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From Uncle Hugo to Uncle Andy, Radio Ulster marks 40 years on the airwaves

By Allan Preston

Published 15/12/2015

Hugo Duncan belts out a tune
Hugo Duncan belts out a tune
Stephen Nolan with David Gordon (right) and Vinny Hurrell
Ralph McLean and Kim Lenaghan
Noel Thompson and Karen Patterson
Stephen Nolan and Peter Corry on stage
Da and Uncle Andy, aka Tim McGarry and Marty Reid
Downshire Brass Band play at the gala concert in the Ulster Hall
Simon Callow

Radio Ulster celebrated 40 years of broadcasting in style with a special concert in the Ulster Hall in Belfast last night.

In a showcase of what the station does best, the entertainment was broadcast live from 8pm with backing from the Ulster Orchestra and a host of guest stars.

Presented by Radio Ulster broadcasters Wendy Austin and John Toal, the concert reflected the rich variety of the station's output, with a mixture of music, arts and comedy.

Setting the mood was 'Uncle Hugo' Duncan who sang Christmas classics with backing music played by the Ulster Orchestra.

The Hole in the Wall gang, who first made their name on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback, returned with the well-known Belfast characters Da and Uncle Andy.

Respected actor and author Simon Callow paid tribute to Radio Ulster with a special selection of readings, along with writer Anita Robinson who shared what she called her "selection box" with the listeners.

Some of Northern Ireland's top musical talent - from classical to jazz and alternative genres - was also in fine form with performances from Peter Corry, Dana Masters, Best Boy Grip and the Sands Family featuring radio station presenter Colm Sands.

New musical talent also got its chance to shine and to be broadcast live. BBC NI and Arts Council young musician winners - soprano Sinead Kelly and jazz percussionist Ed Dunlop - performed alongside the 2015 BBC Radio Ulster Senior School Choir of the Year, Grosvenor Grammar school.

Ahead of the special event, Fergus Keeling, head of radio for BBC NI, said: "We hope what we have in store will be our way of giving our listeners something special back. They've joined in our birthday broadcasts, they have helped make this year special and they are the reason we do what we do."

After the concert, a special documentary, Radio Days, was broadcast on BBC One NI. Looking back on 40 years of broadcasting, the programme celebrated the presenters, creative teams and the listeners who have brought Radio Ulster to life over the years.

Narrated by Stephen Nolan, the documentary featured archive footage and interviews with familiar voices, including presenters Walter Love and John Bennett who were there at the start.

Many of the station's most dedicated listeners - from Hugo fans Jean and Lily, to regular callers Norman from Bangor and Bertie from Lisburn - also featured in the programme, speaking about their special relationship with BBC Radio Ulster.

Belfast Telegraph

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