Alexander Norman Charles Lester (born 11 May 1956) is a British broadcaster. He presented the weekday overnight/early-morning programme on BBC Radio 2 from 1992 until 2014. From October 2014 until January 2017, he presented the midnight to 3 am programme every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He also temporarily replaced Russell Brand on Saturday evenings in late 2008, between 9 and 11 pm, following Brand's resignation over his infamous prank calls row.
Early life and career
A doctor's son, Lester was educated at Denstone College, and worked in a variety of jobs (including at Dudley Zoo, in a pub, and as a civil service clerk), before he began his broadcasting career in 1977 for BBC local radio stations. He joined Radio Aire in Leeds in 1981.
Later, he worked for other radio stations in the commercial sector. These included Radio Tees, based in Stockton-on-Tees, where he worked from 1983 until 1986. At Radio Tees, on joining, he narrowly avoided an attempt by Canadian programme controller Donald Cline to rechristen him "Red" Lester. Lester went on to present, amongst others, the weekday lunchtime show and a specialist blues music programme there.
In 1986 he returned to the BBC, presenting the breakfast show (indeed, the first show) on the newly opened BBC Essex based in Chelmsford. Lester joined Radio 2 in 1987 as an announcer and newsreader. He also presented the night-time show on a rota basis. In April 1992 he was given the early-morning show permanently.
The Best Time of the Day and beyond
Lester kept UK truckers and other night-shift workers awake with his weird and strange observations. The meaningless but catchy show slogans are SCOF (Swirling Cesspool of Filth) and Slap My Top (thought to be a variation on the music hall soundbite slap my thigh – but reserved exclusively for people with bald heads) and listeners have marketed the show by writing the phrase in the dirt on the backs of trucks and vans. There was a limited edition range of T-shirts with the slogan written in Cantonese developed by a listener, which Lester awarded to people who came up with the most innovative uses of the slogan – winners included a local radio reporter who got the expression into a story; a man who wrote and recorded a song with the slogan as its title; a mystery girl, for placing an ad for Lester's show in the small ads section of a local newspaper and a man who developed a website which remains a communal meeting point for the programme's listeners, and is listed in the External Links section below. As well as T-Shirts another listener produced a range of glow in the dark Alex Lester wristbands which were also given away as prizes on the show. The new phrase for the 2010–2011 Truck Writing Season was WALLOP (We're Alex Lester's Lovely Overnight People), and in 2013 the slogan ALAN was introduced (Alex Lester at Night).
Despite being broadcast in an overnight timeslot, Lester prided himself on calling his programme The Best Time of the Day. As one of the longest-serving broadcasters on the network, he was occasionally heard on Radio 2 during the daytime when regular presenters were away.
The programme was broadcast from 4 am until 6:30 am until December 1992, and from 3 am to 5 am during 1993. For 16 years, starting in January 1994, the programme began at 3 am and finished at 6 am, until it was rescheduled in 2010 after changes to the Radio 2 morning schedule. It was then broadcast from 2 am to 5 am every weekday. With the introduction of After Midnight on Radio 2 in October 2014, the show was broadcast from 12 am to 3 am from Fridays to Sundays. Alex shared the After Midnight slot with Janice Long, with Long presenting Monday - Thursday and Lester Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The show was cancelled in January 2017 due to Radio 2 cutting costs.
Alex had hosted a weekly show on BBC Radio Oxford from 2015 till 2017, broadcasting between 1 pm and 4 pm on Fridays.
Between February and June 2017 he also hosted a four-hour Sunday evening show on BBC Radio Kent but had to relinquish this due to other commitments, primarily resulting from becoming the new host of the breakfast show on BBC WM from Monday 20 March 2017.
Lester could also be heard, from April 2017 to June 2017 on Thames Radio's overnight shift. It is believed that the voice parts were 'Tracked' (recorded in advance and inserted between the records in real time). Alex also hosted the late night show on BBC across the West Midlands local radio stations until February 2020 from 10 pm on Saturday night until 1 am on Sunday.
On 4 January 2019 he left the breakfast show on BBC WM after nearly 2 years.
From 10 February 2020, Alex started presenting the weekday overnight show on Greatest Hits Radio networks across England and Scotland from 1 am until 6 am. He also presents the Weekend Anthems show on a Saturday afternoon from 4pm. From 8 June 2020, he permanently moved to the late night show 10 pm-1 am. From 3 January 2021, Alex moved back to 1 am-6 am.
Lester has homes in Hastings and Wednesbury. For nearly 10 years he lived aboard a 60-foot traditional stern canal boat (which he nicknamed The Blue Pig) during the week, while presenting his show from the BBC's Pebble Mill Studios and then The Mailbox in Birmingham. He also has a restored cottage as a third home in the Normandy region of France.
Obscure sports are another passion. Over the years Lester has participated in Extreme Downhill Cheese Rolling and the Yorkshire Celery Wrestling Finals and achieved a creditable 9th-place finish at the 2006 World Bog Snorkelling Championship.
In December 2010 Lester announced his engagement to his longtime partner Kerry, who is also known as "The Dark Lady". They married on 3 December 2011. Edwina Hayes, a singer-songwriter whose music had been featured on Lester's show, performed at the ceremony. Alex is a stepfather to Kerry's two adult children, Jamie and Ella, from a previous relationship.
- Reynolds, Gillian (4 November 2008). "Gillian Reynolds: Radio must still take risks after Ross and Brand – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
- "Alex Lester | MPC Entertainment – Number One for Entertainment and Sport". Mpce.com. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- "Radio Tees Tribute Site". Radiotees.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- "The Best Time of the Day Blog". Alexlesterspersonalblog.blogspot.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- "BBC Radio 2 cuts live overnight presenters". radiotoday.co.uk. Archived from the original on 10 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Alex Lester: I hope you'll find me somewhere". radiotoday.co.uk. Archived from the original on 30 January 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Alex Lester says goodbye to BBC WM Breakfast". radiotoday.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 January 2019. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
- "Alex and Kerry | Wedding documentary". YouTube. 12 March 2012. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2014.