More than 1,500 people took part in Radio Regen’s Salford Project, which worked to ready the area to bid for full-time community radio licences. The project aimed to build a pool of skilled volunteer broadcasters to enthuse listeners neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and to build an all-important cross-community partnership before the government put licences up for grabs in 2004.
“It basically gives people a taster of community radio. We’ve gone round working in each of Salford’s nine ‘boroughs’ for three to four months culminating in a three-day broadcast,” explained Project Manager John Mills. In each neighbourhood, Radio Regen began by contacting local organisations such as youth groups and housing associations to invite residents to form a steering group.
“They are our eyes and ears. We won’t do anything without their knowledge or permission,” John said. Courses in radio basics from presenting and producing to editing and making jingles were then offered to the area’s unemployed. “These are the people who will produce the actual weekend of radio – drive the desk for the community groups, produce programmes, go out and get vox pops, welcome guests to the studio and make cups of tea.”
The community groups and organisations are encouraged, with the support of a trainer, to make a programme about themselves or a local issue while those who don’t have time are invited to give an interview.
“For so long they felt they had not been given voice. Now was their chance and everybody wanted a go,” said local community worker Mike Pevitt, one of 150 residents who turned up at an initial Seedley & Langworthy FM meeting raring to go. The Radio Regen broadcast in December 2001, its first in Salford, lasted just three-days but proved so inspirational the area’s regeneration agency was persuaded to put up £11,000 so local people could buy a radio studio and begin broadcasting themselves.
A Local Station for Local People
Since the memorable first broadcast by Seedley & Langworthy FM in December 2001, the Salford Project facilitated PCK FM (Pendleton, Charlestown & Kersal), WEB FM (Winton, Eccles & Barton), B&B FM (Broughton & Blackfriars) and Swinton FM. At the end of 2003, OCW FM (Ordsall, Claremont & Weaste) came live from the renowned Salford Lads Club, while the final West Salford transmission covering the last two ‘boroughs’ took place in Spring 2004.
“What we have being doing has caught on with both the people and the Council because community media gives Salford its own identity rather than it being dismissed as an offshoot of Manchester,” John said.
Nothing annoys fiercely proud Salfordians more than being described as Mancunians, yet from radio to newspapers the local media is all branded “Manchester”. All the more maddening is when tourist attractions such as The Lowry seem to ‘cross the border’. Even among the Salford Project’s seven RSLs, varying issues and demographics have made for differences in station content, which perhaps says something about how the one-size-fits-all nature of the national media lets down local communities.
In Seedley and Langworthy, housing was high on the agenda due to much of its stock having been demolished and rebuilt. Public transport was the most keenly discussed issue in Little Hulton where bus companies often refuse to go after 6pm. As for Swinton, reports on a local youth football team stirred particular interest. Perhaps some of the most striking results have come from intergenerational programmes where young and old have interviewed each other and found an understanding.
Bridging the Generation Gap
“The mix of young and old was very positive,” said John. “The kids would say, ‘there’s nowhere for us to go and people think we’re up to no good because we hang round in a group’. The older people would say, ‘They’re intimidating, they’re a nuisance’. Yet for the period of that broadcast they got together. One older participant said that a couple of months previously they’d have crossed the road when they saw a particular group of kids. They said, ‘Now I’ve actually met them and know what they’re about I say hello to them.’”
Local police neighbourhood nuisance in the areas went down during the months Radio Regen was working people there, with reductions petty crime. During the PCK FM broadcast, the local desk sergeant was invited in for an interview. When asked if he was having a good weekend, he replied, “Yes, because you lot are keeping the teenagers off the street!”