Miranda Ward obituary

Other lives: Pop music journalist who was the first female voice on Radio 1

My friend Miranda Ward, who has died aged 73, was the answer to a pub-quiz question: “Who was the first female voice on Radio 1?” Miranda beat Annie Nightingale to that distinction by at least two years, interviewing George Harrison on the network’s launch date of 30 September 1967.

The show was Scene and Heard, a weekly magazine-style review of pop music and musicians. Within it sat a regular spot, Miranda’s Meanders, in which the roving reporter made full use of her extensive contacts book to entice the industry’s biggest names on to the BBC’s fledgling station.

Although by then an experienced print journalist (with Record Mirror and the New Musical Express, among other publications), she was new to radio and the Beeb gave her the scantiest of technical training prior to her debut with Harrison. On meeting him, Miranda found herself unable to start the standard-issue clunky portable tape recorder. Thankfully, Harrison was familiar with the corporation’s equipment and advised, in his best lugubrious Scouse tones, “I think you push that button there”.

The Beatles were friends of hers, and she was the only journalist to be allowed on location for the Magical Mystery Tour television film. One day Ringo Starr rang her home number and asked to speak to “Mandy”. Her father replied that if he meant Miranda, the correct abbreviation would be “Randy”.

She befriended many other artists, from Paul Simon to Jimi Hendrix – but her name is most often linked with the singer Sandy Denny, who collapsed while staying in Miranda’s London flat in 1978 and died a few days later without coming out of a coma. Grief-stricken at the loss of her great friend, Miranda had to deal with a barrage of abuse from many of Sandy’s fans who, absurdly, decided she was to blame.

Miranda was born in London, the daughter of Jean (nee Vosper), a civilian officer in the Admiralty War Rooms, and Richard Kirkby, a colonel in the Royal Marines. With the family following her father’s postings, she had a roaming childhood that took in Malta, West Berlin and Egypt before he left the military in 1958 and the family settled in the UK. Miranda was educated at St Paul’s girls’ school in Hammersmith, then took a shorthand and typing course, and when she got her first job in journalism used Miranda Ward as her byline (taking her paternal grandmother’s maiden name). The BBC producer John Walters recruited her for Scene and Heard at the start of Radio 1.

Eventually Miranda withdrew from the pop scene and settled in Gloucestershire, where she became a maths teacher. In recent years her writing found a new home in the blogosphere, although the subject matter had changed: Trumpism and Brexit were among the targets in her essays.

She is survived by her brother, Richard.

Bob Sinfield

The GuardianTramp

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