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March 26, 2020 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Non-fiction

Last Train to Hilversum

Charlie Connelly
Charlie connelly with cover


Anglia Ruskin University, Bishop Hall Lane
Chelmsford, CM1 1SQ
£8 (27 yrs and under)

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Mercury Theatre
01206 573948

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One hundred years ago Chelmsford hosted the superstar of the day Dame Nellie Melba. Her operatic performance in New Street became the first public radio broadcast and led, soon afterwards, to the formation of the BBC, with the help of the bright minds carrying out pioneering work in a Writtle shed.

In celebration, best-selling author and award-winning broadcaster Charlie Connelly takes a nostalgic look at the magic of radio through his new book Last Train to Hilversum. Reviving with affection and humour some of the exploits of those behind the birth of radio, he explores its enduring appeal, from the wireless to wireless.

Supported by Culture Chelmsford and BBC Essex, this event marvels at radio’s powerful ability to connect us beyond the soundwaves.

Last Train to Hilversum cover


Despite the all-pervading influence of television an astonishing ninety per cent of people in Britain still listen to the radio, clocking up over a billion hours of listening between us every week. It’s a background to all our lives: we wake up to our clock radios, we have the radio on in the kitchen as we make the tea, it’s on at our workplaces and in our cars. Most of our lives can be measured in kilohertz.

In Last Train To Hilversum Charlie Connelly explores the place of radio in our world, taking stock of the history of the medium and celebrating its role as one of the very few genuinely shared national experiences. He explores some of the geniuses, crackpots and charlatans who helped to give us the radio we know today, talks to some of our great contemporary broadcasters from Corrie Corfield to Cerys Matthews, visits Britain’s smallest commercial station and amplifies the voices, personalities and programmes that have helped to form who we are as individuals and as a nation.

Part nostalgic reverie, part social history, part travelogue, Last Train To Hilversum is Connelly’s love letter to radio, exploring our relationship with the medium from its earliest days to the present in a journey from the wireless to wireless.


About the Author

Charlie Connelly is a bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster.

He is the author of ten books, including the bestselling Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round The Shipping Forecast, and And Did Those Feet…: Walking Through 2000 Years Of British And Irish History.

Attention All Shipping is one of the biggest selling travel narratives of the past decade, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, and the audio version was voted the second greatest audiobook of all time in a Guardian/Waterstones poll in August 2008. And Did Those Feet was also a Radio 4 Book of the Week, read by Martin Freeman.

Charlie was a presenter on the BBC Holiday programme, his first film for which won the Silver Thistle Award for international broadcasting.

He co-presented the first three series of Traveller’s Tree with Fi Glover for BBC Radio 4 and devised and presented the acclaimed documentary Noel Coward, The Poet for the same channel. He has been a regular guest on Excess Baggage and has also appeared on BBC Radio 2, RTÉ Radio 1, Newstalk 106.2 and BBC Five Live. Charlie was shortlisted for the 2008 British Guild of Travel Writers’ Radio Award for his work on Traveller’s Tree.

He has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Times, New Statesman, Arena, Irish Times, Sunday Times, Glasgow Herald and – much to his accountant’s amusement – the Financial Times. He has also written comedy scripts for RTÉ Radio One and wrote the well-received comedy show What’s The Story?, broadcast in January 2011, for the same channel.

Charlie is a popular and entertaining public speaker, having lectured at the Royal Geographical Society, sold out the Edinburgh Festival and spoken at numerous events and festivals with venues for his solo appearances ranging from a sold out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to the Toller Porcorum Village Hall in Dorset.

He has sung Blue Moon of Kentucky live on Uzbek national television with the country’s biggest pop star, is an official ambassador for a breakaway Lithuanian republic, was once hounded by the UK national press after being falsely accused of intending to invade Rockall, was presented with an honorary team shirt with his name on by the Liechtenstein national football team and has been chased across the Great Plain by Hungarian gangsters. They thought he was someone else, but fortunately he didn’t notice until they were arrested.

Charlie was born and raised in London. He now lives in Dublin.


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Anglia Ruskin University




Anglia Ruskin University
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