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I’ll keep presenting until I beat Cliff Richard, says Tony Blackburn

DJ Tony Blackburn has joked that he will keep presenting until he beats Sir Cliff Richard as he was made an OBE in recognition of his long career.

The 81-year-old was honoured for his services to broadcasting and charity by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

He was named in the King’s New Year Honours list late last year, and will celebrate 60 years of working at BBC and commercial radio stations in July.

Asked what has kept him in the role for so long, Blackburn pointed to his enthusiasm for radio and “a deep love of music”.

He told the PA news agency: “I’m 81 one now but I still don’t feel 81 – I don’t want to retire.

“And also, the thing that keeps me going is Cliff Richard is three years older than I am!

“I said that (he can’t beat me) to him the other day… As long as he keeps going, I’ll keep going.”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Tony Blackburn received his OBE from the Princess Royal in an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle (Yui Mok/PA)

Blackburn became the first DJ on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967 and went on to present a series of high-profile radio and TV shows, including Top Of The Pops.

He also won the first series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in 2002.

Asked about his conversation with Anne when receiving his OBE, Blackburn said he had met the princess before, at the Royal Palladium, and that she is “one of the royals I admire”.

“She asked me if I’d been here before, and I have – I’ve done disco here actually! She said ‘I haven’t had many people say that’.

“I did a disco here when I did I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! – one of the producers got married here.”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Tony Blackburn presented his first broadcast from the North Sea with Radio Caroline in July 1964 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Blackburn said working on pirate radio stations including Radio Caroline in the 1960s was a real highlight of his career, and that the secret to a good radio show is having fun and playing the right music.

He said streaming services such as BBC Sounds are the future of radio because listeners are “not tied down to a particular time”, while he admitted he wants to be at BBC Radio 2 when he does eventually decide to retire.

“People are restricted, they have to play the same records, the dreaded playlist, the same 300 records over and over again.

“I spend a lot of time compiling mine, and I don’t have to sit through a song I don’t believe that the listener wants to hear and a lot of DJs do, so I’m in a quite a privileged position.”

Also receiving honours at Windsor Castle was the retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas who was made an OBE for her services to business, broadcasting and charity.

Portas, 63, said she was “really pleased” that Anne conducted the investiture because the princess is president of Save The Children – which the broadcaster’s charity shops raise money for.

She said it was “lovely” to hear that Anne had visited a charity shop this week, adding that she also discussed her recent television work with the princess.

Portas, best known for her commerce-based TV programmes such as Mary, Queen Of Shops, told the PA news agency: “We were talking about fashion, the upcycling and recycling of fashion and how vital that is to our future.”

The retail consultant, who led a Government review into the state of the British high street in 2011, added: “I looked at the charity sector of retail shops and thought why do they have to be so down at the heel – where people went and dumped stuff rather than actually took cherished stuff or stuff that will have real great worth.

“And so I redid them and worked with Save the Children creating these wonderful boutiques and places of love and joy.”