Sarah Ford meets some of Somerset's local community radio stations
PUBLISHED: 20:11 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:40 28 February 2013
With Somerset's thriving local spirit, it's not surprising that community radio stations are blossoming across the county. Sarah Ford tunes in to what's happening near you.
Sarah Ford meets some of Somerset's local community radio stations
The heavy snowfalls earlier this year brought childhood memories back for me and for many others I'm certain - that swelling excitement of listening out for your school on the long list of closures read out on the radio! In those days it was one of the most important means of local communication, particularly in rural areas where people are more spread out.
Even today, with so many listening and viewing options available to us, local radio still has a vital role to play. It is there for us when we want to know how busy the roads are in the morning; it gives us the opportunity to get that bee out of our bonnet by having a good old rant on the airwaves; and for many listeners, local radio is a valuable lifeline. And there is now a new type of not-for-profit radio service out there for those groups who are not well served by what is already on offer.
More than 8 million people are able to tune into community radio stations, and demand is still high for licences, Ofcom's first Annual Report of Community Radio reveals. Over 130 community stations are now broadcasting across the UK, with another 50 preparing to launch.
So what has brought about this tide of new stations? Community radio licensing was first introduced by Ofcom in March 2005 and since then we have seen the birth of new stations across Somerset and Bristol. Not only do they serve the local community to which they belong, but these stations also provide a growing band of volunteers with the opportunity of learning more about this exciting medium.
Frequency: 105.3 MHz
On the web: www.10radio.org
Who's listening: Providing a radio service within the ten parishes of Wiveliscombe, Milverton, Ashbrittle, Stawley, Bathealton, Fitzhead, Chipstable, Huish Champflower, Clatworthy and Brompton Ralph.
What's on: With a schedule featuring programmes such as The Green Slot, Geranium Basket and Bantering Boys, listeners can be sure of a wide variety. Musical offerings include folk, pop, jazz, classical, soul and ska. Since the beginning, the station has worked closely with Kingsmead Community School, with pupils presenting their own show.
The story so far: "We had read about community radio in Manchester and thought it would be great to do that in rural Somerset!" recalls chairman and co-founder of 10Radio, Julian Mellor.
Inspired by its initial success, the residents applied to Ofcom for a community radio licence and launched 10Radio in early 2008. "We know there are people who will tune in on a daily basis because it provides them with a contact with the community," says Julian. "There are also stories of individual people, some of whom have been off work a long time, with an illness for example, and getting involved has given them the confidence they needed.
"I think people feel it is not nearly as daunting as the BBC; when they see it's their neighbour doing it then it makes it more accessible. People have this passion or experience in their lives, which is usually hidden but it all comes out here."
How you can get involved: 10Radio welcomes all ages and abilities, whether as presenters, fundraisers or other behind-the-scenes work. The station is dependent on volunteers to make it possible and it costs about 1,500 a month to cover running costs. Why not become a Friend of 10 Radio? Catch them live at Wiveliscombe's Brewfest on 25 and 26 July at Kingsmead School.
Contact: (01984 624137), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Somer Valley FM
Frequency: 97.5 MHz
On the web: www.somervalleyfm.co.uk
Who's listening: Broadcasting to communities in and around Midsomer Norton and Radstock.
What's on: "We are building a schedule which is packed with all sorts of nuggets including specialist music shows, interviews, local-interest features, lifestyle magazines, discussion forums and, I dare say, a fair slice of tittle-tattle as well!" says Station Manager Dom Chambers.
The story so far: Somer Valley FM grew out of a radio project at Somervale School. "It's about breaking down barriers, and we bring generations together. For example, on my drive-time show we introduce a young career aspirant to someone who has been successful in that particular career," says Dom. "One of the things that makes this station exceptional is our involvement with education. We have 20 people about to qualify in Level 2 NCFE radio production skills."
How can you get involved: "We are looking for people to get involved with community station training. We welcome anyone through the door and have a wheelchair-friendly broadcast studio so no one is excluded."
Contact: (01761 411755); e-mail: email@example.com
Bristol Community FM (BCfm)
Frequency: 93.2 MHz
On the web: www.bcfm.org.uk
Who's listening: The station aims to serve the diverse communities of Bristol, giving a voice to people from all cultures, ages and abilities - for anyone and everyone who lives and works in Bristol.
What's on: BCfm presents 50 different programmes a week and on average broadcasts in nine different languages. Go to the website and watch seven-year-old Mustapha, the youngest presenter in Bristol, in action!
The story so far: BCfm started broadcasting in March 2007 but its origins go back to many years of community development and radio projects in Bristol, such as radio19 (the New Deal for Communities), Commonwealth fm and B200fm, the Celebration of Brunel's life.
"In two years we have had close to 400 people coming though the project and we have a big waiting list of people wanting to get involved," says Station Manager Phil Gibbons.
How can you get involved: e-mail the Volunteer Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: (0560 112 6659)
Frequency: 98 MHz
On the web: www.ujimaradio.com
What's on: Programmes include Back to Your Roots, which looks at arts and cultural events in Bristol as well as ethnic cultural and traditional beliefs, rituals, language, music, dance, food, dress, ceremonies and festivals.
Who's listening: Ujima gives a voice to African and Caribbean groups and other minorities who are under-represented in the media across Bristol.
The story so far: Part of the community enterprise charity Ceed, Ujima Radio is owned and run by local people who are mostly volunteers. The station enables the community to create new opportunities for regeneration, employment, learning, social cohesion and inclusion, as well as cultural and creative expression.
How you can get involved: In particular Ujima Radio welcomes contributions from the African and Caribbean communities living in the St Paul's and Easton areas of Bristol.
Contact: (0117 942 9555 ext 208), e-mail: email@example.com
On the web: www.glastonburyfm.co.uk
Who's listening: The core towns are Glastonbury, Street and Wells.
What's on: Local news, community groups, services, local performers, speech and music
The story so far: After four years of temporary broadcasts, and maintaining a close working link with Glastonbury Festival Radio, GFM was awarded a five-year Community Radio broadcasting licence. Pilot broadcasts began in January 2009. The station's aims are 'to challenge, educate, entertain, inspire and inform'.
How you can get involved: GFM needs volunteers to help with fundraising and technical or admin support, or why not train to be a presenter?
Contact: (07800) 761883
New technology has given rise to thousands of internet-based radio stations, which are not regulated by Ofcom in the same way that licensed community radio stations are controlled.
Brought to listeners by the rural media charity Trilith, the Wincanton-based station Farm Radio has helped provide a vital network for many farmers who work in isolation, but the station is currently at a crossroads, according to its founder John Holman.
"I would like to get people to contact us for messages of support in order to attract the resources to take Farm Radio on to the next stages of development," he says. "We are planning to start up a steering group that will have a role in the development of this site and would welcome expressions of interest in this from our visitors. My dream has always been that we should have some way for people in the community to make their own media, and now that we have cheaper technology and the internet it's become a realistic dream." To listen in, go to www.farmradio.org.uk.