Annie Nightingale, pioneering radio DJ and broadcaster, dies aged 83

Annie Nightingale, pioneering radio DJ and broadcaster, dies aged 83

Radio DJ and pioneering broadcaster Annie Nightingale has died, aged 83.

The BBC Radio 1 veteran, who joined the network in 1970 as the network’s first female DJ, died on Thursday (11th January) following a short illness, according to her family, who said in a statement: “Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many. Her impulse to share that enthusiasm with audiences remained undimmed after six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio globally.”

It continued: “Never underestimate the role model she became. Breaking down doors by refusing to bow down to sexual prejudice and male fear gave encouragement to generations of young women who, like Annie, only wanted to tell you about an amazing tune they had just heard.”

Nightingale was the BBC’s longest continuously serving DJ and remained on air until late last year with her eponymous show, Annie Nightingale Presents.

The influential DJ was known for her passion for a wide range of music, championing everything from prog rock to acid house, as well as emerging and underground musicians.

BBC director general Tim Davie today hailed Nightingale as a “uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism for 50 years,” while BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley, who had her own long-running show on Radio 1, called her “the coolest woman who ever graced the airwaves.”

Born in Middlesex in 1940, Nightingale began her career as a journalist while living in Brighton as a general reporter for Brighton and Hove Gazette in the mid 1960s.

After first being rejected for a job as a Radio 1 DJ on the grounds of being a woman, Nightingale was eventually given a trial run at the station and was signed as its first female DJ in 1970.

She began hosting daily afternoon slots, taking over the reins from Terry Wogan, as she remained as the station’s only female DJ for 12 years until Janice Long joined in 1982.

In 2002, Nightingale was awarded an MBE for her services to radio broadcasting. Then, in 2004, she was the first female DJ from Radio 1 to be inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame. Nightingale has also published three memoirs: Chase the Fade in 1981, Wicked Speed in 1999, and most recently 2020’s Hey Hi Hello.

The late broadcaster also launched a scholarship to support upcoming female and non-binary DJs, where three recipients of her award appeared in a special edition of Annie Nightingale Presents on Radio 1.

Commenting on the scholarship, Nightingale said: “Ever since I began, I have wanted to help other young broadcasters passionate about music to achieve their dreams on the airwaves, and now we at Radio 1 are to put that on a proper footing.”

The news of Nightingale’s death was announced on BBC Radio 1 earlier today, with presenter Mollie King saying she had “really championed female talent.”

“I think I can say I speak for myself and other women in broadcasting when I say we owe her an immense amount of gratitude for everything she has done,” she continued.

Other former colleagues of Nightingale, as well as longtime listeners and friends, have been paying tribute to the late broadcaster on social media.

BBC Radio 1 presenter Greg James shared on X that everyone at the station will “miss her so much,” adding: “It was such a treat if you happened to be in the building at the same time as her. She was always so interested in what everyone else was up to.”

BBC 1Xtra and Radio 2 DJ Trevor Nelson wrote on X that Nightingale made him “feel like music broadcasting is for life,” before adding, “Rave in peace.”

“Very sad to hear the news of Annie Nightingale passing,” BBC Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard, host of Radio 1’s Dance Party, posted on X. “An all time radio great and an inspiration to many!”

A statement attributed to her family on Friday said she “passed away yesterday at her home in London,” adding that a celebration of her life will be taking place in the spring at a memorial service.

Listen to an Annie Nightingale DJ set from 2003, and read more tribute to her from throughout the electronic music and DJ community below. 

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