[This obituary to Lawrie Bloomfield, by Tim Beech, was published in Ariel in May 2014: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ariel/27538461]
Lawrie Bloomfield, who has died at the age of 80, was the hugely popular manager who started BBC Radio Shropshire and guided it through its first nine years.
He was responsible for starting and developing the careers of many fine broadcasters – as well as bringing a sense of fun and enterprise to all that he did.
Lawrie followed his father into journalism on the Portsmouth Evening News and made his broadcast debut on Radio Newsreel in 1959 and, after several years freelancing on regional television and featuring regularly on Sports Report, he joined BBC Radio Solent in 1970. He later became station manager at BBC Radio Lincolnshire before putting together the team at Radio Shropshire in 1985.
He was one of the Corporation’s very best talent scouts, giving opportunities to a whole generation of talented and skilful journalists and broadcasters, many of whom can still be heard and seen across both BBC and commercial networks.
Lawrie Bloomfield and colleagues on Radio Shropshire’s first day in 1985
Back at 70
Radio Shropshire soon enjoyed some of the highest listening figures in the country thanks to Lawrie establishing what was seen as a more modern and bright style of local radio broadcasting. He set a high standard and the station continues to be one of the country’s most successful due in no small measure to the outstanding foundations he laid.
After retiring from the BBC in 1994, Lawrie was appointed MBE for services to radio broadcasting and continued to be active through the Thomson Foundation, training and advising young journalists and broadcasters from around the world. He also returned to work at his beloved BBC Radio Shropshire, producing, presenting and reporting.
The station’s former news editor John Shone recalls: ‘He absolutely loved it and we loved having him in the newsroom. At 70 he was back at the sharp end and in top form. His experience was such a great asset to the station and he always gave sound advice and great encouragement, especially to younger members of the team.’
A measure of the affection felt for Lawrie comes in the many tributes that have been made. ‘He was one of the greats’… ‘a lovely boss to work for and a great team-builder’ … ‘like a favourite uncle to me and gave me my first chance at presenting’ … ‘Lawrie was my favourite (boss) because we all always felt he was ‘on our side” … ‘a larger than life character, a pioneer of the new wave of BBC Local Radio stations’… ‘one of the old school who built local radio from nothing in the early days’ … ‘Lawrie was way ahead of the others – three women breakfast presenters in the first four years – and such a line-up of talent’ … ‘there was never a manager like him!’
His son Colin, now breakfast presenter at BBC Radio Derby, said: ‘He was a big inspiration for me. I would not be doing it now if it wasn’t for him.’
And the former head of local radio and network radio in the Midlands, Owen Bentley, described Lawrie as ‘one of local radio’s great characters’.
For giving chances to so many, leading with skill and inspiration, establishing a great local radio station and above all for being a wonderful person, Lawrie will be remembered with huge affection and gratitude. Our sympathies are with Colin and his mum Alison.
Tim Beech, managing editor, Radio Shropshire