Adventurous, intense and bizarre: Thirty years of reporting York

David Dunning, ex Minster FM news editor, in the studio
3 Sep 2017 @ 8.08 pm
| News

David Dunning was given his first radio at the age of eight. It began a love affair with the medium which has lasted till today.

Now news editor of Minster FM, David has just celebrated 30 years of working as a journalist and broadcaster in York.

It has been a tumultuous three decades, in which time he has been on the frontline of most of the major news stories to have hit York and North Yorkshire.

YorkMix caught up with David as he recalled some amazing moments from his career.

Youngest ever Radio 2 host

Back in his early years on BBC Radio Solent

Born in Hull, David first came to visit York as a toddler. His family later moved to Southampton.

And that was where his broadcasting career began – at a very early age.

“The first radio I ever did was at Radio Victory, one of the first commercial stations. When I was 11 I used to co-present a children’s programme.”

By the age of 15, “I went to work experience at BBC Radio Solent and never left. I was 25 years in the BBC from that point.”

David on Comic Relief day

When he was 20 he landed the weekend breakfast show on Radio Solent. Then London called.

“I got hired to do eight weeks on the weekend early show on Radio 2. I think I was the youngest presenter ever to do Radio 2, aged 20.

“I looked quite young at the time. The first thing the producer said to me when I walked in to Broadcasting House was not ‘hello, thank you for coming, nice to meet you’ but a genuine squeal of shock as they said, ‘how old are you?’

“They had hired me without meeting me. They needed a bit of convincing.”

At first David, too, had his doubts.

“I’ve never been so terrified in my life. I came very close to running at ten to four in the morning, all the way down Oxford Street screaming.

“But I got more money for that than I’d ever been paid in my life. I think I got a grand for the eight shows – 1985 that’s not bad.”

York calling

At the microphone

After more work at Radio Solent David got a six-month BBC attachment to Radio York in 1987.

“To come to York in 1987, it was a new, fresh, interesting place, which I took to and fell in love with instantly.

“The only link I had with York was my grandfather worked in a bike shop off Gillygate after the war.”

Although he has had spells working away from the city, David has been based in York ever since. Between 1989 and 1993 he was a breakfast show presenter on Radio York.

“We used to be quite adventurous. One of our Sunday shows we did on the road from Scarborough to York in the radio car.

“I remember coming down the A64 and saying ‘I wonder how many people are listening on their way into Scarborough’ – and headlights started flashing.

“That’s the sort of impact you had.”

‘That was chilling’

Glenn Goodman

He also broadcast a Sunday show. When news broke in June 1992 that Glenn Goodman, a special constable with North Yorkshire Police, had been shot by Paul Magee of the IRA, David covered it live.

“You just dump the whole show. Announcing that Glenn Goodman had died was probably the first time that I said something on the radio that was chilling.

David when he presented Late Night North
“You were deeply affected by the fact that it had happened. North Yorkshire was quite a sleepy place in those days. These things didn’t happen here.

“The brutality of it, the randomness of it – all that starts to sink in.”

After a period in BBC management in Cornwall and back in Southampton, David came back to York and presented Late Night North, a talk show on ten stations across the North of England.

“It was just raw, live, and you were constantly having to think on your feet, make decisions. After doing Late Night North I could tackle anything.”

David broadcast hours of live radio covering the death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at this time. You can read all about that here.

Intense stories

Having good clean fun on a Radio York shift

In 2000 David was appointed news editor of BBC Radio York. It was “a period of intense news stories – floods, foot and mouth”.

He was an integral part of the Radio York team which won a Sony Gold Award for their work covering the 2000 floods.

But that was preceded by “the most bizarre story that I think I’ve ever reported on – which was the fuel crisis”.

In a protest against the rising price of petrol and diesel, truck owner-operators blockaded oil refineries. And soon fuel supplies began to dry up.

“Virtually overnight it went from a bit of a joke to giving us a kind of wartime spirit of rationing.”

Video work

The floods in December 2015. Photograph: Nigel Holland

David left Radio York in 2005, later working for the York Press, developing their digital and video offering.

He also made films for businesses including Nestlé.

In 2013 Minster FM came calling. He worked as a freelance journalist for them until being appointed news editor.

“This would be my first digital news operation where radio was half of what you did. I loved the fact that there was a web and video element to it, and it was serving an area I knew well.

“I think I’ve been a better news editor at Minster than I was at Radio York. Because I’m older, know more people, and don’t have 15 other journalists to think of.”

In fact it’s a two-person team – David and reporter Cat Soave: “it’s like a brother and sister operation”.

The appointment meant he was in charge of a different radio station when York was again hit by serious floods, in December 2015. He recalled:

Christmas Day I was in Ripon. And the River Skell was terrifying, the force of it under Bondgate.

I decided I had to leave Ripon and go back to York. It was a good move to go back.

On Boxing Day we were the first to start broadcasting the evacuation of the key areas of York.

Whereas, once they got going, Radio York did as well as they did in 2000, I’m very proud that this time round Minster was a rival source of information that kept our listeners with us.

Different world

York – a tale of two cities. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

Looking back on 30 years of broadcast journalism in York some things haven’t changed – the headphones for example.

But other than that, it’s a very different world. “Now it’s all on my iPhone – shooting, and filming, and recording,” David says.

York itself has got busier, he says. And one of his jobs is to “continue to remind people that whilst York is a beautiful and lovely place to live, it’s not without its problems.

“The city has become a bit of a doughnut where there is high house prices in the middle, great tourism, fantastic trading. But we mustn’t forget the outer bit, where life isn’t quite so easy for people.

“It’s been fascinating watching this area change. House prices are ridiculous and probably unsustainable. That’s probably been the biggest change.”

Meanwhile the city has got more attractive and he applauds “a lot of people trying to push it forward in the 21st century”.

And his own future?

“I’m going to hang around in York and stay at Minster for as long as it remains the way it is.

“You never know what’s around the corner but I feel very bedded in the city and the wider county. I’m happy here.”