Veteran broadcaster Annie Nightingale dies aged 83

Veteran broadcaster Annie Nightingale has died at the age of 83, the BBC has said.

She became the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1 when she joined the station in 1970, and went on to become its longest-serving host.

In a statement reported by the BBC, her family said: “Annie Nightingale MBE 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.”

Women of the Year Lunch and Awards 2010 – London
Annie Nightingale (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The statement added that a celebration of her life will be taking place in the spring at a memorial service.

Nightingale first broadcast on the BBC in 1963 as a panellist on Juke Box Jury, before joining Radio 1 seven years later.

She remained the station’s only female DJ until 1982, when Janice Long joined, and is credited with helping to pave the way for the likes of Sara Cox, Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball.

As a DJ she has travelled the world, and once said she had been “mugged in Cuba, drugged in Baghdad and bugged in Russia”.

During her trailblazing career, she was the first woman to present the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test music show which aired on BBC Two and has written two autobiographical books.

In 2021, BBC Radio 1 launched a new scholarship for female and non-binary dance music DJs which was named after Nightingale.

Up until recently she still hosted her show Annie Nightingale presents… on BBC Radio 1.

The head of BBC Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, said the station was “devastated” to lose Nightingale and sent the team’s condolences to her family and friends.

He added: “Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists.

“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 and, thanks to Annie, things will never be the same.”

Over the years, she rubbed shoulders with music titans including the late David Bowie, who she brought to a pub after watching him open up for another band to praise his talent when she was aged 22.

The Sony Radio Academy Awards 2011 – London
Annie Nightingale (Ian West/PA)

She also befriended The Beatles and was a guest on occasion at the band’s Apple Studios in London during the 1960s.

During a special show with former BBC Radio 1 host Nick Grimshaw she told him that Sir Paul McCartney once “sort of” proposed to her, adding: “But I don’t think he was serious.”

She documented her pioneering career and the evolution of five decades of pop culture in her 2020 memoir Hey Hi Hello.

In 2019, she was made a CBE for services to radio having previously been made an MBE in 2002.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said Nightingale was a “uniquely gifted broadcaster” and hailed her as a “champion for female broadcasters” as he paid tribute.

“I’m deeply saddened by Annie’s passing and our thoughts are with her family, many friends and the whole of Radio 1,” Mr Davie said.

“Annie was a uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism, for over 50 years.

“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.”