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Stuart Linnell MBE is a UK radio and television broadcaster, particularly well known in the Midlands of the UK, specially in Northamptonshire, Coventry and Warwickshire. He is also Chair of Healthwatch Coventry.
Stuart presented the weekday (Monday-Friday) Afternoon and Drive Time Show on BBC Radio Northampton, until the end of March 2019. He took on that role in February 2018 after seven years as host of the station's weekday Breakfast Show. Before that he fronted the station's Lunch Show. On 29 March 2019, after ten years at BBC Radio Northampton, Stuart hosted his final regular daily show, having announced that he was taking semi-retirement.
For the 2019/2020 football season, Stuart is the host of the Friday evening football phone-in on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire where he has previously presented the Sky Blues match-day coverage, as well as other shows. He was part of the on-air team at the launch of Radio Hallam in Sheffield in 1974, and he was also a front-line presenter at the launch of Coventry based Mercia Sound in 1980. He worked at Mercia for 15 years, becoming the station's Programme Controller and Managing Director. He has also presented the breakfast shows at both BBC WM and BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Education
- 3 Career
- 4 Honours and awards
- 5 1987 FA Cup Final
- 6 Whittle Statue
- 7 The "Dan, Dan, Dan" Call
- 8 Road accident
- 9 Edinburgh Fringe
- 10 2017 Checkatrade Trophy Final
- 11 Edgar Mobbs Anniversary
- 12 Grandfather’s World War 1 Anniversary
- 13 Parliamentary Select Committee
- 14 League Two, Play-Off Final, 2018
- 15 "Love Northampton" Radio Debate
- 16 Healthwatch Coventry
- 17 Semi-Retirement
- 18 References
- 19 External links
Stuart Linnell was born at Northfield in Birmingham. His parents were Captain Eric Linnell and Dorothy Linnell (née Swain). Stuart's paternal grandfather was Captain Charles Linnell MC MBE, President of the South African War Veteran's Association, who won his Military Cross at Passchendaele.
Stuart attended Kings Heath High School and Kings Norton Grammar School for Boys (now Kings Norton Boys' School), both in Birmingham. He later studied at Matthew Boulton Technical College and, later again, the Open University.
After beginning his broadcasting as a volunteer contributor to the Birmingham Hospital Broadcasting Network (BHBN), Stuart started his professional broadcasting career at the then regional BBC centre at Pebble Mill with BBC Radio Birmingham in 1970. In 1974, he was recruited to the UK's developing commercial radio network with the launch of Radio Hallam in Sheffield.
He spent six years at Radio Hallam as Sports Editor, hosting all the station's main sports programmes and commentating on many major fixtures including football, cricket, boxing and speedway. He added snooker to that list when the World Professional Snooker Championship moved to a regular, annual venue at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 1977. He also presented other, non-sports shows at Radio Hallam, and during his years in Sheffield, Stuart also appeared from time to time on the regional ITV station Yorkshire Television.
In 1980 Stuart was part of the launch team at Coventry's first local radio station Mercia Sound. He stayed at Mercia for 15 years, initially as Sports Editor hosting the station's sports programmes and commentating on various sporting fixtures. When the station started he was also presenter of the weekday afternoon show "Afternoon Delight", before going on to be Mercia's Programme Controller and then Managing Director. As local commercial radio developed, Mercia became part of a group of radio stations across the Midlands, which saw Stuart's management role involve BRMB in Birmingham, RAM FM in Derby and Leicester Sound.
In 1995 he returned to the BBC to host radio and TV programmes in the Midlands, including the Breakfast Shows on BBC WM and, later, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.
Stuart then spent some years freelancing for radio and TV stations broadcasting to the UK and to Ireland, and he worked for a short time with the ill-fated commercial radio group Laser Broadcasting, before returning to front-line presenting on BBC local radio in 2009. Since then he has presented programmes for BBC Radio Derby, BBC Radio Oxford, BBC Hereford & Worcester, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, and BBC Radio Northampton.
After seven years hosting the weekday (Monday-Friday) Breakfast Show for BBC Radio Northampton, Stuart moved to the station's Afternoon & Drive Time Show, also on weekdays. For many years he also hosted the matchday Sky Blues Live football show for BBC Coventry & Warwickshire for whom he has also presented other programmes, including a period as host of the station’s faith-based Sunday Breakfast Show. For the 2019/2020 football season, Stuart is the regular host of the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Friday evening football phone-in show.
On 29 March 2019, Stuart hosted his final regularly scheduled afternoon show in Northampton, having announced that he was stepping down from full-time, daily broadcasting, and taking semi-retirement.
