URB Studio 2004 (ish)

URB Studio 2004 (ish)

So, this is a slightly odd post to start a blog with – as I’m beginning at the end, next Wednesday will see the end of my formal involvement in student radio after 6 years. I thought I’d use the opportunity to look back at that time (without being too self indulgent hopefully) and at why student radio is a really important part of both the radio industry and university life.

My student radio journey started in my freshers’ week in 2004 when I tuned my little bedside radio into 1449AM URB, and being a little bit of a radio anorak (something which has definitely developed in the last 6 years) and there were a few things I thought could be improved…

I signed up straight away, and within a couple of weeks I was producing music positioners and training to present a show. A few months later I was involved in upgrading all of the stations computer equipment and planning marketing for the next freshers’ week. Here lies the first thing which for my money is brilliant about student radio, anyone can get involved – and it provides the opportunity to experience every element of running a fully working radio station. In my 4 years at URB I had a shot at marketing, commercial production, engineering, broadcast it, presenting (with varying degrees of success), scheduling, management, creating features and even laying carpet in the studios as part of a major refurb. There’s not many places in the radio industry where you get a chance to be a genuine all rounder, playing a part in every area of the operation – and the opportunity to develop new skills and work with fantastic people along the way is one I’d really urge anyone to take if they get the chance.

As well as an opportunity to have a go at stuff I could never have done anywhere else, student radio (along with the other groups I was involved in through my university career) provided me with an escape from uni when the degree was becoming a bit stressful or I became fed up with housemates etc. Having watched a number of people who didn’t have this escape letting stress of coursework and revision get to them, or just going plain mad – I’d advise anyone starting out on a university degree to find something outside their course to do (even if Radio isn’t your thing; Dance, Sport, even dressing up as Lord of The Rings characters… it takes all sorts!). I once joked to a conference that the split between my degree and radio was about 70:30 – while that was possibly a slight exaggeration, the time spent in the studios certainly kept me sane (ish) and coupled with the above helped inform my eventual career choice…

As well as the benefits for the students involved Student Radio also has major benefits for Universities. Through my work with the Student Radio Association I’ve had the chance to listen to some of the impressive content student radio produces. I’ve heard some really cutting edge journalism, covering elections and other major events on campus, I’ve heard really entertaining and informative drama and documentaries squarely targeted at the student audience, and I’ve heard some of the most informed and passionate music programming I’ve come across outside the now sadly condemned 6 Music. Obviously alongside this there’s some unpleasant filler, and some absolute rubbish from people that just want to turn up and mess around – but that’s the world of voluntary radio, when you have the sort of diversity within student radio, some of it’s not going to make the grade (and more so if you were to chuck off everyone who was rubbish you’d deprive people of the opportunities discussed previously). I’ve always said student radio is unique in this way – drawing all of the people involved from the community it’s designed to serve, and constantly freshening up the teams involved (most people involved have 3/4 years of student radio before graduating) even so called ‘community radio’ is often (though not always) run by a committee of people for a community without considering getting any members of that community involved – these are the stations that usually fail.

As for the advantages of student radio for the radio industry, well – I’ll leave that for the industry:

Student radio not only provides a great service to its community of listeners, it is an absolute hotbed of future talent for our industry, both on and off air.

Not my words but those of Ashley Tabor – CEO of Global Radio, words which have been echoed by other senior figures in the radio industry including Andy Parfitt (Controller, Radio 1).

So in summary, Student Radio not only gave me a fantastic 6 years of participating in it, and eventually representing it – but it also provides an incredible experience and opportunity for anyone who gets involved, and gives universities a brilliant entertainment, news and music service and provides the radio industry with the creative and off air talent it badly needs if radio is to have any future.

Thanks to all the brilliant people I’ve got to know through student radio, and to all of those who’ve helped me in all my different roles over the years – it’s been great fun!

(I should add – I’m not going for any particular reason, apart from I feel I’ve done my bit in student radio, and it’s time to move over and let someone else get on with it!)