Sad farewell to Stray FM's Nick Hancock as era comes to an end for Harrogate's radio station

Harrogate has said a sad but fond farewell today to some of the most popular names at Stray FM as the station and its listeners prepares for its rebrand as 'Greatest Hits Radio.'

Friday, 28th August 2020, 2:34 pm
Updated Friday, 28th August 2020, 2:38 pm
True local radio that will be truly missed in Harrogate - Stray FM's Breakfast Show presenter Nick Hancock.

Harrogate's legendary tearooms Bettys tweeted: "It's the end of an era for two Harrogate legends today - the last @strayfm radio show by @NickHancock and @willsmithyorks

"Thanks Nick and Will. We’ll miss your jolly voices on the radio and want to say thank you for being so lovely. You’ll always be friends of Bettys."

Simon Cotton, group managing director of HRH Group which includes The Yorkshire Hotel, The WHite Hart Hotel and The Fat Badger, tweeted: "Thank u #strayFM ⁦ @NickHancock @willsmithyorks and @sarahbarry_SB for all the amazing years of fun & laughter. Thk you for supporting #Harrogate community so well in so many ways. True #localradio that will be truly missed."

With just days to go until the Stray FM name is consigned to history, Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP says he hopes his concerns are proved unfounded but he fears the “omens aren’t good” for Stray FM’s future as a truly local station on the eve of its major rebrand.

Andrew Jones said the imminent shake-up at the town’s once-independent radio station was in danger of leaving the new ‘Greatest Hits Radio’ a “faceless, bland” version of itself.

Mr Jones said: “It is a matter of huge regret that Stray FM is going to be history by next week. I have been a fan of our local radio station for nearly a quarter of a century since I moved to Harrogate.

“I know that some of our area’s best-known business and community names have lobbied for these changes not to happen and I have been proud to support those pleas.

“However, Bauer Media Group are pressing ahead and Stray FM will become Greatest Hits Radio.”

But Bauer says Stray FM, along with Minster FM and Yorkshire Coast Radio, will lead new local initiatives within the region, as they relaunch as Greatest Hits Radio in September with Simon Mayo in its new station line-up.

In particular, Stray FM and the other rebranded stations are to offer free advertising airtime to local charities, hospices and other not-for-profit community organisations to support them in communicating messages as they rebuild their fundraising base post-lockdown.

In addition, they will be launching the ‘Getting North Yorkshire Back to Work’ campaign that will promote local job opportunities on-air and online on rebranded Stray FM.

Local employers will be encouraged to submit vacancies for inclusion, allowing them to reach a wide audience of local job-seekers free of charge. Job vacancy bulletins will be broadcast four times a day to local audiences and will be promoted on the relevant Greatest Hits Radio website.

But Mr Jones said he aimed to hold Bauer to its word on the local and community-based nature of Stray FM as it becomes Greatest Hits Radio.

Mr Jones said: “I hope our fears of this being a faceless, bland, one-size-fits-all radio station are unfounded but I do not think the omens are good.

“However we should hold Bauer to some of the promises they have made.

“Those include free advertising for local charities, supporting local campaigns, enhanced packages for business advertising and local news and travel updates.

“I have contacted Dee Ford, managing director at Bauer Media, to request an early discussion with her when the rebrand is completed to review these aspects of their performance. I hope that my concerns, and those of many others in our area, are baseless but it is important that we don’t simply rollover and allow the powerful local elements that have made Stray FM so popular disappear.”

The MP’s comments follow reports of staff changes at Stray FM in recent days after owners Bauer Media Group introduced consultations earlier in the summer over the future of jobs at the station.

The saga has brought out long lost voices from the pioneering days of Stray FM’s humble roots and heroic past, most of whom were full of foreboding for the radio station they worked so hard to build from scratch in the 1990s.

On hearing the news of the rebrand, Martin Newton, one of Stray FM’s founding presenters, said: “I’m gobsmacked about the rebranding of Stray FM.

“It feels like 26 years of the station’s work has been washed away by big business.”

Bauer Media has always said it would aim to provide all the local content that listeners of Stray FM value highly such as local news, traffic and travel and local information.