How BBC Radio Norfolk found gold with Treasure Quest
PUBLISHED: 08:39 24 March 2018
It’s an essential part of Sunday morning for tens of thousands of local people. Paul Hayes of BBC Radio Norfolk celebrates ten years of Treasure Quest.
Every Sunday, there is a game in Norfolk which attracts over two Carrow Roads-worth of people across the county, and more from beyond its borders. Some pay close attention to every minute, every week. Some dip in and out more casually. Others stumble across it by accident, or intend only to linger for a moment or two, but find themselves being drawn in.
This local phenomenon is BBC Radio Norfolk’s Treasure Quest, the Sunday morning clue-hunting show which this Easter celebrates ten years on the air.
They say that talent borrows but genius steals, and it wasn’t BBC Radio Norfolk who came up with the idea. That was BBC Three Counties Radio, covering Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, which had run the show from 2005. They’d been inspired, of course, by the old Treasure Hunt TV show with Anneka Rice, and while they didn’t have a helicopter this version was live – meaning, unlike on television, the audience could actually become involved.
Radio Norfolk decided to give it a go as a one-off pilot on Good Friday in 2008. This was such a success that, with the format tweaked for Norfolk, it was quickly decided to run the show as a series for 12 weeks over the summer of that year. That run
has not yet come to an end, and has so far racked up more
than 500 episodes.
Even with today’s crowded airwaves, which offer dozens of local and national stations
across Norfolk, Treasure Quest still manages to get one in five
of the county’s radios tuned-in
on a Sunday morning – some 60,000 listeners.
Among them is Carol Terry, from Swaffham. “It’s comforting,” she says. “Sundays can be
really quite boring sometimes,
but you put this on and you can’t help but listen and you can’t
help but laugh. It just makes you feel included.”
The show’s appeal has spread far and wide, with listeners all over the world. Steve Taylor, from Gorleston, found the show a pleasant reminder of home when working in Australia.
“I could listen to Radio Norfolk online,” says Steve. “It brought you back to where you were missing, and what you were missing, the people and places
and everything else. It always raised a smile.”
“I think that it feels like a really fun gang of friends,” says Sophie Little, the show’s clue-hunter out in the radio car. “And I don’t mean just the people who are on-air, although I include us in it. It’s the people who call up, and the people who don’t call up and just listen every week. It’s got this family
feel to it that I don’t hear a lot
on radio any more.”
The studio end of Treasure Quest is presented by David Whiteley. “It does feel like Norfolk comes together on a Sunday morning for those three hours,” David agrees. “I am constantly amazed, surprised and humbled by the fact that so many people love Treasure Quest.”
It is very difficult these days for a radio show, particularly a local one, to make an impression on the public consciousness. Unlike a primetime TV programme or a viral video, radio rarely has a sudden, striking impact. But Treasure Quest’s popularity and longevity means that – like, for example, the forthright football fandom of Canary Call – it has become one of those rare beasts: a local radio programme which
has a place in the county’s own unique popular culture.
As the candles are readied for Treasure Quest’s tenth birthday cake, it shows no signs of stopping – so perhaps that planned 12-week run will end up still going strong for yet another 500 episodes!
Treasure Quest: Ten Years On is on BBC Radio Norfolk on Good Friday at 1pm. Treasure Quest’s 10th anniversary two-parter can be heard on the station on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday mornings from 9am, or on the BBC iPlayer via bbc.co.uk/treasurequest