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BBC Radio Lancashire turns 40

On Wednesday 26 January 2011, BBC Radio Lancashire turned 40!

As your favourite station celebrates 40 fabulous years, we open the archives to bring you highlights from some of our special reports.

BBC Radio Lancashire has covered all the big stories - the times when the county was the focus of national attention.

From politics, to famous faces, from the Eurofighter to Wallace and Gromit - we've covered it all!

1984: Abbeystead Disaster
Graphic of pumping station layout

As we start our look-back this week who can forget the impact of the Abbeystead disaster?

In May 1984 a group of villagers from St Michaels on Wyre went to visit the Abbeystead water pumping station because they were concerned about local flooding.

It was a visit which was to end in tragedy when there was a massive explosion caused by a build-up of methane gas.

Sixteen people were killed in what was one of Lancashire's biggest tragedies.

A special service is held every year a the St Michael's-on Wyre Church, where candles are lit for all those who died.

1985: Barbara Castle
Barbara Castle

When the radio station opened as Radio Blackburn, it raised the question of why we did not set up in Preston, the civic capital.

The answer to that might lie at the door of the former Blackburn MP Barbara Castle, the government minister who rallied on behalf of the town.

She was also a dominating figure at Westminster who campaigned on behalf of women's rights, as well as working on the drink drive laws...

1989: Nick Park
Nick Park with Wallace & Gromit

Let's reflect on the achievements of one Preston student who created some famous characters out of a bit of Plasticine.

Nick Park is now the proud owner of four Oscars.

The first was received in 1989 for Creature Comforts, and of course the other three were for Wallace and Gromit.

We found out who inspired the name Wallace, and hear Peter Sallis - the voice of Wallace himself - on a visit to Preston in 1997 when Nick was back home when he was given the freedom of the city.

1991: Poll Tax
Poll tax demonstration

If a week is a long time in politics , then 40 years is an age, and much has happened since we started broadcasting in 1971.

Ted Heath was Prime Minister at the time but he paid the price of the three day week and the next Tory Prime Minister was to be Margaret Thatcher.

She changed the face of British politics until the unpopularity of the poll tax cost her dear and it was the Ribble Valley which became the centre of attention, as Nigel Evans lost his safe Conservative seat to the Liberal Democrats in the by-election.

He regained his seat in the 1992 General Election and has been the MP there ever since.

This was just one of the many political stories we have covered, including Gordon Brown's visit to BBC Radio Lancashire before the election - which didn't in the end help him much!

1994: Beside the Seaside
The Big One ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Over the last 40 years the resort of Blackpool has rarely been out of the news and 1994 was a special year with the Tower celebrating its centenary.

It's still there now, under new owners, and remains an iconic building.

Down the road is the Pleasure Beach, where millions go each year, and 1994 was the year they launched a brand new ride, The Big One in a blaze of glory.

But it didn't all work out as planned...

1994: Extending the M65
demonstrations in Blackburn for the M65 extension

In 1994 a whole host of professional protestors arrived in Lancashire to try and stop the building of the extension of the M65 motorway from Whitebirk to the M6 and M61.

This extension was the scene of a standoff between construction security workers and protestors but was opened on 18 December 1997 by Jack Straw, Home Secretary and Member of Parliament for Blackburn.

1994: Mr Blobby's Crinkley Bottom
Noel Edmonds and Mr Blobby

Who would have thought a pink spotty TV character would cause a right old stir and cost a local council £1m?

Mr Blobby was a popular figure in Noel Edmond's television show... so Edmonds and Lancaster City Council get together to create the Crinkley Bottom Theme Park which opened in the summer of 1994.

The number of visitors was... well, less than expected.

Crinkley Bottom closed 13 weeks later.

The two sides blame each other for the fiasco... cue Noel Edmonds and Lancaster City Council leader Stan Henig.

Even today if you try and mention Mr Blobby in the Town Hall councillors and officers will cover their ears and run a mile...

1994: The IRA in Lancashire
Brighton Grand Hotel bomb blast

Back in the 1970's when we started broadcasting, the terrorist threat came from the IRA, and that continued for many years.

We had the Brighton bomb in 1984, and by the nineties Lancashire became something of a target.

A bomb was planted in the RAF and Navy Office in Preston shortly after incendiary devices were found in a bag at the town's railway station and fires were started in Blackpool in the early hours.

In 1994 an IRA terrorist, Felim O'Hamil, managed to get a job as a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. He was arrested after his car was found to contain Semtex plastic explosives and BBC Radio Lancashire was on the case.

O'Hamil served just a fifth of his 25 year sentence, and was released under the Belfast Agreement.

BBC Radio Lancashire even interviewed the Brighton bomber Patrick Magee about how he is now working for peace.


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