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Ross Revenge, Radio Caroline and the movie "Pirate Radio".

Radio Caroline and the crew of the Ross Revenge are proud to have been involved with the production of the Universal Pictures movie, "Pirate Radio". Released in cinemas across the USA on Friday 13th November 2009, the movie has been on release in Europe since 1st April under the name "The Boat That Rocked". "Pirate Radio" is a fictional comedy set on a 1960's pirate radio ship, Radio Rock. Although fictional, the plot is loosely based around an amalgamation of Radio Caroline and other 60's offshore stations, and many of the dramas and tribulations which affected the stations are portrayed in the movie. YES - it really is based on a true story! "Pirate Radio" as the newspapers christened it really did happen from rusty old ships dotted along the coasts of several European countries from 1958 through to 1991. Yes, it contributed to a musical and social revolution in each of those countries. Yes, the broadcasters were heroes to millions of fans. Governments really did try to ban it and make it illegal, and yes, one radio ship really did sink whilst broadcasting (though not quite in the way depicted in the movie). Of all the stations that came and went, the most prolific and longlasting was Radio Caroline, which still continues to this day, as an internet and satellite service, and continues to maintain its radio ship "Ross Revenge" - the subject of this website. Further information on the numerous offshore stations can be found by typing offshore radio into the search engine of your choice, or by looking at some of the following websites:-

Radio Caroline Official Website.
Tribute to Carolines biggest Rival - Radio London.
History and details of many stations and people.
Tribute pages from a German Supporter.

The movie is written and directed by Richard Curtis whose prior works include Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, plus many UK TV series such as Black Adder, Comic Relief/Red Nose Day, Not The Nine O'Clock News, and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Emma Thompson, Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh amongst others.

Radio Caroline and various members of staff have been working with the films producers, researchers and set designers for several years, as advisers and consultants and the production crew of the movie have paid several vists to the Ross Revenge to gain information and carry out research. Although it would have been ideal if the Ross could have been used for the shooting of the movie, this was not possible for various practical and technical reasons - for example, the internal space of the Ross is too confined to allow the camera and support crews to operate, and the construction of the ships studios does not allow cameras to be placed in the right position to capture the required action. However, the ship which was eventually chartered by Working Title Productions for the base of Radio Rock, MV Timor Challenger, was based in many ways on the external appearance of the Ross Revenge. From the dark red painted hull, the green aft deck in several different shades, to the twin fore and aft double-based radio towers, from the viewpoint of the casual observer the two ships appear very similar. By an amazing chance of fate the Timor Challenger has previously featured in the history of offshore radio, as will be explained in a moment.

