BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback show is 30 today

Barry Cowan - with the original Talkback team
Barry Cowan - with the original Talkback team

BBC Radio Ulster’s longest-running phone-in programme Talkback is celebrating 30 years on the airwaves with a special two-hour programme today.

The extended show will see presenter William Crawley joined by over 100 of his loyal listeners and a selection of special guests, including opinion formers, political commentators and some of their regular contributors, live from Studio One in BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast.

William Crawley  the current presenter of Talkback

William Crawley  the current presenter of Talkback

The award-winning programme will turn back the clock for some classic moments from William’s predecessors Barry Cowan, David Dunseith and Wendy Austin and will feature a selection of the shows best moments and favourite contributors.

And Talkback editor, Colette Maguire said today’s special show would, as always, be discussing the hot topics of the day.

“I have been involved with Talkback for about 16 years and it has been such a privilege to work with these talented people,” she added.

“It really is an iconic programme and holds a very special place in a lot of people’s hearts.”

David Dunseith speaks to Bianca Jagger for Talkback in the 1990s

David Dunseith speaks to Bianca Jagger for Talkback in the 1990s

Talkback was first broadcast on Monday, September 8, 1986 with the late Barry Cowan presenting.

Over the past three decades there have been more than 7,500 Talkback programmes with more than 11,000 hours of interviews, debates and discussion on the hot topics of the day.

At that time it was difficult to persuade people to go live on air. While phone-in programmes were a common feature of radio stations elsewhere, in Northern Ireland security considerations made people nervous. So Talkback was born.

At the time of its launch, Barry Cowan invited listeners to phone–in comments about a topic and then read them out on the airwaves.

Wendy Austin presented the show from 2009  2014

Wendy Austin presented the show from 2009  2014

Now the programme receives hundreds of contributions each week from listeners via phone calls, texts and social media.

David Dunseith took over Talkback in 1989 and fronted the programme until 2009, when Wendy Austin then took her place in the presenter’s chair.

In November 2014, current presenter William Crawley took over, having presented the show occasionally since 2004. Speaking of his pride at fronting the iconic programme, William said: “One of the many remarkable facts about Talkback is that it has been presented by just four people in its entire 30 year history. I think that’s important.

“Because the success of this programme is a hard-won relationship of trust with its audience.

David Dunseith speaks to Gerry Adams in the Talkback studio

David Dunseith speaks to Gerry Adams in the Talkback studio

“I am very proud to be one of those presenters, even though I’m all-too-conscious of the challenge of following the three broadcasting household-names who’ve gone ahead of me.

“Our 30th birthday special is a terrific opportunity to celebrate Talkback’s very special place in the broadcasting history of Northern Ireland, and to take inspiration from that continuing history, as we look to interrogate the big stories of the future.”

Morning View: Happy birthday to Talkback as it reaches the age of 30
Sam McBride: Radio Ulster’s Talback at 30 an institution and a mirror to our society

Former NI Secretary of State Mo Mowlam was one of the many politicians interviewed by Mr Dunseith

Former NI Secretary of State Mo Mowlam was one of the many politicians interviewed by Mr Dunseith