Merseywaves: Liverpool’s very own pirate radio pioneers

Posted on 19 November 2010
By Martin Higgins
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What is more DIY and rebellious than pirate radio? Nothing. Well maybe a full scale military revolution, with live ammunition, CS gas and the like, but still, it’s up there.

Liverpool has a great history of underground radio, the most significant being Merseywaves which was live and unplugged from 1984-91 with Bert Williams at the helm.

The broadcast started after Williams’ parent radio station disagreed with his unorthodox musical choices and after ‘discussions’ had him quietly removed.

Williams took it upon himself to erect a new portable transmitter in the face of his former bosses and stick it to them like David did Goliath.

The next step Williams took was to poach a number of DJ’s from Storeton Community Radio and their impact was immediate.

Merseywaves started pumping out cutting edge lo-fi tunes from independent artists and generally took control of the waves like a convoy of Somali pirates strapped with Kalashnikovs.

The police stormed their set up on many occasions and so these cowboys of the radio had to become a suspicious, vigilant bunch.

They changed location from bedroom, to squat, to high rise tower block at the first sniff of danger, always keeping lookouts and sentinels on the street outside to warn of trouble.

Several raids were successful and the police confiscated equipment where they could. Williams was arrested and prosecuted after being followed to one of his clandestine broadcast centres.

Williams’ mettle was eventually worn down by the State and Merseywaves ceased to exist after 7 years of broadcasting to an army of underground listeners.

But to hear those young men and women infiltrating the airwaves from their own bedrooms, from out of abandoned warehouses, taking on the dominant radio stations of their day is something that should be celebrated. It serves as a profound symbol of civil liberty, the individual against the corporation.

So drag out your parents bummed out transistor radios and get searching for that elusive frequency and voice that keeps the dream alive today.

Words by Martin Higgins, at