Archive for the 'Radio' Category

Trevor Baylis, Inventor of the Wind-Up Radio, Dies aged 80

Community media isn’t just about programming, it’s also about the access that we have to different media. The death of Trevor Baylis is perhaps a moment when we can reflect on the contribution that his invention made to understanding, conflict resolution and disaster management around the world, allowing people to listen to radio when they have no access to reliable power sources. Far sighted and innovative people like Trevor are few and far between.


Liverpool COOL Creative Community Radio

I’ve come up to Liverpool to see my mum, and get a bit of culture – with or without the capital ‘C’. Every time I come back to Liverpool I encounter something that is invigorating and engaging. It’s far from a perfect place, but it’s got a lot more interesting in the last few years. We had lunch in the Everyman Bistro on Saturday, which was very nice, and I’m not surprised the design of the rebuilt Everyman has won awards. The café and the bistro feel very intimate and the food was simple, elegant and flavoursome. A simple menu that is done well rather than the over-extended trendy mixture of fusion foods that are done to death elsewhere.

001-DSCF4268On Saturday evening we spent a couple of hours in Sefton Park watching the Lantern Parade and the fireworks. It was great to see how enthusiastically these events are received in Liverpool, and the sense of involvement and participation that people give over to them. I’d heard that last years parade was engaging, so had high hopes for this year. Perhaps the timekeeping and the stewarding could be looked at, because there was a lot of people eager to see the performance, and it took a long time to get all the parade participants into the central arena, by which point many of the families with small kids had given up. A bit of narration would have helped as well. The PA was more than adequate, but encouraging people to spread around the arena would have taken some of the pressure off. But who doesn’t like fire and fireworks in the dark?

On a Sunday morning my mum always listens to BBC Radio Merseyside, which I detest, as Maurine Walsh presents her show like she is the Queen. However, we sat and chatted about why people like her? What she brings to the station and who she thinks she is talking to? And this got me thinking about the extent to which radio stations in Liverpool reflect the COOL agenda that is being developed in the city. COOL stands for Creative Organisations of Liverpool, and is group that brings together many of the established and the emerging creative projects, organisations and people across the city.

And so it struck me that with such as strong focus on creativity and performance in Liverpool, with music, literature, poetry, theatre, visual arts, film making, design and architecture, I don’t think Liverpool has any radio stations that do what ResonanceFM does in London, which is provide an independent and DIY focus for creative outlets and the arts using radio, with a continual discussion of arts, music, culture and performance for the generation of peoples who aren’t stereotyped by a reliance on nostalgia (BBC), football (Radio City) or double glazing sales (JuiceFM).

Walker Gallery

Walker Gallery

I know very little about Liverpool’s community radio stations so I’m probably wrong in thinking that the arts aren’t discussed on the radio in Liverpool, but it’s just that there isn’t a station that is dedicated to it. There may well be people using radio as a creative medium itself, rather than thinking it is just a stepping stone to other things, or a way to provide a warm bath of nostalgia and self-affirmation, so I need pointing in the right direction if anyone has any examples they are happy to share

I’d be very interested in starting a discussion about how community radio can be developed around this idea of talking a leading cultural role, rather than just providing an echo-chamber for a fixed community. I would wonder if talking to the organisations that lead with COOL, the Arts Council, the city council, the other universities and colleges, the music promoters, and so on, might expand the purpose of radio from the very narrow model that we have in the UK?

I interviewed Ed Baxter at ResonanceFM the other year, and he’s much more interesting than the usual suspects in the commercial or BBC radio sector. He hates the whole corporate and consumerist culture that UK radio is locked in. I have two favourite stations at the moment. Campus Radio Montpellier and L’Echo in Montpellier. Find them both on Tune-In Radio to see how different a student/community stations can be from the UK variety. This is radio that is allowed space to breath and lets the listener come to it, rather than being shouted at by a bunch of ego-maniacs who want to tell you how wonderful they are. They are my favourite stations at the moment – even though I don’t understand a word of French!

