A '˜Wave' goodbye to the voice of morning radio
It's a romantic, almost clichÃ©d and old-fashioned idea one might expect to see on the big screen, but Gerrard Allan Mills was handed his big chance in radio after answering telephones, making cups of tea, and leaving demo cassette tapes scattered around in the hope bosses would one day listen.
Fast forward 15 years, and Ged is one of the biggest names in Blackpool, having risen through the ranks to front the breakfast show, a gig he has performed five days a week since 2007.
But it hasn’t been day in, day out music, news, and weather. Instead, the 33-year-old has championed the resort, changed people’s lives for the better by raising thousands of pounds for good causes, and even smashed a world record with his rear end.
Now, as he readies himself for his final shift, he has reflected on his time before taking up a producer role at Britain’s biggest dedicated sports station in London.
“It has really flown by,” he said. “And it has been so enjoyable. It really doesn’t feel like 10 years, but I have done my stint now.
“It has been a huge part of my life. Because Blackpool is so small and there’s lots going on, you become very much engrossed in what’s happening and you really care about it.
“It’s a big responsibility to host a breakfast show on a station like Wave and in a town like Blackpool. It’s the best job in the world.”
Originally from Newton with Scales, the small Fylde village five miles from Preston and 11 from Blackpool, Ged began his career in the early 2000s with a half-hour slot on the radio at Royal Preston Hospital.
After helping out at Wave’s headquarters in Mowbray Drive, and pestering bosses to give him a chance, he got it – and he took it.
Shortly after covering his first shift for a fellow presenter on Boxing Day in 2003, Ged was given the evening show slot before moving to Rock FM in Preston for two years.
In 2007, he returned to Wave to take over the prestigious breakfast show, a role he has held since, and alongside the equally popular Hayley Kay since 2009.
The stand-out memory, he said, was raising £16,000 for young cerebral palsy sufferer Chloe New through the ‘Five day breakfast’ in 2013.
Ged and Hayley were locked in the Tower for five days – and were told they wouldn’t be released until they had raised at least £10,000 to help the youngster go to the US for an op that would help her walk again.
“The Tower staff were brilliant and just gave us the run of the place,” Ged said. “They said we could just do what we wanted, how we wanted, and when. Without their support we could never have done it.
“On the Wednesday it was ‘World Record Wednesday’ and every hour we tried to beat a different record. We had eight lined up. Some were virtually impossible and some we nearly did.
“The one record I did break was the most amount of balloons popped in 30 seconds using only my backside.”
While one could be forgiven for thinking the previous holder had been a spurious record anorak, it was actually former England cricket star, Preston-born Freddie Flintoff.
The Ashes star had managed 25 pops in 30 seconds two years before Ged bettered it by two, describing his technique as ‘up, down, up, down’.
“It really gave us a lift and we raised £16,000 in the end, and Chloe had the operation and now she is able to walk unaided,” Ged added.
Other highlights for Ged include taking part in Prancing On Ice, when he and several other presenters performed in front of a live audience at the Cleveleys ice rink, since closed, and the 2009 Royal Variety Performance, which saw the likes of actress Whoopi Goldberg, crooner Michael Buble, and musician Miley Cyrus arrive in the resort.
It was the first show to be held in the town since 1955, and ticket sales had to be suspended early due to overwhelming demand.
The hardest part of the job, Ged said, has been to watch Blackpool receive unnecessary kickings from the national press and social media users.
“We are trying to support the town and sometimes you get people who put it down and are negative,” he said. “That’s what I’ve enjoyed the least.
“I always say I would rather live here than somewhere like Blackburn, where there is nothing to do.
“We have amazing attractions but people are so quick to put Blackpool down.
“Look at what we are doing!
“We have this new conference centre to come and the Pleasure Beach is building a new ride.
“It’s never been better!”
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the fortunes of Blackpool FC, whose ride through the leagues has ironically also been like a rollercoaster.
From reading out scores on air to full match commentary, Ged – an Arsenal fan – has engrossed himself into the Seasiders’ dealings both on and off the pitch.
After speaking to fans who have pledged ‘not a penny more’ until the Oyston family have sold the club, those who vowed to return when legal proceedings against fans were dropped, and those who still take their regular seat at Bloomfield Road, he doesn’t know what the future holds.
“I understand their frustrations,” he said of fans. “Blackpool were in the Premier League six years ago and now they are in League Two.
“I know a lot of fans who have now started going to games at AFC Fylde. I wonder if they will ever go back to Blackpool.”
Ged’s last show will be on Friday, March 3.
As well as producing the overnight weekend programme for talkSPORT, he will be working with BBC Cumbria during the week.
Co-presenter Hayley Kay said: “We started the show in 2009 and it’s 2017 – where has the time gone?
“Your radio husband is a unique relationship.
“I see him more than anyone in my family so it’d be weird when he leaves, and I will miss him terribly.
“I think he will miss the laughs.
“Doing the breakfast show means no two days are the same, and it’s a licence to be yourself and have fun.”