LGR first joined the airwaves as a pirate in October 1983, it became licensed in November 1989 and in May 1994 LGR’s license was renewed and extended to broadcast 24 hours a day seven days a week to the greater area of the capital from its North London studios.
Akis Eracleous and Chris Harmanda launched LGR on 8th October 1983, the first Greek pirate radio station in London. The first-ever British station to target ethnic minorities with its pioneering service to the culturally diverse Greek and Cypriot communities.
Chris Harmanda entered broadcasting to give the London Cypriot community a voice, which he and Mr Eracleous indisputably achieved.
This month, LGR celebrates its 40th unofficial birthday. Now it is a legal service and the first 24-hour independent Greek radio station to hold the FM frequency license in London.
Akis, who DJ’d under the name ‘George Power’, was a co-founder of Kiss FM later. In 1983, he and Mr Harmanda decided to launch LGR 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.
However, sadly in 2018 we lost both men, leaving behind their incredible legacies. The perseverance and bravery of the men who scaled rooftops of sites, ensuring the next morning we all awoke to LGR. 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.
Akis Eracleous hosted the very first show of the unlicensed station. He and George Gregoriou, known by his nickname Kokis and Aliki Michael, graced the airwaves. Kokis, LGR’s longest-serving DJ recounted: “I was collecting Greek records because I was learning the bouzouki. I’d go up the Greek Lanes and buy 45s.”
When the station began, LGR called rag trade factories with big Cypriot workforces. “We said: ‘Put it on you’ll hear Greek music to work by“, says Kokis. “Factory to factory, the station became known by word of mouth.”
LGR quickly soared in listening numbers and was not long after was followed by a flood of competitors i.e. GCR, Foni ton Apodimon, Foni tis Parikias, Londino ’88 and others. Despite its rivals, LGR’s reputation as the original Greek-Cypriot broadcaster garnered the kind of loyalty which out-performed its rivals. By 1987 85% of Cypriots were tuning into the unlicensed station every week.
“Growing up in North London in the 80s & 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.”
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.
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. As quoted:
“The biggest action ever taken by the authorities against LGR came in 1988 when the police raided LGR’s offices, yet again, only this time they confiscated all paperwork related to the station. In a case at Highgate Magistrates Court in July, companies and staff associated with London Greek Radio were fined £13,900 plus £10,550 in costs and expenses.”
Thousands of listeners to LGR had come out in support of the beleaguered illegal pirate station, at a Camden event. “We were faced with closure, so we held a LGR night at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town,” says George (‘Kokis’). “It sold out twice over and we did it again the following week for those who had missed out.”
LGR even stirred some Parliament airtime, responding to a question by a certain Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP, that asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Mr Atkins how many times his Department has confiscated equipment held by LGR.
My department’s radio investigation service has seized equipment being illegally used by London Greek Radio on 151 occasions. The equipment when seized is held in a secure store and disposed of in accordance with section 83 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. (Hansard archive, 10th January 1989).
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 in 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.”
LGR 103.3 FM, celebrates 34 years of broadcasting as a radio station on 13th November 1989, becoming the UK’s longest-serving ethnic station to hold an FM license.
Over the years, London Greek Radio 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.
It 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.
Over the years, LGR 103.3 FM has been known for its diverse musical offerings, covering a wide range of genres, including classic and modern laika, pop-laika, entehno, elafrolaiko, and many more. It also features a mix of music news, celebrity interviews, community chest shows and cultural content designed to appeal to its demographic.
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.
LGR played a huge part in radio history, by giving Greek and Cypriot musicians the chance to discover a space for themselves in the music scene. Today it is the go-to station for the exploration of up-and-coming artists and homegrown talent and recently launched its own LGR Productions.
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 LGR brand is still alive and well today. Today, in addition to serving communities on 103.3FM, LGR has been taken 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.”