I’m always struck when each time I return to Liverpool now how much the atmosphere has changed since I left in the late 1980s, and how much more open people are to creative arts, storytelling, musical diversity and so on. With a great tradition of writing, poetry, performance, acting, musical innovation, and all the rest. Community radio with a purpose to foster diversity, creativity and participation in DIY aural/music cultures would get me excited. No charts, no formulas, no fixed schedules, no corporate missions-plans…. (haha, I’d get eaten alive…).

No Quarter Given Planning Session

Despite the rain this morning, the students for MEDS3108 Forms and Practices of Radio wandered away from the DMU campus over to Phoenix Arts for a coffee and a natter about the No Quarter Given reports they will be producing. It was good to sit and chat about the different arts and culture events that we are all interested in and would like to hear more about in the regular podcasts from the site. The next few weeks is going to be spent doing some background research and checking out some potential stories. So watch out for a regular update from the site.

Radio Soundscapes

fotor_WP_20130911_010Radio is a resilient medium. That was the theme of this weeks Radio Research conference hosted by ECREA and the University of Sunderland. One of the running themes of the conference was the way that radio has the ability to tell stories through the use of words and the use of sounds alone. As Andrew Crissel noted in his keynote lecture, radio is verbal and intellectual – it is about ideas being brought into play.

Soundscapes and the audio drama were noted by many of the speakers as a crucial way of exploring ideas that let the listener fill-in many of the gaps that television and other forms of visual media normally fill with noise. Not the kind of noise that we associate with extraneous sound, but the noise of ideas, of intelligibility and clarity of focus. The think about radio is that it strips ideas back to basics. The word. The voice. Sounds.

Putting these ideas into practice have been audio and radio producers and creative auteurs who have been working in sound and exploring the space between our ears and behind our eyes in which ideas are born. Here’s a couple of examples that stood out and are well worth exploring:

Francesca Panetta works for The Guardian. She is a former BBC Radio producer, and is the leading creative light behind the Hackney Podcast series. Francesca’s recent soundscape for The Guardian’s Panorama of London will keep you occupied for hours.

Piers Plowright is an esteemed radio producer who is perhaps most famous for his approach to features and the use of sound and words to tell stories. Piers’ reflects on how some of the modern approaches to audio production and radio are stopping programme makers from letting people to tell their own stories. It is well worth listening to Piers interview on Radio Radio talk about how radio is a ‘meal’ and that each sound should be ‘succulent’, in that the listener should be able to taste each of the sounds.

Audio drama played a significant role in the conference, and one that was given specific attention was the BBC Audio Drama version of Metropolis. This is a reworked version of the famous silent movie, telling a dystopian story of oppression and terrorism. Produced by Toby Swift this is powerful rendition of the novel by Thea von Harbou that fits with the tradition of dystopian storytelling that radio drama does well, wether is is Huxly, Ballard or Orwell. You can download a copy if you search at CC Radio Archive.

Bugs & Beats & Beasts is a German soundscape and music cross-over that was produced in 1999 by Ammer & Console who are a collaborative team who have produced Radio Plays for over fifteen years. One of the distinct differences with the German approach to audio drama is the notion of the Radio Producer versus the Auter, in the sense that the Producer is regarded as something of a ‘fixer’ whereas the Auter is viewed as a more artistic and idealistic creative originator.

There was much more discussed during the days of the conference, it just wasn’t possible to get to it all, but these examples and samples are certainly a good starting point for more exploration.

Radio Research 2013


Radio Researchers BBC BH Tour

Academic conferences are often expected to be dull affairs that leave one soporific. Nothing can be further from the truth than Radio Research 2013. The ECREA hosted conference organised by Prof Guy Starkey and the University of Sunderland, at their London campus, has been vibrant, absorbing and engaging.

In his keynote address Andrew Crissel reassured the attendees that radio has a strong future based on its focus on words and ideas, and despite all the pressure to ‘visualise’ radio.

It’s great to re-confirm why I became interested in radio in the first place and to be reminded that there is more to radio than just youth and popular radio. Reconnecting with other forms of radio, drama, features and reportage has been heartening and welcome.

So I’ll be heading back to Leicester with a renewed sense of vigour that radio is a rich and enriching area to work in.