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Tuesday 17th May was a real red-letter day for the team at Gateway 97.8, for it was when His Royal Highness Prince Richard, The Duke of Gloucester came to visit the station. He is the youngest grandchild of King George V and cousin of the Queen.
It was a sign of recognition at the highest level of the value of the station’s community work. The Duke met many of its volunteers, presented a series of Princess Diana Awards and saw how specialised video equipment can help overcome the difficulties of some visual impairments to give opportunities to people who might normally expect to be excluded from running shows.
But this was to be much more than a walk about showing polite interest, giving a few words of encouragement and then disappearing with a retinue in tow.
The Duke came on air and answered a series of questions, quite unabashed by all the camera flashes as he chatted about his Royal duties, how itineraries are planned and the role of Lord-Lieutenants in suggesting appropriate places for a Royal visit.
It aroused a great sense of occasion for all the station staff: the night before being a time of scrubbing, dusting, checking and a final last minute panic when an important piece of equipment failed. However Richard Yates, Head of Engineering, quickly identified the problem and was able to resolve it with an emergency fix. He may not have realised it at the time, but his initiative enabled the day to go without a hitch.
Royal visits require considerable advance planning including the organisation of times and places of arrival and departure, necessary security measures, agreement about the carefully timed schedule, notification of those to be presented to the Royal visitor, guidance as to the provision and nature of refreshments, car parking provision, protocol guidance and so forth. Not surprisingly, such an event involves a number of different organisations.
The Directors of the station had been presented to The Duke by Lord Petre, Lord- Lieutenant of Essex, who had arrived and taken up position shortly before the Royal party.
The thumbnail photos depict (top) head of engineering Richard Yates, presenters Paul ‘Gonzo’ Dawnay and Kate Oakley, receptionist Irene Farmer (half hidden) and presenter Sherie Griffiths being presented to H.R.H The Duke of Gloucester. The middle photo shows Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex presenting Yvonne Williams to The Duke at his arrival. The lowest picture shows His Royal Highness signing the Visitors Book as he prepares to leave the radio station.
As The Duke was bade farewell, Lord Petre needed to decamp promptly to get into position for the opening of the Sporting Village to be ready to present the various civic dignitaries and principal guests.
The Duke gave a welcome, but unexpected speech and showed considerable interest in aspects of the architecture of the Village, for he had trained as an architect and only resigned his practice partnership when it became necessary to shoulder inherited responsibilities following the tragic loss of his elder brother in a ‘plane crash.
Of course, there was an added personal connection in that The Duke’s father had Gloucester Park named after him when he opened it.
For the full gallery of pictures and to view the video of the event, please follow the links below: