Friends and family members remembered Annie Nightingale at a memorial in London on Thursday afternoon, four months after the pioneering DJ passed away. 

Nightingale, BBC radio’s first ever female disc jockey, died at home aged 83  on January 11 following a short illness. 

And those who knew her best were in attendance at Trafalgar Square’s St Martin-in-the-Fields for a memorial of the talented DJ’s life and career. 

Guests included photographer Mary McCartney, the daughter of Beatles legend Sir Paul, Primal Scream singer Bobby Gillespie and TV and radio presenter Sara Cox. 

The Who front-man Sir Roger Daltrey also attended with his wife Heather, while former BBC DJ Nick Grimshaw, designer Pam Hogg and legendary dance music DJ Pete Tong also paid their respects.

Sir Paul McCartney's photographer daughter Mary McCartney attended a memorial for BBC radio pioneer Annie Nightingale on Thursday, four months after her death

Sir Paul McCartney’s photographer daughter Mary McCartney attended a memorial for BBC radio pioneer Annie Nightingale on Thursday, four months after her death

Nightingale, BBC radio's first ever female disc jockey, died at home aged 83 on January 11 following a short illness

Nightingale, BBC radio’s first ever female disc jockey, died at home aged 83 on January 11 following a short illness

Primal Scream singer Bobby Gillespie and radio and TV presenter Sara Cox

Primal Scream singer Bobby Gillespie and radio and TV presenter Sara Cox 

Nightingale’s children Alex and Lucy remembered their mother with separate speeches as mourners remembered the beloved DJ.

Further tributes came from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, presenter Lauren Laverne and BBC Director of Music Lorna Clarke.   

The broadcaster joined Radio 1 in 1970 as its first ever female DJ and went on to become its longest-serving host. Known for promoting new and underground music, she was also praised for supporting other women in a male-dominated industry.

Following her death BBC director general Tim Davie hailed Nightingale as a ‘uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism for 50 years’, while Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard called her an ‘all time radio great’.

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss – who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1.

Another of her confidants was Sir McCartney, who dramatically phoned her live on air to give a statement after John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. ‘Don’t wobble,’ Nightingale told herself – as she recalled in a 2020 interview.

Her role saw her interview a dizzying cast of celebrities, including Sean Connery for his first role in James Bond. It would be one of the many highpoints of a career that began as a general reporter on her local paper, the Brighton and Hove Gazette.

She is survived by two children – Alex and Lucy – who she shared with first husband Thomas. She was later married to actor Tony ‘Binky’ Baker but the couple divorced.

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A family statement confirming her death said: ‘Annie Nightingale MBE passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness.

Mary was joined by former Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw at the memorial service on Thursday

Mary was joined by former Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw at the memorial service on Thursday 

Tributes came from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh...

... and BBC Director of Music Lorna Clarke

Tributes came from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, presenter Lauren Laverne and BBC Director of Music Lorna Clarke

Alex and Lucy Nightingale, the late DJ's two children with author ex-husband Gordon Thomas, led the service on Thursday afternoon

Alex and Lucy Nightingale, the late DJ’s two children with author ex-husband Gordon Thomas, led the service on Thursday afternoon 

Alex, aged 12, and Lucy, aged seven with Annie at a park near their Brighton home in 1975

Alex, aged 12, and Lucy, aged seven with Annie at a park near their Brighton home in 1975

Both Lucy...

... and Alex gave speeches in front of a large projected image of their mother at the St Martin-in-the-Fields service

Both Lucy (left) and Alex (right) gave speeches in front of a large projected image of their mother at the St Martin-in-the-Fields service 

TV and radio presenter Lauren Laverne also took to the podium to share her recollections of the late DJ on Thursday afternoon

TV and radio presenter Lauren Laverne also took to the podium to share her recollections of the late DJ on Thursday afternoon 

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss - who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss – who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1

Singer Bobby Gillespie...

... and fashion designer Pam Hogg held the order of service after making their way into the Trafalgar Square venue

Singer Bobby Gillespie (left and fashion designer Pam Hogg (right) held the order of service after making their way into the Trafalgar Square venue

Alex Nightingale joined Sara Cox as they celebrated the late DJ's life and career on Thursday

Alex Nightingale joined Sara Cox as they celebrated the late DJ’s life and career on Thursday 

‘Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many. Her impulse to share that enthusiasm with audiences remains undimmed after six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio globally.

‘Never underestimate the role model she became. Breaking down doors by refusing to bow down to sexual prejudice and male fear gave encouragement to generations of your women who, like Annie, only wanted to tell you about an amazing tune they had just heard.

‘Watching Annie do this on television in the 1970s, most famously as a presenter on the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test or hearing her play the latest breakbeat techno on Radio One is testimony to someone who never stopped believing in the magic of rock ‘n’ roll.’

Nightingale first broadcast on the BBC in 1963 as a panelist on Juke Box Jury, before joining Radio 1 seven years later.

She remained the station’s only female DJ until 1982, when Janice Long joined, and is credited with helping to pave the way for the likes of Sara Cox, Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball.

The Who front-man Sir Roger Daltrey also attended with his wife Heather (pictured)

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The Who front-man Sir Roger Daltrey also attended with his wife Heather (pictured)

DJ's Pete Tong and Sara Cox

Sir Roger Daltrey and Lucy Nightingale

DJ’s Pete Tong and Sara Cox (left), and Sir Roger Daltrey and Lucy Nightingale (right)

Pam Hogg (left) posed for a photo after taking to her seat at the venue in London on Thursday

Pam Hogg (left) posed for a photo after taking to her seat at the venue in London on Thursday 

As a DJ she has travelled the world, and once said she had been ‘mugged in Cuba, drugged in Baghdad and bugged in Russia’.

During her trailblazing career, she was the first woman to present the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test music show which aired on BBC Two and has written two autobiographical books.

In 2021, BBC Radio 1 launched a new scholarship for female and non-binary dance music DJs which was named after Nightingale.

Up until recently she still hosted her show Annie Nightingale presents… on BBC Radio 1.

In 2019, she was made a CBE for services to radio having previously been made an MBE in 2002.

Tim Davie said Nightingale was a ‘uniquely gifted broadcaster’ and hailed her as a ‘champion for female broadcasters’ as he paid tribute following her death aged 83.

‘I’m deeply saddened by Annie’s passing and our thoughts are with her family, many friends and the whole of Radio 1,’ he said. 

‘Annie was a uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism, for over 50 years. 

‘As well as being a trailblazer for new music, she was a champion for female broadcasters, supporting and encouraging other women to enter the industry.

‘We will all miss her terribly.’

The late broadcaster posing with Paul McCartney, who once called her live on air after John Lennon's death

The late broadcaster posing with Paul McCartney, who once called her live on air after John Lennon’s death 

The head of BBC Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, also paid tribute to Nightingale, saying: ‘All of us at Radio 1 are devastated to lose Annie, our thoughts are with her family and friends.

‘Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists. She was the first female DJ on Radio 1 and over her 50 years on the station was a pioneer for women in the industry and in dance music.

‘We have lost a broadcasting legend and, thanks to Annie, things will never be the same.’

BBC Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard, host of Radio 1’s Dance Party, described Annie Nightingale as an ‘all time radio great’.

‘Very sad to hear the news of Annie Nightingale passing,’ he posted on X. ‘An all time radio great and an inspiration to many!

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‘I was in awe of her knowledge and passion for music, the way she talked about it and the stories she had! Such a kind soul and will be missed. Thank you Annie R.I.P.’ 

Nightingale being handed a Guinness World Record as the longest serving female broadcaster by Liam Gallagher, one of her favourite musicians

Nightingale being handed a Guinness World Record as the longest serving female broadcaster by Liam Gallagher, one of her favourite musicians 

Annie was a trailblazer in the world of broadcasting, having become the first woman to DJ on BBC Radio 1 during a time where misogyny pervaded the industry.

The radio station’s longest-serving presenter supported waves of popular music genres including prog rock, German electronica, punk, acid house and grime and her powerful influence on the world of British music culture cannot be understated.

The DJ said she faced a ‘huge lot of opposition’ going into radio in an interview for the BBC Centenary Collection in 2018.

‘What the hell is it about radio that it has to be male’, she said.

‘This was my battle.’

Once, on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Desert Island Discs, she told host Lauren Laverne that radio had ‘such an effect’ on her, the first word she tried to say was ‘music’.

Also on the radio programme, which aired in 2020, she revealed she knew about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship before it was made public, but did not report the story for fear of breaking her bond of trust with The Beatles.

The DJ was a frequent guest at the band’s Apple Studios in London during the 1960s and she had a front-row seat to one of the most creative periods in British popular music.

The legendary Radio 1 DJ in a photoshoot during the 1960s

The legendary Radio 1 DJ in a photoshoot during the 1960s  

The BBC DJ on January 15, 1976. She was at Radio 1 for more than 40 years

The BBC DJ on January 15, 1976. She was at Radio 1 for more than 40 years 

The broadcaster - seen at the V&A on March 20, 2013, has been hailed as a 'pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many'

The broadcaster – seen at the V&A on March 20, 2013, has been hailed as a ‘pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many’

She also spoke to host Laverne about the sexism she faced entering the industry and said her request to become a DJ was initially turned down because she was a woman.

Nightingale said: ‘They came out with this wonderful line, they said ‘our disc jockeys are husband substitutes’. Which I thought was an extraordinary thing to say.

‘That set up a lot of assumptions that all the women pop fans were housewives at home doing the ironing. And they would say, ‘why would a woman want to be a DJ?’. They were bewildered.’

Her memoir Hey Hi Hello was released in 2020 and offered a look back at her five decades at the forefront of popular music culture in Britain. 

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