Lesley Dolphin: It’s 40 years since I joined the BBC

PUBLISHED: 13:30 15 July 2020

BBC Radio Suffolk broadcaster, Lesley Dolphin has made her home at Felixstowe.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

BBC Radio Suffolk broadcaster, Lesley Dolphin has made her home at Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon presenter Lesley Dolphin talks about her long career and why she’s glad to call Suffolk home

Lesley Dolphin in the studio at BBC Radio Suffolk in 2006. 
Picture: Jerry Turner.Lesley Dolphin in the studio at BBC Radio Suffolk in 2006. Picture: Jerry Turner.

This year sees a big milestone in my life – it was 40 years ago that I got my first staff job with the BBC. You’ll have to forgive the fact that it was with BBC Radio Norfolk but that was where I grew up.

I got my first taste of local broadcasting when I was at university and did some work with BBC Radio Leeds. I knew as soon as I stepped into their studios that radio was where I wanted to work for the rest of my life – and I have been very fortunate to fulfil my ambition.

My career has been full of timely opportunities. I learnt the basics at Radio Leeds so that when I came back home to Norfolk and BBC Radio Norfolk opened I was in the right place to apply for a job. In those days complicated programmes were ‘driven’ by a technical operator and that was my job – along with reporting from the radio car.

We went on air on September 11, 1980 and were very well received by the county. We were there to report the local news and to reflect the lovely county we lived in. I covered elections and news stories including plane crashes, football, local events like the Cromer carnival, and even celebrities visiting the Theatre Royal in Norwich. One day I went into the office for a day’s reporting to be told that Morecambe and Wise were in the city and I was to go and interview them live. As you can imagine, the ensuing interview was ten minutes of them taking the mickey out of me.

Career highlight: BBC Radio presenter Lesley Dolphin on top of Kilimanjaro with the Suffolk St Edmund flag supplied by Bill Bulstrode of Framlingham. Photo: 

EADTCareer highlight: BBC Radio presenter Lesley Dolphin on top of Kilimanjaro with the Suffolk St Edmund flag supplied by Bill Bulstrode of Framlingham. Photo: EADT

BBC Radio Norfolk was also where I got my first chance to host a radio show. I hadn’t considered being a presenter so I owe much of my career to the then manager, Keith Salmon. He asked me to take on the two-hour afternoon show and that was the start of what has been a wonderful career.

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Lesley's career is not all behind the microphone. Here she and Nigel Donkin from the British Heart  Foundation, launch a CPR campaign for Suffolk.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLesley's career is not all behind the microphone. Here she and Nigel Donkin from the British Heart Foundation, launch a CPR campaign for Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

I left BBC Radio Norfolk in 1984, when I was expecting my first son – it didn’t occur to me at the time to carry on working. I moved to Suffolk and was living in Long Melford in 1990 when BBC Radio Suffolk opened. By then my two boys were at school, so I was able to start doing some freelance work presenting the Saturday morning show. Over the last 30 years I have worked on most programmes – except sport – but my natural home is the afternoon.

I love chatting to people and hearing their stories and in the afternoons that’s what I do. I’ve covered elections and major news stories, done abseils and climbed Kilimanjaro, been here through floods and snow, and even interviewed Prime Minister Gordon Brown. But my favourite topic is to reflect life in this lovely county and the lives of its people. I’ve lived here longer now than anywhere else and it’s my home.

When the Coronavirus pandemic arrived the BBC set up emergency schedules, so now I’m on air between 2pm and 6pm. Although it’s been a big challenge broadcasting through the lockdown it’s also been a huge privilege to be able to do something positive to help my county through these tough times.

Lesley is a keen walker and patron of  Suffolk Walking Festival. Here she is at the launch of the 2016 festival with Cllr James Finch and Suffolk Coastal District Council Chair Susan Harvey at RSPB Minsmere. Photo: PagepixLesley is a keen walker and patron of Suffolk Walking Festival. Here she is at the launch of the 2016 festival with Cllr James Finch and Suffolk Coastal District Council Chair Susan Harvey at RSPB Minsmere. Photo: Pagepix

As well as keeping everyone in touch with the very latest news we have been able to reflect the amazing way people have pulled together across Suffolk to help their communities. I always knew we lived in a wonderful county and the way Suffolk people have responded has left me in no doubt.

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