radioanim.gif on the meths
soap.gif
a soap opera in six parts
methleys festival radio

The idea of a community radio station goes back about 4 years when it was mentioned in one of the Methleys Neighbourhood Action events meetings. I guess at the time, people thought it was a good idea but no one really knew how to make it work.

The idea kept coming back though and in February 2000 MNA secured a grant from the Lottery 'Awards For All' programme to make it happen.

Methleys Neighbourhood Action formed a partnership with Heads Together, which meant that through funding from Yorkshire Arts, I could allocate some of my time to developing the radio project. I had experience of Community Radio stations through my work but never actually run one before.

With extra money from the SRB Catalyst fund, word started going around that the Methleys would have it's own radio station. But what did that mean? Most people could imagine making a radio programme, but how on earth would we be able to set up a broadcast studio?

broadcast base

studio.jpgThe first thing was to find some premises. Four years previously there had been plenty of empty properties in the Methleys. Now as soon as one became vacant, it was bought or rented within a week. I decided to ask our local estate agent if he knew of any of the empty shops in Chapel Allerton that we could rent for a month. Five minutes after stepping inside Henderson Jones Estate Agents, I had agreed with Nigel Crinson the owner, that we would convert their stationery cupboard at the back of the shop into a radio studio and we would broadcast from there FREE OF CHARGE!

licences

Then we had to sort out all the legal stuff like getting a licence from the Radio Authority and music right licences to play music etc. With assistance from Leeds Student Radio who helped us fill in the application forms, we had all the licences necessary and all the equipment to run a radio studio for two weeks in August 2000. We had decided early on that it would be overkill to run a radio station for 300 houses in the Methleys, so we would link the broadcast with local organisations the Leeds Caribbean Carnival and Chapel Allerton Arts Festival which were both happening whilst we would be on air

Another key decision we took early on was that we would provide radio for children and young people, which meant programmes made by them and for them. This was in response to a lack of speech based radio available to young people and also to give them a voice on important issues for them personally and as a community.

reggae interview.jpg volunteers

Soon, posters started appearing in shop windows, on gable ends, everywhere there was a space. The posters asked for volunteers to join the small team already in place to make this radio thing happen. We were overwhelmed with volunteers! Perhaps one of the most memorable for me was 12 year old Joe who rang up and asked if he could be on the radio. Joe's enthusiasm and imagination was endless and he proved to be a key figure in the broadcast. He was at the station every day either on the reception desk, making cups of tea or presenting his own show!

Everyone who volunteered had the opportunity to be 'on air' and they were given training in the studio before we went on air. But what sorts of programmes were we going to broadcast? Well, the first decision was on the hours we would be on air. After our initial burst of enthusiasm to run 24 hours a day, we decided to broadcast from 8am to midnight.

programming

There seemed little point in going to the effort of running a temporary radio station which just replicates what can be heard on commercial or BBC radio. It was decided that this station would give listeners the opportunity to hear news, views and current interest local to their neighbourhood, whilst at the same time give them a chance to hear music which might not get played on other stations.

Some of the ideas which came out at the planning stage were:

Serialised stories for the under 10 year olds

A specially written Soap Opera based on life in the Methleys

A feature on different faiths and churches in the area

Experimental sounds mixed from live recordings of well know spots in and around the community

Programme involving the local Primary School

A feature on Mental Health involving real people

Live cabaret acts on air

Numerous specialist music shows...

The list goes on. We knew from this initial planning meeting that we had more than enough to run an excellent broadcast for two weeks.

publicity

Methleys Festival Radio had six banners printed - 3' x 12' - which went up around Chapel Allerton. 1000 posters and 2000 leaflets were distributed around the city. Yorkshire Evening Post ran a 2 page article on the station whilst we were on air, featuring pictures and interviews with some of the volunteers.

the broadcast

Saturday 19th August 2000 was the first day on air. We were all nervous despite the cool, confident and relaxed appearance of Ben Cave our station manager! We decided to start the first broadcast at 10am with the 'Community Breakdown' show, and already people were calling in the station before 10am saying they couldn't hear the broadcast!

The excitement was mounting and the first show couldn't have been better. This gave everyone the confidence to carry on!

carnival interview.jpgWhat was to follow over the next two weeks was something magical. We had 5 year olds glued to their radios at 5.05pm every day to hear the next instalments of George's Marvellous Medicine or The Tidy Pirates. Fifteen people crowded into the studio three times a week to act out the next instalment of 'On The Meths' the Soap Opera. Alan made two programmes which bought mental health agencies and mental health survivors into the studio to talk frankly about their sometimes harrowing experiences in the mental health system. We had outside broadcasts from the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival and interviews with some of the stars both nationally and locally who featured at the Caribbean Carnival. Christian performed his cabaret show live on radio which involved peeling a satsuma into a shape requested by a caller into the station! .....

There are too many highlights for me to list them all here. The one overwhelming feeling that it left most people with, whether they participated on air or as a listener, was the incredible sense of self pride in the neighbourhood and community in which we live.

People were talking about 'next year' before we had finished this broadcast. We will have a get together shortly for everyone involved, and if there are people who are committed to taking it on, then there is no reason why it shouldn't happen again! Personally, I would love to get involved again. Having gained the title of 'Jenny Murray's sister' it would seem a shame not to continue!

Linda Strudwick

Project Co-ordinator