My abiding memory of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales twenty years ago this Thursday, is the almost surreal way the country was in limbo for a week following the tragic events in Paris. Half the country was in mourning for a woman they'd never met while the other half were bemused by their reaction. Mind you that didn't stop cynical old me recording some of the radio output on that Sunday as broadcasters tried to come to terms with the news and how to handle the death of a royal for which there'd been no rehearsals.
I didn't start recording earlier enough on Sunday 31 August 1997 to hear how the news was broken to the waking nation. By 10 am Radio 1 was already using back-to-back ambient music - some of the tracks are listed below - interspersed with announcements from Mark Goodier and extended news reports here with Richard Evans.
Many commercial radio stations came together to take IRN's bulletins and played instrumental tracks. I'm sure they featured more than just Kenny Gee's Songbird but that's all I recorded and have heard since on other recordings. This segment starts at 11.30 am and was taken from Viking Radio.
Radio 2 dropped its morning schedule (Good Morning Sunday remained but shifted to 9 am) and under normal circumstances would have aired a pre-recorded Desmond Carrington show at 1 pm. Des and producer Dave Alyott convinced controller Jim Moir that they could handle a live show from their home studio with an appropriate playlist. This recording starts with an extended 12-minute news bulletin read by Paul Leighton.
Back to Radio 1 and at 4 pm listeners would've expected to hear the UK Top 40 but both the BBC and the Network Chart from Capital were cancelled as a mark of respect. At the start of this recording Lisa I'Anson introduces Tina Ritchie with a 3-minute bulletin and then an announcement from Mark Goodier.
Both Radio 4 and 5 live combined resources throughout the day. This news special with Charlie Lee Potter and Allan Robb was broadcast at 5 pm.
Following the week of almost suspended animation, that and the clamouring for a public display of grief from the royal family, the funeral occupied most of the airtime on Saturday 6 September from 8.30 am. This is part of the BBC coverage carried across all stations. The announcer is David Miles and commentating in this clip are James Naughtie and Chris Stuart.
There are other off-air recordings from 31 August 1997 available online. Radio Tapes has airchecks from CBS and ABC in the States plus the BBC World Service as relayed by Minnesota Public Radio KNGA.
The Shortwave Radio Audio Archive has more BBC World Service coverage.
This webpage recreates the original MHP Pick of the Continuity Announcements page with reinstated audio and looks at the timeline mainly from a TV perspective.
In this blog post Matthew Rudd recalls working overnight at Viking FM as the news broke.
Radio 1's playlist on 31 August 1997 included:
The Last Stand - Aloof
The Tones - Nova Nova
Culture Clash - Sacred Spirit
After Life - Blue Bar
Pressure Drop - Dusk
Pat Metheny - Sueno Con Mexico
Sabres of Paradise - Haunted Dancehall
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Merry Xmas Mr Lawrence
Apollo 440 - Stealth Mass in FM
Giorgio Moroder - Love's Theme from Midnight Express
Leftfield - Fanfare of Life
Nights Interlude - Nightmares on Wax.