Annie Nightingale: Trailblazing BBC Radio 1 DJ dies at 83

Annie Nightingale
Image caption,Nightingale’s family described her as “a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many”

By Ian Youngs & Noor Nanji

BBC News

BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale, the station’s first female presenter, who went on to become its longest-serving host, has died at the age of 83.

Nightingale joined the station in 1970 and remained the only woman on the line-up for 12 years.

She was known for her passion for a wide range of music, championing everything from prog rock and punk to acid house and grime.

She remained on air until late last year with Annie Nightingale Presents.

Nightingale was also known for co-hosting BBC Two music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.


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Tributes have been flooding in, with Nightingale was “a trailblazer, spirited, adventurous, fearless, hilarious, smart, and so good at her job”.

Writing on Instagram, she added: “This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and radio broadcasting forever. You can’t underestimate it.”

BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball said she was “heartbroken” at the news, adding: “She loved music like no other, she sought out the tunes and artists that shaped our lives, she interviewed them all, opening doors for musicians, DJs and broadcasters alike.”

Annie Nightingale on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1979
Image caption,She presented The Old Grey Whistle Test between 1978 and 82

Fellow Radio 2 host Jo Whiley said Nightingale was “the coolest woman who ever graced the airwaves”.

She added: “She blazed a trail for us all and never compromised. Her passion for music never diminished.”

6 Music DJ and Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne thanked Nightingale “for opening the door and for showing us all what to do when we got through it”, adding: “You will be missed so much.”

The news of Nightingale’s death was announced on BBC Radio 1, 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.” caption,

BBC Radio 1 pays tribute to legendary DJ Annie Nightingale

Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, called Nightingale a “uniquely gifted broadcaster”.

He continued: “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. We will all miss her terribly.”

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A statement attributed to her family on Friday said she “passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness”.

“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.

“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.

“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 One is testimony to someone who never stopped believing in the magic of rock ‘n’ roll.”

They added that a celebration of her life would take place at a memorial service in the spring.

‘A pioneer for women’

Nightingale famously presented Radio 1’s Request Show in the 1970s, 80s and 90s before moving to an overnight slot. She also hosted occasional shows on Radio 2, 5 Live and 6 Music, as well as a range of documentaries.

“Every week, in my job, is a new adventure. I enjoy it,” she said last July. “People don’t understand. Most people get bored with pop music when they’re a certain age. I go on being interested in where it’s going, the twists and turns.”

Radio 1’s current boss Aled Haydn Jones said in a statement: “All of us at Radio 1 are devastated to lose Annie, our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

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.”

Final show

Radio 1 presenter Greg James wrote on X that Nightingale’s life and achievements had been “so extraordinary you couldn’t possibly sum them up on here”.

Glastonbury Festival co-organiser Emily Eavis said she had been “an inspiration to so many women in music” and a “lovely human being”.

She added: “Goodbye dear Annie, a female trailblazer and true enthusiast.”

Nightingale was last on air with a three-part “best of 2023” show on 19 December.

After playing tracks by Dimitri Vegas, Daft Punk, Sam Smith and Bad Bunny she signed off by wishing listeners “a brilliant Christmas”.

Her final words on Radio 1 were, appropriately, “lots of love, from me to you”.

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