The Nightingale Chimney – The story of Pure 94 FM

In 1998, a new radio station appeared on the FM dial, it was called PURE 94 FM. Eruption was off air at this time and Erotic was broadcasting Garage music on 101.3FM.

Pure FM was a very special station, special because it had the backing of a major London rave promoter and it had two of the best Radio engineer’s I have ever met running it. The station was a on a very clean, clear frequency and it had an aerial on top of Seaton Point, a block in the Nightingale estate in Hackney, the most infamous Radio transmission site in London. This estate was made famous for Pirate radio due to KOOL FM, Defection & Weekend Rush’s abseiling antics in the early nineties and is very well documented in TV documentaries & news reports.

No other pirate station had been able to broadcast from Nightingale estate since the Kool / Rush FM days, the DTI had completely locked down all the roofs for years, it was just impossible to gain access during this time.

During 1999, Nightingale estate was being demolished, there were originally six blocks, all were 22 floors high,

  • Rachael Point
  • Rathbone Point
  • Seaton point (remaining)
  • Embley Point (this was the Original KOOL FM & Weekend Rush block)
  • Farnell Point
  • Southerland Point

Hackney Council decided that one tower block should remain and completely overhauled it and painted it white. This was completed at the same time as the other five blocks met their peril. I don’t know why they kept one. Someone once told me it was because the huge chimney running all the way up the side of it was the way the heating system worked for the whole estate. How true this is, is anyone’s guess but the chimney on the side on Seaton point was huge & it towered over the top of the roof.

September 20th 1999

“Andy the rigs gone off mate” The owner of Pure 94, Bish Bash calls me up.

“We’re gonna go up there tonight and put it on top of the chimney” He said.

“You’re mad Tom” I say “You can’t stick it up there”

“Yes I can” He said “I’m gonna stick it on the chimney and I’m gonna put a 30ft double stack aerial up there as well”

This seemed like madness to me. A double stack is a huge twin diapole aerial and it would be so so high if it was on the chimney it would stick out like a sore thumb!!

The block was completely surrounded in scaffolding covered with a green & white mesh, all the way up from the ground to the very top. This was the only way possible Tom & Cleggs were able to gain access to get in and climb up there.

“Come up there Andy, it’s gonna be great & we could do with your help”

I’m not gonna lie I was shitting myself! Nightingale had always seemed like a foreign land to me anyway. I grew up in Clapton Park, another estate notorious for pirate radio down the road and it was kind of the done thing back then to stick to your own estate, so the thought of going to the top of Nightingale scared me to death but I was also excited. I wanted to see the view from up there and experience a tiny taste of the Kool FM & Rush Glory days… “Ok mate I’m in” I said.

At 11pm we all met round Tom’s flat just over the road from Nightingale. There were four of us, Tom (Bish bash), Cleggs (Foul play) an amazing radio engineer, who was small in frame and could climb up anything and everything and a guy we used to call Upchuck, a very funny character. I didn’t think at the time why that was his name but I knew there must be a story behind it and of course I completed the group.

All the Radio bags were prepared, the aerials had been cut to the correct diameter for 94FM and we were ready to go. Nightingale was always a very dark and eerie place, even on a sunny day it felt menacing but in the dark at midnight with half the blocks demolished it felt like a war zone!! We sneaked into the estate & headed towards Seaton Point, then we cut a whole through the mesh metal fence.

“Don’t worry about the security guard” Bish bash said “He’s asleep”

I looked up at this huge, imposing, now green looking tower and thought ‘Oh Shit’!! Then the reality hit me; we were going to have to climb to the top of this block on the outside of the scaffolding! We got to the first scaffolding ladder and up we all went, I was carrying the cables in my bag and they were heavy… after we clambered up to around half way we were all knackered.

“Let’s stop for a spliff” Upchuck said, so we did.

A spliff break to a Pirate back then was just as important a cup of tea is to a builder. So we sat on the scaffolding on the 14th floor for around 20 mins just laughing and joking about, Upchuck started to look as green as the tower and for a short while I’d actually forgot that we were half way up on the outside of a tower block in Nightingale estate but I started to remember how Upchuck got his nickname. I wanted to see through the green mesh and look at the view but you couldn’t really see anything, which in some ways was a relief.

“Come on let’s go” said Tom “That’s enough fucking about”

We continued on until we reached the roof top…. The view from the roof was amazing, it literally took your breath away. Nightingale is on high land on a hill and the block was an absolute monster, I could see all over London, North to South, East to West. All the other Hackney estates felt so close, then I looked up and realized we weren’t finished yet, we were going even higher to the top of the chimney.

“You boys stay here, run the cables and sort the rig out” Tom said “Me and Cleggs are gonna go & put the aerial up”

Phew what a relief I thought, I’m not going up there! Me and Upchuck sorted out the LNB and wired the Transmitter up, then Tom kind of whisper shouted to me, if there is such a thing,

“And! And! Quick the aerial is too heavy. Get up here!”

‘OH FUCK’ were the only two words that entered my head but there weren’t any going back. I rushed across the scaffolding platform & over to the chimney and started climbing up the scaffolding ladders even higher still. The aerial Tom had made was enormous, the biggest radio mast I have ever seen & they were both hanging on it for dear life. The wind had picked up and it was swinging about all over the place. They both new if this scaffolding pole and aerial went over the side the game would be up and we would all be nicked.

“Quick And, bolt it up at the bottom why we keep it steady” Tom shouted.

I frantically did up the scaffolding bolts at the bottom of the pole and we were all relieved when it stopped moving about, then we added more clamps all the way up to secure it proper. I then did the most stupid thing ever. I looked down over the side of the chimney. My legs were shaking and went to jelly the reality of what I was doing and where I was suddenly hit me. I was standing on the very top of the Nightingale chimney and above me was a huge 30ft Double stack. I glanced down at Upchuck who was by now living up to his name.

“Quick! Let’s get back to roof boys and have another spliff” Tom said, so we did!

Getting back down was an excited, blurry relief whilst trying to navigate Upchucks recent dinner which was decorating the scaffolding top to bottom but it was not really until the next day that I realized what Tom & Cleggs, Upchuck & me had done. Looking up at Seaton Point from the ground and seeing a massive aerial on top of the chimney truly took my breath away.

To this day I have not heard a better Pirate radio signal. We would get phone calls from Norwich, all the way down to Brighton. That transmitter stayed broadcasting on 94FM up there for about 8 months while they renovated the block, the building work started from the bottom & worked its way up so by the time they reached the top and found the transmitter Pure FM was a huge well known radio station.

Although it was relatively short lived it was definitely one of the best Pirate radio stations I have ever played on. It was like we had conquered the green giant and done our part to get out over the airwaves & play the music that we loved.


4 Replies to “The Nightingale Chimney”

  1. Yes mate . It was as scary as fuck up there . Watching dica and Arni
    Abseil over the side made us all wanna upchuck lol . Legends .
    Those were the days .

  2. Amazing stories absolutely love reading this .. I’m literally imagining what it’s like . Blown away by it all . Please keep sharing these stories

  3. Hey man my family lived in rathbone point from 88 to 99. Thanks for sharing this. I was born in 96 but my brothers have a lot of memories of that time.

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