My greatest mistake

Matthew Bannister Radio 5 live presenter & former director of BBC Radio
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The Independent Online

I started my broadcasting career in Nottingham, so when I got a job at London's Capital Radio in the early Eighties, my idea of the city's geography was very sketchy. On my first day, a bomb went off in Oxford Street. All the experienced reporters had already been sent out on stories, so they said, "You've got to get down there."

Capital Radio was based on the Euston Road, which is only about 15 minutes' walk from Oxford Street. I'd no idea how to get there and so I rushed out and hailed a cab. I managed to get some interviews with the police and some eyewitnesses. I needed to get back, to get them on the air so I hailed another cab, but of course the traffic had completely snarled up. The deadline was ticking away but I knew that if I got out of the taxi, I wouldn't know which way to go. In the end I had to, so I set off, unfortunately in the wrong direction. I finally stopped somebody who showed me the right way, and I ran all the way back, arriving just as the programme went on the air. I fell into the studio and panted out my report. It was deeply embarrassing to have to admit that I'd got lost between Oxford Street and Euston Road.

A few years later I had another horrible experience when I was a newsreader on Radio 1. I woke up at 6.29am to the realisation that at 6.30am I should have been reading the news. It's a terrible panicky feeling, your heart pounds and your palms sweat, and of course there is nothing you can do about it. Fortunately, the guy who normally read the news on Radio 2 stepped in.

I was due to read another bulletin half an hour later, but I was quite a way across London, so I had to rush into my clothes, get into the car and drive like the clappers to Broadcasting House. I made it just in time to read a very breathless 7am news. I was nervous that I was going to get fired, but my editor was very understanding - provided, of course, that it never happened again.