On air in Suffolk: Stephen 'Foz' Foster on his life behind the microphone

Stephen Foster radio orwell

Foz in the Radio Orwell newsroom - Credit: Stephen Foster

It was a summer's day in my hometown of Ipswich. The year 1982. The location The Great White Horse Hotel. Unbeknown to me, it was the day that changed my life.

Chris Opperman, the recently appointed programme organiser at Ipswich's commercial station Radio Orwell, and his news editor Andy Kluz had asked me to join them for a lunchtime meeting at a place in Suffolk's county town long associated with the author Charles Dickens.

stephen foster radio orwell reading news

A fresh-faced Foz reading the news - Credit: Stephen Foster

I had no great expectations of what was to come, just high hopes that they might have some more freelance work for me. Up until that point I'd been heavily involved in the Sunday evening teenagers' magazine Platform, a role I'd combined with a bit of tape reclaiming and coffee making on a Tuesday night.

What I was pretty certain of was that our early afternoon get together would involve a few drinks. I wasn't wrong. We sat in the back bar of the Great White Horse, a hostelry I'd got to know well as a meeting place with friends before heading down the road to gigs at what was then the Gaumont Theatre.

A couple of Abbot Ales in, the penny dropped. I was being sounded out for a full-time job in the newsroom at Electric House!

Picture of Radio Orwell in Electric House, Ipswich. 1980

Radio Orwell in Electric House, Ipswich, in 1980 - Credit: Archant

At that time I wouldn't have listed current affairs as one of my passions in life. Thanks to listening to Radio Orwell's news bulletins and reading this very newspaper I had a good idea of what was going on in the world but I didn't really see myself as a reporter.

Thankfully Oppers and Andy did and they offered me a full-time post as a trainee reporter. You could have knocked me down with a feather or maybe it was all the beer. It took me all of a nano-second to say yes. We shook hands and had another drink.

As I staggered out into the daylight I was on cloud nine. After five years cutting my teeth at Hospital Radio Ipswich and making myself useful two evenings a week at Radio Orwell I had landed my dream job.

I was still living at home and couldn't wait to tell my parents who, as always, were so pleased for me and gave my move from the world of insurance to local radio their full blessing.

What I'll never forget is how Chris Opperman took the trouble to ring my mother to reassure her and my father that their radio-mad son was doing the right thing.

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It was a great gesture from a man told me he decided I was up to the job when he heard me deputising for my good friend Norman Lloyd on the Sunday morning show Backtracking.

Next week I'll take you back to the days when it became clear that me and a microphone might be made for each other.

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