issue 73

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6 Issue 73 / 2015 GUESTLIST East London Radio is a not-for-profit station that was formed as a reaction to the lack of real opportunities in the industry for East Londoners. With stations across the area, people are given a pathway into radio through training and mentoring. We caught up with Ian Chambers, co-founder of ELR, to find out what is so special about East London and what it takes to make it in radio We know that you set up East London Radio to provide routes into the industry for young people and the long term unemployed. Can you tell us a bit more about why you decided to start East London Radio, and how you went about it? It's not just about young people and long term unemployed - there are no routes into radio for any age group, no real history of radio in East London, and actually a huge gap in radio media in the area. A similar population elsewhere in the country would have its own community radio station. There are some good local niche stations for particular communities – we wanted to cater for everyone, across the whole of East London, and its richly diverse peoples. We live under the shadow of Central London, yet even radio stations there (LBC and Capital) have become national. Frankly, there is no-one talking about what's really happening in Walthamstow, Hackney, Ilford, Stratford etc on the radio – we only hear the negative stories. What were the main problems you faced when you decided to form the station and how did you overcome them? FM, AM and DAB were all restricted and too expensive for a start-up social enterprise. We realised online is the future for radio – whilst not reaching everyone, it is relatively low cost and future-proofed. There are so many disused or underused buildings in East London that finding studio premises at low or no cost was surprisingly easy. But to cover the whole area, which can take an hour or so to travel from one end to the other, we realised volunteers need a local place to go, and so we have studios now in four different boroughs, thanks to some wonderful community partners. The biggest challenge with all radio stations is financing, and we are constantly seeking sponsorship, paid training projects and associated work (such as P.As at Street Festivals) to maintain the station and continue its growth. What's your biggest success story from the station? We have, in 18 months, trained over 100 volunteers, over 200 young people through school-linked activities and it's really pleasing to see how everyone responds to getting involved, from ages 9 to 71. It is particularly pleasing when we see volunteers progress to opportunities in radio – we have organised visits to BBC Radio 1, links to Sound Women, one volunteer has obtained work experience with BBC Radio 4, another some paid voice over work. With every volunteer, we see them on a journey from their experience with us. Overall, we're incredibly pleased with how East Londoners have responded to their own radio station – and, with 120,000 unique listeners in 2014, we are years ahead of where we expected to be. That's the success so far. What's the best thing about working in radio? It is such a great, accessible medium of communication, which anyone of any age can easily get involved with. It helps develop a whole range of personal skills, from communication to planning to IT skills to self-confidence and much more. Aside from getting experience, what are the most important qualities that someone needs to have if they are to make it in radio? An idea, one that's different and not the same as most things already on the radio. Be yourself, but be different from what's out there. We work on people's existing passions to learn and build a radio programme, which could be talk-based, music-based, or a combination. All volunteers generate and develop their own programme ideas. Why do think it is so hard for young people and recent graduates to get into creative industries like radio? There are so few stations taking people on, but many people wanting a media career. The radio industry appears to be at a particularly challenging stage, where most stations are owned by one of the two large players or the BBC. As with print and web media, the way forward we feel, is growing from a local level, and we hope to increasingly fill the gap in local radio across East London, bringing both skills development and later employment opportunities. Do you have any tips for people who are thinking of starting their own creative or not-for-profit company? Think seriously about where your sources of sustainable income will come from. You want to concentrate on creative work, not chasing money. Don't invest too much Good EGGs: East London Radio

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