On television, he has presented the Saturday evening edition of Midlands Today on BBC One, and the Sunday lunchtime TV programme 'The Midlands At Westminster' (the forerunner to The Politics Show) on BBC Two. He has worked for the UK national radio stations BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and TalkSport, and for the Irish national commercial station Today FM. He has also been a reporter for the TV stations Sky Sports News and Setanta Sports.
In 2008, Stuart stepped down after two years as Chairman of the Coventry Branch of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. He is a former member of the Chamber's main board.
In January 2019, he was appointed Chair of Healthwatch Coventry.
Honours and awards
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Stuart Linnell was made an MBE for services to broadcasting in 1995. He received his medal from Her Majesty the Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
He won three Sony Radio Academy Awards – the most coveted awards in UK radio – one of them the Gold Award for the UK's best speech-based Breakfast Show (at BBC WM) in 1997. Indeed, his BBC WM Breakfast Show won Silver and Gold Sony's in successive years (1996 and 1997).
In 1999, he received an Honorary MA from Coventry University in recognition of his work as a broadcaster and for his services to the community in Coventry and Warwickshire. At the end of 2007 he graduated with a BA Honours in Humanities with Literature after six years study with the Open University.
In 2010, his Sunday Breakfast Show on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire received a Merit Award in the Sandford St Martin Trust Religious Radio Awards for a series called "Dear God" in which listeners were invited to send in their messages to God, some of which were broadcast on air. They ranged from the upbeat to the loneliness of bereavement. The messages were pinned to a board displayed first at the radio station and later in Coventry Cathedral. Stuart's Sunday Breakfast Show was also a finalist in the 2012 Jerusalem Awards for its "Rev's Records" feature in which faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Coventry, chose some of their favourite music.
1987 FA Cup Final
Whilst Managing Director and Programme Controller of Mercia Sound in the late 1980s, Stuart continued to appear on-air, and he was a member of the Mercia Sound reporting and commentary team during Coventry City's successful FA Cup run in 1987. It culminated in Coventry City beating Tottenham Hotspur 3–2 in the Final on 16th May 1987 at Wembley Stadium.
Mercia Sound produced two cassette recordings of their coverage of the semi-final, v. Leeds United at Hillsborough, and of the Final. Both sold out and many have been kept as momentos by Coventry City supporters.
On 1 June 2007, Stuart was the MC for the unveiling of a statue of Sir Frank Whittle, the Coventry born jet pioneer. The statue, sculpted by Faith Winter, is situated under the Whittle Arch, adjacent to Millennium Square, near to Coventry city centre. It was unveiled by Sir Frank's son, Ian Whittle. It shows Sir Frank at RAF Cranwell in May 1941 looking towards the sky to observe the first test flight of a Whittle-powered Gloster E.28/39.
The "Dan, Dan, Dan" Call
During an edition of the "Sky Blues Live" programme on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire in February 2013, Stuart took a call on air from a Coventry City supporter who had left that night's match (at Crewe) two minutes before the end, and had missed seeing Coventry City score two late goals to win 2-nil. The fan's disbelief when Stuart corrected his assumption that his team had failed to score, with Linnell trying to interrupt him by repeating his name ("Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan...", etc...), saw an audio clip of the call go viral, reaching a worldwide audience via Audioboo, YouTube, the BBC's main website and the online editions of several newspapers.
The story was included on page 3 of The Sun newspaper and the clip has been re-broadcast on many radio & TV stations round the word, including the BBC national stations, BBC Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC Radio 5 Live. It was also included on Football Focus (BBC1) and Soccer AM (Sky Sports) TV shows.
On 16 January 2014, on his way to work at BBC Radio Northampton at around 5.30 am, Stuart was knocked over by a police car whilst crossing the road near the radio station in Northampton town centre. Taken to Northampton General Hospital A&E Department, he tweeted "Didn't expect to start the day in A&E! But then I didn't expect to be knocked over by a police car!"
The accident received media attention, including coverage in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo and the Coventry Telegraph newspapers. Whilst still recovering, Stuart was back on air the following week, telling followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook, that although he had returned to work his injuries would take some time to heal. The police officer driving the car was prosecuted and found guilty of driving without due care and of disobeying a road sign, but she subsequently returned to normal duties.
Stuart Linnell's voice was heard at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
One of Linnell's colleagues at BBC Radio Northampton, journalist Martin Borley-Cox, directed the one-act play "Another Fine Mess", for White Cobra Productions. Stuart was heard in the off-stage role of the radio DJ, immediately prior to the start of the play, and again during the interval.
