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World News

Premier CEO Peter Kerridge (1961-2024): A radio pioneer, committed to Christ

by Premier Journalist

Peter John Kerridge, who has died aged 63, will be remembered as the man whose vision and leadership turned Premier from a struggling radio station to a powerhouse of Christian media in Europe.


Peter was born in 1961 in Gateshead, where his parents were members of Durham Road Baptist Church. The Kerridges eventually left Durham Road Baptist to help plant a new church: Beacon Lough Baptist Church.


It was here that Peter’s Christian faith began at the age of seven, and where it grew and was nurtured. Later in life, when he was called to ministry, Beacon Lough was his sending church. Right up to his final days, Peter would proudly declare: “I am a Beacon Lough boy at heart.”

Peter was a keen football fan as a boy and was watching the 1973 FA Cup final between Sunderland AFC and Leeds United when he suddenly started feeling ill – so much so, he gave up on the match halfway through and went to bed. His parents called a doctor, and he was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery.


The surgeons who operated on him discovered that part of his gut had become strangulated. One of them told Peter’s parents that if he made it through the next three days, he would be fine – which he did, but recovering fully was a long process. While in hospital recovering, Peter said to his mother: “I think God must have something for me to do, because I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”


Football would turn out to be a catalyst in finding that “something” Peter so firmly believed God had for him to do. He was 17 and working for an insurance company when he started volunteering as a football reporter on hospital radio. He struck up a friendship with the veteran football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme (the man responsible for that classic line from England’s 1966 World Cup victory: “They think it’s all over – it is now”).

Wolstenholme became a valuable mentor to Peter as he started working in radio professionally at Newcastle’s Metro Radio in 1979. He quickly branched out from football commentary into other strands of radio that caught his interest, always with the end goal of using the medium to spread the gospel in his sights.


In 1986, Peter started training for the Baptist ministry and went on to read theology at the University of Oxford. He was soon handed the post of associate minister at Avenue Baptist Church in Southend-on-Sea and began freelancing as a presenter at Essex Radio, where he became the station’s religious and community affairs manager. Peter then worked with a community group in Harlow to develop a local licence bid that resulted in the launch of ten17 FM. He was put in charge of radio development for the Essex Radio Group and prepared a licence application for Vibe FM in East Anglia.


Meanwhile, London was about to get its very own Christian radio station. Premier launched to great fanfare on 10 June 1995. But just six months later, the station was in deep financial trouble. David Heron, a former stockbroker, stepped in to help the young station back on its feet. One of the first things he did in his role as Premier’s new chairperson was to invite Peter to come on board as managing director.


“Peter could not stop having ideas,” recalls Roger Bolton, a former chair of Premier’s board of trustees. “They tumbled out of him, all delivered with a chuckle in that gorgeous warm Geordie accent. He was his own man, utterly committed to his Christian faith and to Premier.

“He was one of the earliest to grasp the scale of the digital revolution and ensured that, far from being left behind, Premier was in the advance guard. A new day, a new idea. He achieved the extraordinary transformation of a small startup into one of the most important Christian media networks in the world. Without his drive, vision and ambition, it would not have happened.”


Premier’s ‘digital first’ ethos was a key hallmark of Peter’s leadership. With Peter at the helm, Premier gained a reputation for being forward-thinking, adopting new technology, pioneering video-on-demand via and becoming one of the first radio stations in the UK to stream its content online in the late 1990s. Through its annual Digital Media Conferences, Premier encouraged churches across the UK to take advantage of all the digital world had to offer.


But Premier didn’t abandon the analogue world. Instead, it became a leader in print as well as electronic media with a range of glossy magazines. Premier Christianity and Youthwork magazines became part of the Premier stable in 1997. Premier then created the Voice of Hope daily devotional magazine and, in 2019, purchased the long-running Christian women’s magazine Woman Alive.


Peter also brought his commitment to social change to the table, mobilising Christians for campaigns on issues such as online safety (SafetyNet) and religious persecution (Stop the Genocide). When the 2005 Religious Hatred Bill was going through Parliament, Premier helped thousands of Christians to contact their local MPs and urge them to vote against it.

Peter became Premier’s CEO in 2004 and remained in the role until his death. In May 2023, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Acute Leukaemia and was undergoing chemotherapy.


“When you look back at the history of Premier, you can see the various times in which Peter’s energy and his drive were the defining things that either kept Premier going or helped it go to the next level,” said Premier’s deputy CEO Kevin Bennett, who has been acting as CEO since Peter went on sick leave. Bennett led the tributes that have poured in from Premier’s friends, supporters, readers and listeners alike since the news of Peter’s passing broke.


“I hope Peter will be remembered as a man who was utterly committed to the task that God set before him; a man who never looked back for one moment after putting his hands to the plough and pressed on continuously, relentlessly, with the singular goal to reach as many people as possible with the good news of Jesus. For all the things he’s done; for all the things he’s achieved, I hope he’s remembered for his heart, his mission and his ministry above all else.”


“Although his track record in media is impressive, Peter is ultimately a man with a heart for the lost and lonely of the world,” said Carrie Longton, Co-founder of the parenting website Mumsnet. “I’m sure he would be most proud of the way he has transformed countless lives through the reach of the Premier family. Peter is not someone who would ask for honours, but he deserves to be recognised for the enormous impact he has had and will continue to have, both on Christian media and on the lives of so many ordinary people.”


“Peter has been a brave and outspoken advocate for many, and his legacy is one that will continue to impact the life of the Church across Britain and farther afield for many years to come,” said His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos OBE, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Papal Legate to the UK. “His infectious enthusiasm and uncontrollable energy have been an inspiration to many and he will continue to live in our hearts and in our memories.”


“Peter was a wonderful colleague, a wonderful entrepreneur and a great inspiration for all of us in what he did to drive Premier forward,” said Sandy Muirhead, chair of trustees of Premier Christian Media Trust. “He will be terribly missed within the company - and I’m sure much more widely - because he was simply the most wonderful man and an inspiration to all of us through his commitment to the Lord and through the depth and strength of his faith.”


Peter is survived by his wife Karen and their two sons.

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