My First Job: Virgin Radio DJ Geoff Lloyd was a printer's devil

The mystery of the cut out cardboard
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The Independent Online

You don't need an exorcist when listening to the completely un-Satanic tones of Geoff Lloyd on Virgin's 10pm Monday to Thursday slot, but the DJ does confess to having been a "printer's devil" or gopher in a run-down Macclesfield print works. In fact, it was the other workers there who got up to the devilish tricks.

The newsagent's where Lloyd had a delivery round seems to have acted as an under-age labour exchange, as it was here that Lloyd heard of a job going at the local print works. "I started when I was 15. I went there every night after school for £1 an hour and in 1989 that seemed a hell of a lot: £10 a week. I went there full-time for the summer after I left school. To this day I've no idea what the job was."

He has a clear memory of being given piles of A4-sized pieces of cardboard on which were stamped circles and crescents. As these shapes were not completely cut out, his task was to detach them and dispose of the left-over cardboard. He asked his superiors what happened to the enormous numbers of cardboard shapes but received only cagey replies. Much later he asked listeners to his radio show if they happened to know but they were in the dark too. (Readers' suggestions will be gratefully received.)

"You got the impression that you were there to have practical jokes played on you. The worst was to do with my regular teenage acne. One of the men said, 'Have you tried this stuff?' and I washed my face in some kind of printing acid. It got rid of the spots - and a lot of the skin on my face."

Print works had a long tradition of playing less than generous japes on new employees. Lloyd can be thankful he wasn't sent out for a left-handed tea pot but he was told to go to a shop for a "long stand", which meant that he was left standing for a long time while the assistants scratched their heads over this non-existent item. "I was sent to the DIY shop for the element for a light bulb," he recalls.

There was another unsolved mystery: "I found a bag of cheques, all made out to what seemed like huge amounts of money but nobody seemed interested."

Whatever its faults as a working environment, the print factory had at least employed him. (Later he applied to Sainsbury's as a trolley-pusher - "You don't expect the competition to be too fierce" - but he received the standard letter of rejection.) Most important for his later career, he acquired a sense of how radio becomes part of the routine of factory life.

"You remember you're preaching, as it were, to a broad church. I don't want to say anything that makes anyone throw a tool at the radio." Unlike several broadcasters we could all name.