During 2016 the production, including Stuart’s recorded part, was staged in theatres at Northampton, Warwick, Chester, Whitstable, Hastings, Market Harborough and Bedford, in that order, prior to a week at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It also played elsewhere during 2017.
2017 Checkatrade Trophy Final
On 2 April 2017, Stuart was part of the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire team at Wembley Stadium covering the Final of the EFL Trophy, then sponsored by Checkatrade. After being one of the presenters at Wembley Way interviewing supporters going into the match, Stuart then joined the radio station's team inside the stadium to host coverage that included full match commentary. Coventry City beat Oxford United 2-1 to win the Trophy, even though they were also relegated from EFL League One the same season.
Edgar Mobbs Anniversary
On Monday, 31 July 2017, Stuart hosted his BBC Radio Northampton Breakfast Show live from Shrewsbury Forest at the Ypres Salient, the area around Ypres in Belgium which was the scene of some of the biggest battles in World War I. It was the 100th Anniversary of the death of Edgar Mobbs, the English rugby union footballer who played for and captained Northampton Saints and England. Former Saints and England player Phil Dowson travelled to Belgium with the programme team and was a featured guest throughout the show.
Mobbs was killed in action, on 31 July 1917, at Shrewsbury Forest during the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, whilst attacking a machine gun post. During the broadcast, Stuart spoke to members of the family of Edgar Mobbs, who that morning installed a large wooden cross in the forest to mark the spot where Mobbs fell.
Grandfather’s World War 1 Anniversary
In November, 2017, Stuart visited the village of Langemark in West Flanders in Belgium to mark the 100th anniversary of a World War 1 battle during which his Grandfather, Captain Charles Goodman Linnell, won the Military Cross. Charles Linnell led his men, under siege, at Gravel Farm at Langemark for several days during the Battle of Passchendaele.
While at Langemark, Linnell recorded a tribute to those who fought and the thousands who died there during World War 1. On his return, his tribute was broadcast on his BBC Radio Northampton Breakfast Show.
Parliamentary Select Committee
On Tuesday, 20 March 2018, at the House of Commons, Stuart Linnell was one of four BBC presenters that gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of MPs investigating aspects of BBC pay and contracts. Giving evidence with him were fellow broadcasters Paul Lewis, Liz Kershaw, and Kirsty Lang. On its website the Committee, which had previously heard evidence about the gender pay gap at the BBC, said "In this second oral evidence session on BBC pay, MPs are likely to ask witnesses about the use of Personal Service Companies (PSCs) at the BBC. BBC Management was asked to send witnesses but declined."
The Committee's hearing was shown live on BBC Parliament TV. The evidence provided by Stuart and his three colleagues showed that the BBC forced presenters to form PSCs if they wanted to continue to provide their services to the BBC.
League Two, Play-Off Final, 2018
On 28 May 2018, Stuart hosted the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire coverage of the EFL League Two Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium, which saw Coventry City defeat Exeter City 3-1 to secure promotion to EFL League One. Commentator Clive Eakin described the action, with former footballer Dave Bennett and Stuart commenting on the match.
"Love Northampton" Radio Debate
In 2018, alongside other towns and cities in the UK, Northampton suffered from a significant decline in the fortunes of its retail economy. It had seen the closure of several major town centre stores, including House of Fraser, British Home Stores, and Marks & Spencer. Alongside that homeless people sleeping rough, some in shop doorways, provided what was regarded as a poor image of the town.
To highlight the issues, the need for regeneration of Northampton town centre and to provide a platform for a positive approach, BBC Radio Northampton launched an initiative using the title and hashtag "Love Northampton". On 28 November 2018, the radio station held a debate, open to the public, in All Saints’ Church in the town centre. Linnell hosted the debate and followed it up with a series of weekly studio based round table discussions during the Monday evening editions of his radio show.
In January 2019 Linnell took on the voluntary role of Chair of Healthwatch Coventry ( www.healthwatchcoventry.co.uk ), regarded as the champion for health and social care in Coventry. He was appointed to the post for a two-year term.
In March 2019 Stuart Linnell announced that, after 50 years behind the mic, he was taking a break from every day, every week, full-time broadcasting, but with the intention of hosting shows on a less frequent basis. Since then, he has continued to appear from time to time on BBC Radio Northampton, and for the 2019/2020 football season, he is the host of the weekly, hour-long, Friday evening football phone-in show on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.