It was with great sadness that we learned earlier last month that the radio presenter Pete Mitchell had died at just 61.
Pete was a fantastic radio DJ, and an absolutely lovely person. I’m publishing this just before 11am on April 3rd, when Pete’s funeral will be taking place. Unfortunately, due to current circumstances only his very close family including his partner Helen, and his boys, will be allowed to attend, but you can be certain that a much bigger celebration of Pete’s life will happen in due course.
I’m not going to write a full obituary – I couldn’t do that – but more talk about the Pete that I knew. I first met him at Virgin Radio when he joined with Geoff, having come down to London from Key 103 where the pair had become a household name around Manchester.
I didn’t work in programming but over time I got to know Pete fairly well because he was just a gregarious and outgoing person. We all listened to Pete & Geoff because their show was so creative and funny.
This was Chris Evans-era Virgin Radio, and if you weren’t careful you could be drinking the whole time. Pete became a fixture around the place, and fitted in with the general madness of a radio station that was at the top of its game.
Over time they got better and better slots in the schedule until they eventually got the breakfast show, and what a wonderful show it was. By now I was familiar enough to sometimes wander into the studio and have a chat with the pair of them between records.
For whatever reason, around this time I became Pete’s unofficial tech support person. It turned out that he had a laptop at home that was basically useless. I told him to bring it in, and so one morning, after the show finished at 10am, he came up to the sales floor where I sat, and I attempted to diagnose the problem.
Basically the thing was riddled with viruses. I tried anti-virus software but even that was tough going because it seemed as though some of the virus software was using his laptop as a repository for illegal software and it took up most of the hard disk space.
We sat there, trying to fix it for an hour or so – me obviously not doing any of my actual work – until finally my boss came out of his office and gave me a really dirty look.
I told Pete that I thought he was upset that I was spending so much time on a non-work related issue, and perhaps we should finish for the day. We had a good laugh and joked about things.
It was only a few moments later that it became clear that the entire office was trying to commemorate the two-minute silence for Remembrance Day, while Pete and I happily laughed through the whole thing!
Here’s a wonderful video from around 2000 when Pete was interviewing Noel Gallagher, who he knew pretty well having been the first DJ to play Oasis on the radio. The questions from the phone callers were all set-up – with grandparents of staff members being fed lines to give to a slightly bemused Noel.
When I finally decided to leave Absolute Radio in 2014, Pete was very kind and completely insistent on taking me out for a fantastic curry, talking through my plans – and his – for the future. It was really touching, and totally summed up the kind of person he was.
Pete went on to do work at XFM Manchester, BBC Radio 2, 6 Music and the new Virgin Radio. He made a number of documentary series that showed off his encyclopedic knowledge of music and in particular Northern Soul.
In 2018, a vast gang of ex-Virgin and Absolute Radio staff members all gathered together to celebrate the station’s 25th anniversary (the change in branding, ownership and emergence of a new Virgin Radio meant that this didn’t really happen on-air).
Of course Pete was there, unchanged and still the life and soul of the place.
That event was put together via a large WhatsApp group, and that group has been mourning Pete ever since we learned of his death.
So today at 11am, when his funeral is taking place, all around the world there will be lots of other people raising a glass of whatever their tipple, in memory of Pete.