My Mentor: Janice Long on Reg Brooks

He's made me go places and do things I never ever would have done
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The Independent Online

Reg Brooks was at Radio Merseyside when I joined in 1979. He was a senior producer and just a lovely man. I was really happy behind the scenes as a station assistant, driving programmes and editing and sound balancing, but he was always encouraging me to go on air. I'd always wanted to be an actress but I'd never thought of being a broadcaster.

He started suggesting things: there was a programme for writers and he started getting me to read out stories on the air. Then he started getting me to do other bits and pieces on literature and history and music. They were all things I was really into. It was very clever - he knew what he was doing to get me really interested in broadcasting. Then one day, about a year after I joined Radio Merseyside, one of the presenters didn't turn up to do the afternoon show and he shoved me on the air. I was absolutely petrified, but Reg was there watching and supporting me. After that I was presenting Streetlife, a live music show, and the afternoon slot when the offer came to go and work at Radio 1 at the beginning of 1983.

Reg was absolutely brilliant because I was a bit nervous. I didn't even listen to Radio 1. I said: "Oh my god, what do I do?" and he said: "Just be yourself and you'll be fine." And that was it.

He was always there with the advice and the encouragement. He's very easy going, placid, not at all bullish or intimidating and so easy to take advice from.

He's made me go places and do things I never ever would have done. I still keep in contact with him and we've seen each other at the odd do and he says: "I'm still listening to you. You're sounding good."

Within the BBC, not only Radio Merseyside, he's a very well-respected man. He retired about 14 years ago, but lots of people come up to me and say, "I know who looked out for you when you were at Radio Merseyside!"