Why music is my life

IPSWICH born and bred Stephen Foster is well known on the town's music scene. Today entertainments reporter JAMES MARSTON asks the BBC Radio Suffolk presenter and Evening Star columnist about his passion for local music.

IPSWICH born and bred Stephen Foster is well known on the town's music scene.

Today entertainments reporter JAMES MARSTON asks the BBC Radio Suffolk presenter and Evening Star columnist about his passion for local music.

SITTING in his studio preparing for his radio show, Stephen Foster is relaxed and chatty.

As he sips a cup of coffee, he muses on the current Ipswich music scene. He said: “Rosalita are good, I wonder if they might be ones to watch out for. They've had a good summer and played at the V festival so they are heading in the right direction.

“I also like James Severy. He's got something about him that's a bit different. He could well break though.”

For Stephen, 47, music is an abiding passion.

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He likes nothing better than to talk about, write about and listen to the latest sounds - and if those sounds are coming from Ipswich then all the more so.

Stephen, who has been a columnist on the Evening Star for the last two years, grew up in north east Ipswich.

He said: “I went to Sidegate Primary and then to Copleston. I left school way back in 1976.”

Starting work as a post room lad at what was then Willis Faber and Dumas in the newly built Willis building, Stephen always has an interest in radio. He said: “I used to take my radio to school. I liked Radio Caroline and that was how I first got into music really.

“I remember listening to Andy Archer's drive time show on Radio Orwell. Back then radio was the only way to listen to new music, there was no other way and I was too young to go to gigs.”

As he got older Stephen found himself more and more interested in the music scene.

He added: “I'd seen Top Of The Pops but I remember thinking to myself there must be more to it. I used to get a magazine called Sounds as well.”

Casting his mind back, Stephen recalls his first record. He said: “It was number one in 1972 and it was called Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon. My musical taste did improve eventually.”

In 1977 Stephen volunteered for hospital radio.

He said: “I went along in my spare time. It was a superb grounding in radio and I got to know people. I also had a mobile disco so I was busy. I had a regular slot at the Kingfisher pub in Chantry.”

Stephen joined Radio Orwell in 1982. He said: “I started as a news reporter. I remember reporting on Margaret Thatcher's visit to Felixstowe port. I was in my early 20s then.”

Stephen also reported on the sinking of the European Gateway of the coast of Felixstowe.

Disaster struck the ship on the night of the December 19, 1982 when she was involved in a collision with the Sealink train ferry Speedlink Vanguard in the approaches to Felixstowe harbour.

Out of the 36 crew and 34 passengers on board six were lost after the European Gateway flooded and capsized onto a mud bank.

He said: “I reported for about six years. It gave me a good grounding in radio journalism. I still do a lot of news on my show and I enjoy it when something big breaks while I'm on air. With radio it is very immediate journalism and I've always been passionate about news and my community.”

Music was still Stephen's first love and it was while at Radio Orwell he first hosted his own music show. He said: “It was a heavy metal show which is what I was into at the time.”

In 1990 Stephen joined the BBC as a business producer. He said: “It was a big difference but I saw it as a way of getting into the BBC. I'm now doing what I set out to do, combining journalism with music and a bit of sport.”

Working from 11am to 7pm Stephen's job as drive time presenter suits him well. He added: “I'm one of the managing team of the station as well which is interesting. I'm not really a morning person so I wasn't keen on doing the morning show.”

It is in his drive time show that Stephen tries to give the Ipswich music scene some time on the airwaves.

He said: “I'm beginning to know how John Peel must have felt, I get a lot of music sent to me by people hoping I'll play it on air, I try to listen to everything I'm sent but it is not always easy to find the time.”

Writing for the Evening Star has also had a knock-on effect He said: “More and more people are sending me things to listen to. The weekly column gives me a much wider platform and raised my profile in the music scene here in Ipswich.”

But what are Stephen's personal musical tastes? They are perhaps best described as eclectic.

He said: “Music is an emotional and sentient experience. It takes you away from the daily grind and it's a way of escaping. Certain music evokes certain memories of different times of your life.

“I can indulge myself a bit on my show. I like rhythm and blues, especially from the 1970s, I like rock, folk, jazz as well. I like classical. I like all music really though I've never really been keen on opera.”

Aside from music Stephen is a season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club and a speedway fan.

He added: “I also promote a few blues bands. I don't do it for the money really, it's a way of bringing that sort of music to Ipswich.”

Stephen's weekly column can be found in the Evening Star every Friday.

What's your favourite local band? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Name: Stephen Foster

Career: Postal messenger, ran a mobile disco, reporter at Radio Orwell, joined BBC as a business producer. Now drivetime presenter 4pm to 6pm. Between 6-7pm Monday-Thursday Foz also presents The After Six Music Mix. Part-time music promoter with his company Smokestack Productions. Co-author of a book on Ipswich's Regent Theatre. "From Buddy to the Beatles". Highlights include reporting from The Falklands, presenting from Wembley when Sudbury reached the F.A Vase final, working with Terry Waite and helping promote Ipswich Music Day.

Family: Married to Belinda and they have 2 sons, Oliver and Joseph.

First record: Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon, 1972

Favourite local bands: Rosalita, James Severy

Other passions: Ipswich Town Football Club, speedway and holdays in America.