a global scale. It broadcasts music, interviews, announcements, community events, local news, Greek and Cypriot news in addition to church services. While catering to the lively lifestyle of one of London’s prosperous communities, the wide range of programmes are made to appeal to all age groups.”