UK

Steve Wright: A much-loved veteran BBC broadcaster and pioneer of UK ‘zoo’ radio

The radio presenter was best known for hosting BBC Radio 2 programme Steve Wright In The Afternoon.

George Michael pictured with BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright
Steve Wright George Michael pictured with BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright (PA/PA)

Radio presenter Steve Wright, whose career in broadcasting spanned almost 50 years, was a well-regarded DJ known for pioneering the “zoo” radio format on British airwaves.

Born in Greenwich, south London, in 1954, Wright’s career at the BBC began when he was employed at the corporation in the 1970s.

The broadcaster joined BBC Radio 1 in 1980 to host a Saturday evening show before moving on to host the show that defined his career a year later up until 1993.

DJ Steve Wright who has died at the age of 69
Steve Wright death DJ Steve Wright who has died at the age of 69 (Ian West/PA)

The original version of Steve Wright In The Afternoon on BBC Radio 2 had launched in 1981 and introduced UK listeners to the “zoo” format.

It became popular thanks to a number of zany segments including “factoids”, which involved listing quirky facts, and the appearance of humorous characters – a signature element of “zoo” radio.

The presenter also fronted the Radio 1 Breakfast show for a year until 1995, and completed a stint at commercial radio stations before returning to BBC Radio 2 in 1996 to host Steve Wright’s Saturday Show and Sunday Love Songs.

In 1999, he recreated Steve Wright In The Afternoon every weekday with celebrity interviews and entertaining trivia featured in his factoids segment, before stepping down in September 2022.

Former BBC Radio 1 host Scott Mills took over the afternoon slot as part of the station’s schedule shake-up and Wright stayed with Radio 2, continuing to present Sunday Love Songs as well as a series of specials and podcasts.

During his career he also fronted television programmes for the BBC including Top Of The Pops, which offered a rundown of the latest chart hits up until it came off air in 2006.

Paul McCartney surprising Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright and his production assistant Dianne Oxberry
Steve Wright death Paul McCartney surprising Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright and his production assistant Dianne Oxberry (PA/PA)

In 2016 Wright said it was “a sad loss” following the death of Joyce Frost, who often discussed the news when she appeared as The Old Woman on his Steve Wright In The Afternoon programme.

Her identity had been a closely guarded secret for anyone who worked on the show and the question of “who is the old woman?” was finally answered following Frost’s death.

As Wright bid farewell after 23 years on his popular show in 2022 he played listeners out to Queen’s Radio Ga Ga.

During his final show the presenter said he had wanted to provide “a little bit of light relief” during the hardest moments of the pandemic when the nation was forced to stay at home.

In his final epilogue, he said: “I am so glad today was about the success of the programme and I wanted to say thank you to anyone who has been involved with this programme – guests, celebrity stars, authors, politicians, experts, they all come to studio 6B and have been brilliant.”

Radio 1 DJ’s Steve Wright, Mike Read, and Bruno Brookes stir up an evil brew in London as they prepare for the stations support of Comic Relief where listeners will vote to decide who will be dropped in a tub of slime live on TV
Steve Wright death Radio 1 DJ’s Steve Wright, Mike Read, and Bruno Brookes stir up an evil brew in London as they prepare for the stations support of Comic Relief where listeners will vote to decide who will be dropped in a tub of slime live on TV (PA/PA)

In his time on radio Wright also fronted a variety of specials for the BBC, including Your Ultimate Kylie Song and Steve Wright’s Peter Kay Christmas Special, an exclusive broadcast with the comedian.

For BBC Sounds he had also presented Tell It To Steve: Best Of Guests, which showcased the guests he had spoken to across his many years at the BBC and also included newly-recorded interviews which updated their stories.

In October 2023 he became the new presenter of long-running show Pick Of The Pops, which had previously been fronted by Paul Gambaccini.

Some months later the veteran broadcaster was honoured for his services to radio in the New Year Honours list and he said he wanted to dedicate his MBE “to all the people in broadcasting who gave comfort and public service during the pandemic”.

The radio host was last on air on February 11 for a pre-recorded Valentine’s Day edition of his Love Songs programme which features a blend of classic love songs, dedications and real-life romance stories.