THEY are the golden girls who have been crowned the rising stars of radio.
Beryl Renwick, 86, and Betty Smith, 90, were coming to grips yesterday with the fact that they’d seen off established stars and much younger rivals to win the award for best entertainment programme at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.
The pair, who have lived in Hull all their lives and met each other at a lunch club, were talent-spotted on a tour of BBC Radio Humberside’s studios in 2006 by presenter David Reeves, who was struck by their bounce.
He persuaded them to bring their inimitable blend of stereotype-busting “local history, new music and taste in younger men” to his Saturday night show.
Features including pensioner news, spoof records and appearances from Mick Buble “the UK’s ninth-best Michael Buble impersonator” have since earned the show a cult following, with between 10,000 and 20,000 regular listeners.
As Mr Reeves says: “They are very cheeky, very saucy, and not afraid to talk about sex – I have to pull them back. They are like a couple of teenagers.”
The BBC Radio Humberside hosts beat comedian Frank Skinner for their Saturday evening show, which goes out at 6pm.
At the awards ceremony the comedian came in for a typical Beryl and Betty initiation test. Mr Reeves said: “Frank Skinner pulled his trouser up and they rubbed his calf in front of the paparazzi. They are not like that stereotype old person going round playing Bingo.
“They are women having a great time. They are celebrating life.”
Judges said the pair offered a refreshing change of pace, describing them as “a joyous entertaining double act, having fun with the medium and unconstrained by any ingrained ideas of what works and what doesn’t.
“They give a voice to a sector of society unrepresented on radio and do it with a joy that puts many of their fellow broadcasters to shame.”
The pair stayed on in London yesterday – a place Betty, a mother of 10, has never visited before and Beryl has only visited once back in the 1960s.
Beryl, who worked on the trolley buses in Hull in World War Two, said they were overjoyed to put the city – and Radio Humberside – on the map and put the secret of their success down to their ability to “talk about everything” despite having led “quite different lives.”
She said: “We’re never worried about it, we’re never frightened or stuttering and stammering. We can normally answer David’s questions about anything or anybody else’s.
“Betty is a lady who’s had 10 children in her life, I’ve had none unfortunately, so there again you see, there’s quite a balance, and this is why I think we’re quite capable of doing a programme.
“Maybe someone will ring in and ask about a certain thing that we can talk about from years ago.
“We love it, the bosses and all the people who present the programme, they all treat us with the greatest of respect, everyone, and we love them to bits, we really do.”
She added: “We talk about anything.
“We’ve no problem with each other, we’ve got to know each other and David has taught us all we know, otherwise we would not have been here last night at this award.
“Without David, we would never have been there.
“It’s David who has taught us all we know.”
Asked whether they’d get a pay rise, Betty said: “To be quite candid with you, truthfully, Betty and I are the same. We would do this willingly without pay because we love it so much, we love people and it has put Radio Humberside and Kingston upon Hull now, it’s put them on the map.
“You often hear people say: ‘Where’s Hull?’. You know? But now everybody will know where Hull is, and Kingston upon Hull.
“After this lot, nobody will be able to wonder where they are, will they now?”
Yesterday the pair were being inundated with requests for appearances from all round the world – but Mr Reeves said: “They haven’t got a passport, they won’t be hopping on a plane any time soon. Literally east Hull is their life – it is where their family is.”
He added: “It has been an incredible experience – my main worry is that I am asking them to do too much. They are both exhausted, but they are so professional.”
Among the other winners were football pundits Richard Keys and Andy Gray, who won the Best Sports Programme for their show on TalkSport, two years after being dumped by Sky Sports in a sexism row. Music Radio Personality of the Year was Chris Evans from BBC Radio Two.