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BOYDEN; The truth behind his shock radio sacking.


RADIO star Malcolm Boyden sits at home and sifts through the mountains of letters and cards sent by his army of fans.

Four months after his awardwinning lunchtime show was sensationally killed off by Radio WM bosses they all ask one question: 'Why?'

The presenter scratches his head. 'I simply cannot answer that question,' he says. 'I cried when my show was axed because it was so unexpected.

'But now I'm determined to bounce back by joining the Sunday Mercury to write a new column.'

Malcolm, 39, had spent 12 years at the BBC station, based at Birmingham's Pebble Mill, and had built up a huge weekly audience of 500,000.

Yet he was sacked without warning on January 12, much to the disgust of loyal lis-teners who had become known as the Boyden Babes.

The bombshell sparked a huge protest by fans, whose letters of support continue to flood in to his home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

Malcolm picks up one unopened letter from the pile and reads it, looking genuinely sad. A fan has written: 'What am I going to do without you?'

In a soft Bromsgrove accent, very different from his broad Black Country radio voice, Malcolm says: 'I've kept every letter because I want to write back to every single one.

'I built up such a rapport with the Boyden Babes - I don't think WM will ever have something like that again.

'I didn't realise howmuch the show meant to people when I was doing it.

'People keep asking me what on earth WM was thinking of and what I did wrong. The truth is, I don't know. All I can say is that I was totally shocked and I'm still bemused.

'I was consistently successful for 12 years and was arguably the most successful broadcaster BBC WM ever had -I have two Sony Awards to prove it.

'I knew the business could sometimes be cruel and it can be a ruthless environment to work in. Yet at other times it can be the best business in the world. I knew I was coming to the end of my contract, so of course there was a bit of uncertainty. But I certainly hadn't expected this.'

West Bromwich Albion fan Malcolm, who began his radio career as a football commentator, was offered a sports job at Radio WM after his show was axed -but turned it down.

'Taking the job would have been the easiest thing to do,' he says. 'But I didn't want to stay in those circumstances. I wanted to start afresh and do other things.

'Leaving was upsetting because the showwassucha big part of my life. I felt lost without work to go to.'

After his loyal years at Radio WM, Malcolm was given just one week to clear his desk.

'I was told the show was being axed on January 12 and we did the last programme a week later,' he says. 'WM hadn't expected the amount of reaction they got when it came out that my show had been axed.

'I don't think they'd planned for me to leave so quickly, but it became impossible to do a show and talk about anything else.

'But over all I adored my time at WM and I wouldn't swap those years for the world.'

The real Malcolm Boyden and his radio persona are worlds apart. Without his microphone the presenter is shy, softly spoken and looks slightly uncomfortable having his photograph taken.

The is a family man, devoted to his wife Maxine and their two sons, Eliott, aged six, and Oliver, who's two.

'Believe it or not, I've become a great house-husband since leaving BBC WM,' says Malcolm. 'I take the kids to school and make their tea.

'People say I'm the least confident person they know. The on-air MalcolmBoydenwas all a performance -not just the accent. It was a character who took over while I was doing the show.

'I oncemetamanwho said he and his wife listened to my programme every day and he said hewas really disillusioned when he met me in real life!'

But radio isn't all that Malcolm Boyden is about.

His first novel, a racy comedy titled Perfect, hit the shops just before Christmas and sold 2,000 in its first week.

Because of its explicit sexual content, it is not something you would necessarily associate with the radio star whose core audience was elderly women and housewives.

He wrote it in his 'office' -a tiny cupboard under the stairs with just enough room for a computer and chair in his pretty Victorian home, jokingly named Castle Boyden. Malcolm admitshe took a big risk with the novel and was concerned about what the Boyden Babes would think.

'I think I'd been spending too much time in the cupboard under the stairs!' he laughs.

'My main concern was how people were going to react to the book. I was even worried about my Mum reading it!

'I didn't write it specifically with radio fans in mind but I thought some of them might have a negative reaction to it.

'But so far all the responses have been positive.'

Now Malcolm is looking forward to writing a new column for Sunday Mercury readers, interviewing colourful, inspiring or just downright wacky Midland characters.

And he hasn't ruled out returning to the airwaves -but he's keeping mum about where and when.

'I will be back on the radio in the very near future,' he says. 'I can't say anymore yet but I'm looking forward to it.'

His favourite broadcasting moment was winning the Sony Gold award for Radio Personality of the Year in 1997 -presented by Michael Aspel at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

Malcolm now uses the award as a doorstop in his office!

'My real claim to fame is that Steve Wright came second that year,' he says. 'Everyone thought Steve would win and they were looking forward to his speech.

'They all went back to their dinners when they realised it was me who'd won instead!'

One of his worstmomentswas at a Player of the Yearevening at West Bromwich Albion where he was asked to make a speech.

He told a string of jokes at manager Bobby Gould's expense, believing that the soccer boss would find them funny -but the whole squad got up and walked out.

It wasn't until the following day that Malcolm learned the Baggies manager had only just been sacked.

'I felt awful,' he says. 'I had no idea what had happened and I had to sneak out to escape the angry fans.'

During his Radio WM career, Malcolmhas sparred withFrank Bruno, taken singing lessons from Donny Osmond and raced world speedway champion Greg Hancock around Coventry's Brandon Stadium.

He has also become something of a panto star, appearing at the Birmingham Hippodrome. 'I loved all the interviews I did at WM with people like Uri Geller, Jason Donovan, Terry Waite, Keith Chegwin, and Val Doonican,' adds Malcolm.

'I don't have a favourite but I framed the drawing singer Tony Bennett did of me when I interviewed him.

'I wouldn'thavechangedone day of my radio career at WM -except for perhaps January 12.'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2004
Previous Article:Sunday Mercury Comment: No escaping responsibility.
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