The BBC has confirmed the passing of Annie Nightingale, the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1 and the station’s DJ with the longest tenure. She passed away at the age of 83 on 11 January at her residence in London, after a brief illness. In a statement, her family hailed her as a “pioneer, trailblazer, and a source of inspiration for many.” Despite six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio worldwide, her unwavering passion to share her enthusiasm with audiences never waned.
The family added, “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. The family also said, “Watching Annie do this on television in the 1970s, most famously as a presenter on the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test, or hearing her play the latest breakbeat techno on Radio 1 is testimony to someone who never stopped believing in the magic of rock’n’roll.”
Nightingale became a member of Radio 1 in 1970 and remained dedicated to the station throughout her entire career. She holds the remarkable distinction of having the lengthiest tenure as a female radio presenter, a world record in itself. Her renowned show, Annie Nightingale Presents, showcased her passion for dance music, featuring the most impactful bass-driven tracks. In her latest broadcast on 9 January, she delighted listeners with songs from Deadmau5, as well as captivating remixes of tracks by AJ Tracey, Jorja Smith, and the talented US rapper Ice Spice.
Listen here to Annie Nightingales’ last Radio broadcast 19/12/23
BBC director general Tim Davie expressed his admiration for Nightingale’s exceptional talent and dedication. He said, “a uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism, for over 50 years. As well as being a trailblazer for new music, she was a champion for female broadcasters, supporting and encouraging other women to enter the industry.”
Aled Haydn Jones, the head of BBC Radio 1, expressed deep sorrow over the departure of Nightingale, Aled said, “Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists. He added, “She was the first female DJ on Radio 1 and over her 50 years on the station was a pioneer for women in the industry and in dance music. We have lost a broadcasting legend and, thanks to Annie, things will never be the same.”
Greg James, the presenter of the breakfast show, expressed his admiration on X.
Annie Nightingale’s life and achievements were so extraordinary you couldn’t possibly sum them up on here. This interview is well worth your time. 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… pic.twitter.com/hvhM6DUnGA — Greg James (@gregjames) January 12, 2024
Nightingale was born in Middlesex on April 1, 1940. Initially, she worked in television and newspapers before becoming the host of the popular 1960s TV show That’s for Me. Alongside her television career, she also managed a chain of fashion shops and pursued modeling. In the late 1960s, she was inspired by the rise of pop pirate radio and actively campaigned for a position at the BBC’s newly established Radio 1, which, at the time, did not allow female presenters.
She became the only female DJ at the station for 12 years until Janice Long joined in 1982. During this time, Nightingale moved to an evening time slot, giving her more freedom in selecting the music she played. She hosted various music and discussion shows on the station and became a co-host on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1978 after Bob Harris left. Notably, she led an episode of the show that aired after the tragic murder of John Lennon.