Patricia Hughes: A distinctive voice for Radio 3

When Tony Scotland first encountered the work of long time Radio 3 announcer Patricia Hughes, he was a listener.

When Tony Scotland first encountered the work of long time Radio 3 announcer Patricia Hughes, he was a listener. So, when he joined the network as one of Hughes’ colleagues, he knew what to expect. “I was ready to meet this wonderful voice,” Scotland said in an interview with the Radio 4 programme Last Word. “She had remarkable carriage, which helped to create the presence that so many remember about her.”

Hughes, who died February 9 at a nursing home in Winchester in Hampshire, had struck a chord with Radio 3 listeners, and had made a significant legacy in her work within the BBC and for women in radio. She was one of the first women at the BBC to read the news, according to a BBC report, and for many years was the only female announcer on Radio 3, in addition to presenting the BBC Proms on television and radio, and chamber concerts that aired on the network. “She took her work very seriously, prepared enormously carefully, writing the scripts or tweaking them, making them her own,” Scotland said.

Hughes joined the BBC in 1944 as a secretary, before becoming an announcer. She was heard on the Overseas Service, the Light Programme and the Third Service, which later became Radio 3. She had returned to Radio 3 in 1969 after a seven year break in her career, a report from the Daily Telegraph says, and remained with the BBC until her retirement in 1983, the BBC report adds.

Roger Wright, Radio 3’s controller, said in a statement that Hughes’ legacy was an essential part of the history of the station. “I was saddened to hear about the death of Patricia Hughes, one of BBC Radio 3’s best-loved voices,” Wright said in a report from the Daily Echo. “Her contribution to radio in general and the station in particular was significant – not least her memorable introductions to lunch-time concerts. She was much loved by our listeners and her death marks the passing of an era.”

Michael Berkeley, who presents the Private Passions programme, said in a message on the social networking site Twitter that Hughes had been an “utterly idiosyncratic voice of Radio 3 for many years”, while in a post on Radio 3’s Facebook page, Late Junction presenter Fiona Talkington said Hughes was “a kind of mentor for all female presenters and a real pioneer.”

Hughes was more than a radio presenter. She was not only a pioneer for women in radio, but also set the tone of the importance of the cultural role Radio 3 plays within the whole of the BBC, and the cultural significance of Radio 3 and the BBC to the whole of the UK. Listeners will remember her for her work on Radio 3’s key output with her distinctive voice and talent, which helped set the tone for the importance she was to listeners, and to the history of Radio 3 as a whole, because her legacy will never cease transmission.

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You can hear an interview Hughes did reflecting on an event on a nightshift she was on and on the role of Radio 3 here.