Cindy Kent, pop-star-turned-broadcaster-turned-vicar, is honoured by Queen Elizabeth
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – June 10, 2016) — Premier Christian Radio presenter Cindy Kent has been awarded an MBE [Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire] for services to religious broadcasting in the Queen’ Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours list, announced this weekend.
Cindy, an ordained Anglican priest, has worked with Premier since it was first launched.
“When the letter arrived I thought it was a tax return,” she said. “I read the opening words and had to sit down with shock.”
Cindy, who I have known for some 50 years, had a successful musical career, fronting the pop/folk group The Settlers. Their most successful record, “The Lightning Tree” (theme tune of the British TV series Follyfoot), was a Top 40 hit in 1971.
She went on to host BBC Radio 2’s “Good Morning Sunday” before venturing into commercial radio and pioneering religious broadcasting at LBC and Capital Radio in London. During that time, she presented programmes on Tyne Tees TV and ran the Media Awareness Project for the Mothers’ Union, offering media training to would-be broadcasters.
In 1995, when Premier Christian Radio launched in London, UK, Cindy was the first presenter to sign up and has since presented a variety of programmes including “Premier Tonight,” “This is My Story,” “This is My Song” and many more.
She then trained to become a priest-in-charge at St. John the Apostle, Whetstone in London, then became its vicar, and recently retired from full-time ministry.
“There are so many people I know who deserve this honour more than me,” she said. “I am so grateful to those who put me forward. I hope I carry on working for Premier for a long time because it’s become such a big part of my life. How amazing that I can share the news on the station’s 21st birthday!”
Premier’s chief executive, Peter Kerridge said: “Cindy is the ultimate professional and her dedication, faithfulness and irrepressible enthusiasm have been recognized in this award. It is a fitting accolade to a lifetime of broadcasting excellence.”
During her time of fronting The Settlers, she and the group toured the UK and many parts of the world for 11 years until 1973, and they often performed on stage with Sir Cliff Richard.
I remember once attending a radio broadcast in London with my wife, Norma, during which the now infamous Sir Jimmy Savile introduced her as “the girl with the unsettling legs” which brought the house down. Called “Speakeasy”, (theme; “Yakety Yack” by the Coasters), the show was an hour-long young peoples’ uninhibited discussion programme hosted by the highly eccentric Savile, interspersed with music which often included The Settlers. The unique show dealt with serious issues such as war, education, health and religion and politics.
When Cindy, who comes originally from West Bromwich (just outside of Birmingham) in the English Midlands, eventually left the group to “pursue other avenues,” she made a complete change of career, and “fell in love” with radio. She began initially with BBC Radio 4, presenting features on the “Sunday Programme,” a national show that covered all kinds of aspects of religious life in Britain.
After a time, BBC Radio 2 created an early Sunday morning slot which is now called “Good Morning Sunday” which she then hosted. After that she co-presented BBC Radio 1’s show called “Talkabout.”
Around this time, commercial broadcasting was finally emerging from the shadows in Great Britain, and Cindy helped to pioneer religious broadcasting at LBC and Capital Radio in London.
During that time, I would slip out on a Friday afternoon from my job at the Sunday People newspaper, and work with Cindy, Nick Page (and others) on the LBC religion show and do some of the interviews. I have to admit that I wasn’t very good in those early days, but I learned a lot by watching Cindy at work.
Cindy then moved north and presented a late-night programme at Radio Hallam, a commercial station in Sheffield, Yorkshire. She also presented shows at Tyne Tees Television in the Tyneside area of North East England.
Cindy wrote some of the tunes, with lyrics by David Winter, the former head of BBC radio religious broadcasting, for the Tees TV series, “Life With Johnny.” This was one of 25 songs that she and others wrote for the series.
Then in 1995 came a breakthrough for Christian broadcasting in the UK when Premier Christian Radio, after a long battle with the British government, managed to secure a broadcasting license for London. Cindy was the first presenter they signed up and, during her long career with them, she has presented many different programmes.
In a previous interview, Cindy talked about some of the experiences she had during her time in broadcasting, including the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
She told me, “I was about to go on the air when 9/11 happened and we had to abandon normal programming so we could react to the events as they unfolded. As I was on the air, I got an e-mail from a lady in the US who had been listening to us and was grateful that I’d got some of our guests to pray as she said she didn’t feel able to do so.
“I can also remember waking up early on Sunday, August 31, 1997, to hear the sad news that Princess Diana had died and I rushed into the studio to help co-ordinate a response and then I was on-air for about six hours straight! As I drove home, I cried all the way in the car as the news sunk in.”
Cindy then revealed that she had “offered” herself for ordination in the Church of England about 16 years ago, but was originally not accepted.
“However,” she said, “the idea didn’t go away and I began training with the University of Wales Lampeter to be a Lay Reader, which means you’re licensed to preach in the Church of England,” she told me. “During that training the ordination vocation idea resurfaced and this time I was accepted.
“I did three years’ night school training with Kent University and was ordained as a deacon in 2008 and then, a year later, ordained a priest. The way it works is that you serve as a deacon for a year as a sort of an apprentice, and then and then you get ordained as a priest, which I did in 2009.”
She went on to become the vicar of St John the Apostle church in Whetstone, North London, from which she recently retired.
Cindy concluded by saying, “I feel so privileged to have done so many things and I’m currently working on a book about it all.” That should be quite a book!
On a personal note: Norma and myself look upon Cindy Kent, who we call “Cinders,” as being among our best and long-standing friends. Because we were both raised in the Birmingham area of England, that gave us a special bond, and during a trip over to Southern California some time back, I was able to take her to do some fascinating interviews with people like Pastor Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Lance Wilder, the background art director at The Simpsons. Cindy is thoroughly deserving of this award from the Queen and, I am sure, continue to inspires many Christian broadcasters in the UK to continue to strive for excellence in their work.
Note: I would like to thank Steve Goddard for providing me with some of the information to prepare this story. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo captions: 1) An exuberant Cindy wearing a mitre belong to a local bishop. 2) Cindy speaking. 3) Cindy singing with The Settlers on a cruise ship. 4) Cliff Richard recording with The Settlers (Cindy is in the center) 4) Queen Elizabeth is set to celebrate her official birthday this weekend. (Reuters) 5) Dan and Norma Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books, the latest is Mary My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com). Dan has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Before moving to the US, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers and was also an interviewer for BBC Radio One in London.
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