The Timor Challenger
Temporary home to Radio Rock.
External scenes around Radio Rock were shot around the Timor Challenger when she was moored close to Weymouth during the spring and early summer of 2008. However, the internal and studio scenes were all shot in London's Shepperton studios on a plywood mock up of the ship, all built on a steel framework, manouvered by a hydraulic system to re-create the rocking motion of a ship at sea.
Once the studio mock-up was nearing completion, the crew of the Ross Revenge were delighted to be asked to hire much of the ships original studio and broadcast equipment to the movie company for use as real life working props. Almost all of the studio equipment seen onboard Radio Rock in the movie was loaned from the Ross Revenge, including the Gates Dualux and Yard mixing desks, Rusco turntables, tape cartridges and Spotmaster players, and many, many background props - both radio and marine related. All this equipment was used during Radio Carolines 1980's broadcast era from the Ross Revenge, though the equipment itself is of 1960's vintage.
As the movie shoot progressed, the set directors once again approached Radio Caroline to source a second set of suitable vintage equipment for use elsewhere in the movie. As the purpose to which the second set of equipment was put has not been announced on the movies website, we will not reveal here its purpose, but it was obtained by Radio Caroline from two private collectors who are supporters of the station. The Gates Studioette loaned for this purpose is an identical model to that used on the original Caroline ship, Mi Amigo, in the 1960's - you'll have to watch the movie to see where it is used.
The Ross Revenge
1980's and 90's home to Radio Caroline.
Part of the agreement to hire the Ross Revenge broadcast gear to the movie studio was that Radio Caroline staff would install the equipment on site, connect and test it, and instruct the movie crew on how to use it. And so it was in March 2008 that three members of the ships crew, Alan, Lee and Mandy spent a few days at Shepperton studios, installing the old gear in it's new temporary home onboard the plywood ship. At the end of one day, the special effects people had just finished setting up the hydraulics for rocking the set, and with just a few people left around, we were lucky enough to be onboard as the boat rocked for the first time. It seemed a strange sensation at first, but we soon found our sealegs - the equipment, no doubt was used to this and much more from its days on the North Sea.
The plywood pirate ship on it's hydraulically
rocked steel frame.
To make the operation of the equipment as authentic as possible, the movie directors wanted everything to be fully functional. When you see a record spinning on a turntable, the deflection you see on the desk VU meter is genuine and coming from the turntable. However, the sound you hear on the soundtrack has been dubbed in during the post production editing process. Initially it had been planned to use audio from the mixing desk on the soundtrack, but the technicalities of doing this, whilst keeping everything in sync on a multitrack mix for later mixing were deemed to be too difficult. Also, the hum, noise and distortion figures of this fifty year old equipment fall a long way short of what an audience expects on a modern cinema sound system.
The 1962 vintage Gates Dualux desk
awaiting installation in the movie "blue" studio
At one point during the prepartions, the movie company were planning to build replica mixing desks for use in the film, but upon seeing the equipment installed and working on the Ross Revenge decided nothing less than the real thing was good enough for the movie. The ships equipment, at near on fifty years old, was showing many battle scars of it's life at sea, so, with the blessing of Radio Caroline, the movie company props department stripped it all down, cleaned it up, and repainted it to its original colours. Obviously for a movie set in 1966 the equipment needs to look brand new! Replica models were still required for one scene in the movie though - but you'll have to watch the movie to see why!
The 1958 vintage Gates Yard desk
undergoing installation in the movie "green" studio
The Ross Revenge crews second visit to Shepperton studios was a couple of weeks after the initial installation. By now all the small details had been completed, and filming was already under way in an adjacent movie studio. This time we went through some of the final technicalities with the movie crew, and showed them how to operate the equipment to best effect on the movie. As well as the equipment hired from the Ross Revenge the movies props department obtained a lot of old technical and marine equipment much of which makes up the background to the studio sets.

For more details on the arrangements, and larger pictures of the studio sets, please click on one of the above pictures or see page 2.

The Dualux, in the finished studio

Hospitaal Kerkschip De Hoop.

Postscript - Timor Challenger

The Timor Challenger was formally registered as "De Hoop" and prior to starring in "The Boat That Rocked" had a brief venture into offshore radio, as described in the 1975 encyclopedia of watery wireless, "Offshore Radio" by Gerry Bishop (ISBN 0 904603 00 8). To quote Gerrys words:
"It must be emphasised that this vessel is not an offshore station in the "pirate" sense. the Hospital Church vessel 'De Hoop', 1106 tons gross, 390 tons net, was built in 1964 by NV Schps. Gerb. Pot-Bolnes and is 208 feet long. The purpose of the ship is to serve as a mother-ship to the fishing fleets, supplying medical, technical and spiritual aid, if and when required. Financed by private donations, churches, factories, shipowners, etc., the ship is at sea three weeks out of every four keeping a continuous watch on the international calling frequency, 2182Khz, accepting calls in Dutch, English, German and French. On 2201Khz, weather reports and general messages are transmitted and received as 0645-0655, 0830-0840, 1015-1025, 1245-1255, 1615-1625, 1845-1855 and 2030-2040. On 2316Khz, 0730-0740, 1030-1040, 1315-1325, 1630-1640 and 1930-1940. Dutch language church services are broadcast from the chapel onboard on 2316kHz on Sundays at 0930-1030 and 1745-1830 and on Wednesdays at 1830-1900."
So, although not a true offshore broadcast station, the ship broadcast non marine traffic (ie. church services) using marine frequencies, without an appropriate licence. How remarkable that this ship was chartered 35 years later to star as a '60s pirate ship.
Despite what less informed media may wish to tell you, Radio Caroline continues to this day. The government did not close it down in 1967, and even a ship sunk at the bottom of the North Sea in 1980 did not bring about the stations demise. For more information on the Ross Revenge, see the home page or the F.A.Q.'s page. For more information on Radio Caroline including a full history section please see Radio Caroline website.

All bona-fide media enquiries about Radio Caroline or the involvement with the movie should be made to Radio Caroline head office in London on +44 208 340 3831 or by email to caroline_pirate(at)btconnect.com - replace the (at) with an "@".