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The Boats That Rocked: Southend’s Pirate Radio Scene

It’s no secret that we’re just as passionate about radio as we are about music at Ruark. After all, our first tabletop radio was released in 2006 to critical acclaim and fast became a symbol of our commitment to delivering incredible sound – no matter the source.

Our latest model, the beautiful R1S, is the most progressive yet in terms of design and performance but remains the simplest way to tune into the shows you love in 2023, whether that’s via FM, DAB, DAB+, or Internet radio.

Last year, we spoke to veteran broadcaster Shaun Keaveny about the future of radio and the potential threat posed by the digital revolution and non-linear listening – and that got us thinking about Ruark’s longstanding connection with radio.

Our story started in Southend nearly forty years ago – and the beautiful South-East coast informs so much of what we do, from the natural materials we use in our designs to the seaside inspired colours we choose for limited edition versions of our best-loved products.

Southend, and the wider Essex area, has also provided a unique source of inspiration for the way we think about radio. In the 1960s, strict broadcasting regulations and a domination of the airwaves by major labels led to an explosion in offshore pirate radio stations – many of which were docked just a few miles up the coast from Ruark HQ.

Despite the small stumbling block of copyright law and random acts of mutual sabotage among competing stations, these renegade ships and forts exemplified the changing attitude towards pop music in the UK, hitting back at government-regulated radio (which must have seemed rather stuffy by comparison).

While offshore pirate radio stations were a short-lived phenomenon (they were effectively decimated by the late sixties following the Marine &C., Broadcasting (Offences) Act), the effect they had on British pop culture is undeniable. They provided young people with the kind of music programming they craved – and once the BBC caught wind of their popularity, it introduced its own popular music service based on the pirate radio model, giving rise to the diverse stations we know and love today.

Radio is often overlooked in the age of music streaming – but not by us. That’s why so many of our products come with support for DAB, DAB+, FM, and Internet radio tuners. We know that radio provides a source of comfort, a method of music discovery, and an emotional connection with our favourite artists and DJs. Radio may not be as disruptive as it was in the 60s – but it’s still an everyday essential that we can’t live without.

Listen to our Pirate Radio playlist