Grandpa taught radio man about Jewish life

AWARD-winning radio producer and presenter David Reeves reckons he owes his success to his grandfather.

His maternal grandfather, the late Abraham Diamond of Stoke Newington, was a major influence on his, not only professionally but also upon his Jewish identity.

Although David’s father was not Jewish, it was his Jewish grandfather who influenced him.

David recalls: “My grandfather was very keen to teach me the Jewish traditions. He would often invite us for Friday night dinners, which I enjoyed. My grandad was the provider of all of the knowledge and traditions of Judaism.

“After he died, my mum was keen for me to get a Jewish education by having a barmitzvah.”

Now that David is married, although not in the Jewish fold, he is keen that his three-year-old daughter Agatha should also be aware of her Jewish identity.

He says: “As my mum took over the role of the keeper of the tradition from my granddad, that role has now fallen to me.

“We still light the Chanucah and Friday night candles. Even though, living in Hull, we aren’t members of a synagogue, we still try and keep up those traditions.

“When Agatha asks questions about Judaism when she’s of age, I want her to be aware and proud of her heritage.”

Although a tailor by trade, grandad Abraham, who was of Rumanian descent, told his grandson that he had always wanted to perform on the radio.

David said: “Like a lot of young Jewish boys, I was a show-off. I had a good, strong voice and was always interested in the performing arts. I felt a natural fit with radio.

“Growing up in the mid-1980s, radio presenters were the big names. They seemed to have wonderful lifestyles. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

“From the age of 10, I had a fascination with the presenters of late-night phone-ins. It all seemed very attractive and romantic.”

David took a vocational course of business management twinned with radio production at the Warrington North campus of Manchester University, doing work experience at BBC London.

On graduation, he returned to the London local radio station, working in the newsroom and as a production assistant with names like John Gaunt and Jo Brand.

David said: “The presenters had no idea how the equipment worked. My job was to take them through it. I had a variety of roles in the newsroom and went out doing reports. It was great.”

But he added: “The one bit I did not like was that I was still living with my parents who had moved to Hoddedson in Hertfordshire.

“I didn’t like the commute. I had to make a decision whether to find a place of my own or share something, or find experience somewhere else in the country.”

David decided to take up the offer of an exciting new project in Hull in 2002 and is still based in the northern city which, he says, has attached itself to him.

The project was to set up a local interactive TV service in Hull.

David explained: “Hull had a unique situation where it had its own telephone communications system. The BBC did a piggyback on that and trialled a very exciting TV service which meant that viewers could have a very early on-demand TV service. The country had heard nothing like it.

“It was like a Sky TV box. But you could only watch it in Hull. You could get all the things you get on Sky. Also, you had a homepage where you had local content.

“I came up to Hull to work on that, so I was learning new skills on camera and really transforming radio ideas into TV.

“But unfortunately the company behind the telephone service, Kingston Communications Service, decided it was no longer financially viable and it came to an end after five years.”

He continued: “Realising that the writing was on the wall, I began to showcase my radio skills to the management in Hull.

“Radio was my passion. I was very lucky. I walked into one meeting to be told I’d lost my job for one project. Then I walked into another room and was asked if I would be interested in a brand new programme.

“Radio Humberside were extending their broadcast hours till 1am. I was asked to develop a brand new late show that was going out on Radio Humberside between 10.30pm and 1am.

“I grabbed the opportunity. I very much embraced the idea of having all this creativity to do pretty much what I wanted on a blank canvass. I was trying lots of different exciting ideas, one of which was that was going to invite people of an older generation to talk about new music.”

The idea, he said, was inspired by his relationship with his late grandfather.

He told me: “My grandad and I had a wonderful relationship. We would laugh, joke and compare things in his lifetime to mine. I always wanted to try and bottle that relationship. I think that’s where the idea came from.”

Tracking down pensioners, David stumbled across Beryl and Betty, the two octogenarians who brought him fame.

Beryl and Betty with David Reeves earned this unique threesome a Sony Radio Academy Gold Award for Best Entertainment programme in 2012.

After unsuccessfully looking for candidates for the programme in local old people’s homes and residential accommodation, Beryl and Betty walked into the brand new BBC Humberside building on a guided tour.

David recalls: “I was working in one of the studios when this group of about 30 women in their 80s came in. There were two who stood out by a mile. As soon as they left I thought, ‘These are the two girls I am looking for’.”

He explained: "They were ruffling my hair and were very flirty. They just had fantastic energy. They weren’t afraid to just talk their minds. I had an instant spark with them.”

David invited the two pensioners in for a cup of tea.

He said: "They asked what they were going to talk about. I said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll just turn the microphones on. Let me ask the questions and we’ll just get your personalities.’

“The original idea was to get them to talk about a new Lady Gaga or new Michael Buble record. I wanted to get their take on popular music of the time and to talk a bit about them. That initial idea became an entire show based around their personalities.”

David went on to be a producer on Listening Project, which eavesdropped on short meaningful conversations all over the country.

One of his latest projects is BBC Radio Humberside’s World War One at Home series. The project is a nationwide one, in which every local radio station was commissioned to find previously hidden WW1 stories in their area.

David was commissioned to produce 20 stories, the first of which went out on the recent 100th anniversary of the war and featured the diary, excerpts of which were recently published in the Jewish Telegraph, of Hull barmitzvah boy, Harry Miller.

The diary contains accounts of how those living on the north-east coast feared German invasion.

David told me about the WW1 project: “People had not wanted to talk before about how their grandfathers were killed. The anniversary has given them confidence. A lot of people have come forward to share their family history. Some of the stories are incredible.”

* Nationwide World War One At Home episodes can be found on


BORN: London, 1979.

EDUCATION: Manchester University Warrington campus.

POSITIONS: BBC London production assistant; BBCi KIT content producer; Radio Humberside presenter, producer and reporter; Beryl and Betty with David Reeves creator and presenter; The Listening Project producer; WW1 At Home producer; Yearning Hearts producer and director.

FAMILY: Wife Clare and daughter Agatha.

HOME: Hull.

© 2014 Jewish Telegraph