The Power Behind the Microphone: The First Live Radio Entertainment Broadcast

Video available
Date: Monday, 15 June 2020 19:00 - 20:15

Venue: Live stream via YouTube  |  City: Chelmsford, United Kingdom

What was it about Chelmsford that made it 'the birthplace of radio'? Was it just the place where Guglielmo Marconi, Italian pioneer, decided to build his factories? Or was it the talents of local people which made the wireless flourish in this Essex town?

Chelmsford City Theatres is marking the centenary of Britain's first radio entertainment broadcast by streaming a new play about the remarkable Marconi Company tests of 1920.

One hundred years ago history was made in Chelmsford. On 15 June, the world's most famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, was brought to the Marconi New Street Works to perform a radio concert. It was the first live entertainment broadcast by an artist of international standing and it revolutionised the world of entertainment. But Dame Melba wasn't the first woman to sing live on British radio. That honour went to Winifred Sayer, a young soprano from Chelmsford who sang in a series of experimental broadcasts run by The Marconi Company earlier that year.

The Power Behind the Microphone: The First Live Radio Entertainment Broadcast brings this astonishing year of radio firsts to life, just up the road from where Dame Nellie took the airwaves exactly 100 years earlier. At 7:10 pm, international opera star Anna Steiger will step up to the microphone to recreate the concert given by Madame Melba as part of a radio play based on the story of that fateful night and the breakthroughs that made it possible.

Chelmsford City Theatres will stream a video feed of the play to its Facebook page where it will also be available to watch after the live event. The first part of the play, including the recreation of the Melba concert, will be broadcast live on BBC Essex and the entire performance can be heard on Chelmsford Community Radio.

The play, which was co-written by Felicity Fair Thompson and Tim Wander, was originally intended for the stage of the Civic Theatre in a week-long production as part of Essex 2020 but director David Streames has now adapted the script for radio so that the cast can perform their lines without having to get too close to each other.

This event is part of Essex 2020 Marconi Centenary celebrations in Chelmsford throughout June.


Fairfield Rd, Chelmsford CM1 1JG
United Kingdom




All Dates

  • Monday, 15 June 2020 19:00 - 20:15