Alex Lester (born Alexander Norman Charles Lester, 11 May 1956, Walsall, England) is a British broadcaster. He presented the weekday overnight/early-morning programme on BBC Radio 2 from 1990 until 2014. From October 2014, he has presented the midnight to 3.00am programme every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He also temporarily replaced Russell Brand on Saturday evenings in late 2008, between 9 and 11pm, following Brand's resignation over his infamous prank calls row.
Early life and career
A doctor's son, Lester was educated at Denstone College, and worked in a variety of jobs (including at Dudley Zoo, in a pub, and as a civil service clerk), before he began his broadcasting career in 1977 for BBC local radio stations. He joined Radio Aire in Leeds in 1981.
Later, he worked for other radio stations in the commercial sector. These included Radio Tees, based in Stockton-on-Tees, where he worked from 1983 until 1986. At Radio Tees, on joining, he narrowly avoided an attempt by Canadian programme controller Donald Cline to rechristen him "Red" Lester. Lester went on to present, amongst others, the weekday lunchtime show and a specialist blues music programme there.
In 1986 he returned to the BBC, presenting the breakfast show (indeed, the first show) on the newly opened BBC Essex based in Chelmsford. Lester joined Radio 2 in 1987 as an announcer and newsreader. He also presented the night-time show on a rota basis. In 1990 he was given the early-morning show permanently.
The Best Time of the Day
Lester kept UK truckers and other night-shift workers awake with his weird and strange observations. The meaningless but catchy show slogans are SCOF (Swirling Cesspool Of Filth) and Slap My Top (thought to be a variation on the music hall soundbite slap my thigh – but reserved exclusively for people with bald heads) and listeners have marketed the show by writing the phrase in the dirt on the backs of trucks and vans. There was a limited edition range of T-shirts with the slogan written in Cantonese developed by a listener, which Lester awarded to people who came up with the most innovative uses of the slogan – winners included a local radio reporter who got the expression into a story; a man who wrote and recorded a song with the slogan as its title; a mystery girl, for placing an ad for Lester's show in the small ads section of a local newspaper and a man who developed a website which remains a communal meeting point for the programme's listeners, and is listed in the External Links section below. As well as T-Shirts another listener produced a range of glow in the dark Alex Lester wristbands which were also given away as prizes on the show. The new phrase for the 2010–2011 Truck Writing Season was WALLOP (We're Alex Lester's Lovely Overnight People), and in 2013 the slogan ALAN was introduced (Alex Lester At Night).
Despite being broadcast in an overnight timeslot, Lester prides himself on calling his programme The Best Time of the Day. As one of the longest-serving broadcasters on the network, he is occasionally heard on Radio 2 during the daytime when regular presenters are away.
The programme was broadcast from 4am until 6.30am from 1990 until 1992, and from 3am to 5am until 1994. For 16 years after 1994 the programme began at 3am and finished at 6am, until it was rescheduled in 2010 after changes to the Radio 2 morning schedule. It was then broadcast from 2am to 5am every weekday. With the introduction of After Midnight on Radio 2 which started in October 2014, the show is now broadcast from 12.00am – 3.00am from Fridays to Sundays. Alex shares the After Midnight slot with Janice Long. The 3am – 5am slot now broadcasts repeats including America's Greatest Hits with Paul Gambaccini and Sounds of the 70s with Johnnie Walker.
Lester has homes in Hastings and Wednesbury. For nearly 10 years he lived aboard a 60-foot traditional stern canal boat (which he nicknamed The Blue Pig) during the week, while presenting his show from the BBC's Pebble Mill Studios and then The Mailbox in Birmingham. He also has a restored cottage as a third home in the Normandy region of France.
Obscure sports are another passion. Over the years Lester has participated in Extreme Downhill Cheese Rolling and the Yorkshire Celery Wrestling Finals and achieved a creditable 9th-place finish at the 2006 World Bog Snorkelling Championship.
In 2007, Lester decided to celebrate his 20th anniversary at Radio 2 by fulfilling his life ambition of driving the width of the USA, from Los Angeles to New York. He catalogued his experiences via a blog.
In December 2010 Lester announced his engagement to his longtime partner Kerry, who is also known as "The Dark Lady". They married on 3 December 2011. Edwina Hayes, a singer-songwriter whose music had been featured on Lester's show, performed at the ceremony.
- Reynolds, Gillian (4 November 2008). "Gillian Reynolds: Radio must still take risks after Ross and Brand – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
- "Alex Lester | MPC Entertainment – Number One for Entertainment and Sport". Mpce.com. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "Radio Tees Tribute Site". Radiotees.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "The Best Time Of The Day Blog". Alexlesterspersonalblog.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- Lester, Alex. "The Big Eatsy: Radio 2's Alex Lester takes in the American South, one diner at a time". Daily Mail. London.
- "American Adventure 3". Americanadventure3.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "Alex and Kerry | Wedding documentary". YouTube. 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2014-07-04.