Music has great power to affect mood, something the founders of Happy Radio know all about 

Happy Radio, based in Altrincham and aimed at those who live within the Greater Manchester and Cheshire area (though you can listen wherever you are, via the app) was launched in April 2022, by radio DJ Darren Proctor and his friend, fellow Hale resident Max Eden, founder of the Hale Barns Carnival and the Bowdon Festival. 

Darren has worked in local radio since 1990, starting a club DJ and going on to win Young DJ of the Year, which as part of the prize included a stint of work experience at his local radio station, Signal Radio, in Staffordshire. 

Great British Life: Darren takes the mid-morning slot on Happy RadioDarren takes the mid-morning slot on Happy Radio (Image: c. Happy Radio)

“I went and did some work experience, helping on the late night show, and got a demo tape together and got offered some cover work. The club work really ramped up at the same time, and I was travelling all over the North West. I then got a call from Radio City in Liverpool, to do two weeks cover work, and was there for six years, before they sent me over to their flagship station, which was Key103, in 1999. 

“Radio was very different then. Key103 was purely a local radio station for Manchester. We were out and about doing all sorts of events – we were on the bus when United won the Treble, we opened the Printworks with Sir Alex Fergusson and Lionel Ritchie. This has all gone away now; the radio stations now have merged all of their smaller stations to create a national brand, so you’ll get a bit from Manchester on one show of the day, but the rest of the lineup can be anywhere. They have to do three hours of local programming a day, it’s an Ofcom rule, and that’s how they manage it.   

“Lots of people were saying me that they missed truly local radio, they missed the DJs they really got to know – Steve Penk and others – and I had kept in contact with them and started to see a huge gap in the market for a really good local radio station.” 

Great British Life: Olympic medallist and World Champion taikwando athlete Bianca Walkden with Michelle Eagleton and Ian Roberts from the drivetime showOlympic medallist and World Champion taikwando athlete Bianca Walkden with Michelle Eagleton and Ian Roberts from the drivetime show (Image: c. Happy Radio)

Darren got together with Max Eden and decided there was an opportunity to launch a radio station that was local, but also seen out and about, engaging with listeners, being part of whatever is going on in the communities they serve. 

“We do live outside broadcasts, put on events, do festivals, all that kind of stuff. We’ve done 15 in the last year, all local, some really big stuff – six festivals, Christmas lights switch-ons, Wilmslow Bonfire, the Bramhall Fireworks, The Royal Cheshire Show, even. Altrincham BID has booked us already for the Christmas switch on for this year and we’re managing the whole even, and we’re doing the Christmas Ice Rink for Wilmslow BID, too.” 

Happy Radio has a clear and simple purpose – local radio, as it used to be, with a happy twist. 

“People like to hear local news and local stories. The appetite for more focussed, local news and stories really grew in Covid, which I think really helped us along when we were pulling this together. I know Covid was a national thing, but people wanted to know what was going on where they lived. We absolutely champion local businesses – if there’s a new business opening we make a fuss of them, we mention it in the show, and all of our advertisers and sponsors are all local businesses – we don’t have any national advertisers, we don’t play that. People like to be supplied with information. On a Saturday we don’t do football commentary, but we do tell people all the local sporting fixtures taking place – football, rugby, hockey, cricket... Not just the big names, like United, but the grass roots stuff too, like Altrincham Town FC, too.’ 

Great British Life: Lauren Simon, who broadcasts from 3pm to 4pm Monday to Friday, with fellow Real Housewives of Cheshire stars Nicole Sealey and Seema Malhotra, with Darren ProctorLauren Simon, who broadcasts from 3pm to 4pm Monday to Friday, with fellow Real Housewives of Cheshire stars Nicole Sealey and Seema Malhotra, with Darren Proctor (Image: c. Happy Radio)

Local radio needs to be staffed, live, 27/7, of course, so how did Darren recruit his on-air team? 

“I went through my little black book; over the years I have worked with some incredible talent, and a lot of those people weren’t working in radio anymore, because they’d kind of lost faith with it. I reached out to a few people, explained our vision and was really lucky – everyone I approached said yes. Now there are 15 of us; we’re an incredible team and feel really close, like a family – all support each other and get on really well, everyone adores the radio station and what we’re about.” 

Darren has a mix of old names who bring that hit of nostalgia – Steve Penk (still doing his wind ups), Chelsea Norris, Spence McDonald and Paul Crone, for example – names you won’t be familiar with but will enjoy getting to know, such as Taline Naviede, who does the late show, and one big name name you won’t expect to hear on the radio – Lauren Simon. 

“Talina is very impressive. She’s really good; she sounds like a Radio One DJ, she has music that suits her style and has really grown herself a dedicated audience. 

“Lauren is absolutely fabulous. She’s a lot of fun – she’s still learning and we’re working together but she’s developing a really great hour. She loves what she’s doing, she’s got a great profile and she is who she is.” 

Great British Life: Happy Radio plays a major part in local events all around Cheshire and ManchesterHappy Radio plays a major part in local events all around Cheshire and Manchester (Image: c. Happy Radio)

So now the big question – why Happy Radio? Having enjoyed more than a few personal and private kitchen discos while listening on the Happy Radio app, I think I might know the answer to this, already. 

“I wanted to do something different. I wanted it to stand out from anything else that was on the radio, and wanted a radio station that puts you in a good mood, plays the songs that make you smile - and there’s no limit to them, across the decades, we have a massive playlist; there’s no repetition, you don’t hear the same songs all the time, they’re all just nice, upbeat, make you feel great tunes. 

“We programme the music really carefully. All the music is chosen by me and Simon Lowe, our station manager. We go back a long way; he’s hugely educated in radio programming and brilliant at playlists. In 15 minutes you can move from Stevie Wonder to Dua Lipa, but it doesn’t feel like a massive leap, you get a bit of everything so it’s not all over the place. We work with all the big record labels and play lots of new stuff, and there’s so much to draw on from years past too. 

“It may be easy listening, but it takes a lot of work.” 

Tune in and dance your own kitchen disco. Just not when you’re supposed to be working – it's too good to not listen to. 

You can listen to Happy Radio on their app, on TV channel 277, on your smart speaker, online and on DAB across the North West.