Getting started

This page is to help people in the community radio sector to get started thinking about what they can offer, as well as to schools and other organisations on how they could benefit through working with community radio stations.

But first, here’s Darren Jenkinson on how he got started with community radio, what makes community radio so special for him, and what he has personally got out of working in the sector.

For community radio stations

So you are a community radio station and you want to get involved in delivering training for young people.  How do you get started?

Training has been described as the ‘food source’ of community radio.  Everything you do as a community radio station, from working with local police officers to creating ground-breaking broadcasts, from offering opportunities to unemployed people in your community to speaking to council officials depends at some level upon your commitment to developing the skills, abilities and confidence of individuals.

Your broadcasters and their support teams are the front line in the battle to enable your community to improve itself through radio. They are the public voice of your station, and the better they get at it, the better you will do.  Bringing in people with little or no radio experience and helping them develop into skilled broadcasters is the key work of all community radio stations. Learning and personal development are at the heart of all community radio stations.

Well trained volunteers will also be able to use their experience to the benefit of others at the station and in the community at large.

Learning in community radio stations may take many forms.  It may involve:

  1. Formal courses, accredited or not.
  2. Day to day support, including formal or informal mentoring schemes.

Training and individual development may principally be aimed at creating good broadcasts and broadcasters, but to achieve that, it must address many more issues than just radio skills. Good community broadcasters need:

  • Radio skills. Including practical use of studio equipment, IT, recording kits etc., but also an understanding of media and broadcasting principles;
  • An understanding of legal obligations;
  • Commitment and dedication. The training must instil a sense of responsibility, including arriving on time, attending when expected and behaving in a mature fashion on air and off;
  • Teamwork and respect. Radio is rarely a solo activity, and the ability to work as a team, compromise when necessary and show respect to colleagues is a vital part of the equation;
  • Confidence and self-esteem. These are essential attributes for a good broadcaster, and many trainees need nurturing in this respect. Needless to say, some others need dragging back a little.

Squeezing all of this into a few hours or days of training is no easy task, and it is made considerably more difficult by the additional hurdles to learning that many community radio volunteers may face.

These hurdles may include:

  • Disengagement from learning. Community radio trainees often arrive with poor academic achievements, and often have a lasting distrust of‘teachers’ and a lack of confidence in their own ability to learn;
  • Literacy and numeracy problems;
  • Language problems;
  • Difficult life circumstances, including family or child care problems, financial crises, criminal justice constraints (such as probation, bail or ASBO conditions) or innumerable other possible personal problems;
  • Physical or mental health issues or disabilities.

Faced with this rather intimidating list, community radio groups may be tempted to take the easy route, to cream off the most obviously talented, well balanced, enthusiastic applicants and back away from more challenging recruits. This would be a mistake on several levels:

  • You are obliged (because you are delivering social gain) to offer access to the airwaves to the excluded and marginalised. Very often this means the people who are disadvantaged or troubled in other areas of their lives;
  • The potential to change lives is often much greater with ‘difficult’ trainees. Community radio is unlikely to make a huge practical difference to the life of a well-educated, well-paid professional, at least in comparison to that of an unemployed, unqualified school-leaver;
  • Often the trainees who start out the most quiet, shy or troubled will blossom into the best community broadcasters. This effect has been noticed again and again by community radio stations across the country and you’d be daft to ignore this talent for the sake of an easy life.

The good news is that a successful training and personal development system is eminently achievable. If you get it right (and that may take time) you will find that it quickly becomes a constant source of vitality, ideas and new talent –the lifeblood of your station.

 

For schools, community groups and others

So, you are a school, college or community group wanting to get involved in your local community station?  What can you do?

Community radio stations offer a a real life broadcasting experience in a supportive and inclusive environment.  Research has shown that making broadcasts in a community radio station can help young people to:

  • develop their speaking and listening skills
  • learn about the world of work and develop employability skills
  • develop skills in working as a team, with others in their community
  • understand discriminatory practice
  • learn radio and digital media production in a real broadcast setting
  • develop creativity and problem solving capacities

If any of this is of interest to you then you can find out whether you have a local community radio station by checking the current list of stations at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/radiolicensing/Community/community-main.html

Community Radio stations are charged with delivering ‘social gain’ in their local communities, so if you have a station nearby it is worth approaching them to see if you could work together.  Community radio stations can enhance your curriculum in many ways including:

  • helping staff to aspects of the English curriculum, in particular speaking and listening
  • supporting staff to deliver the practical component of their media studies syllabus
  • offering extra curricular activities to young people
  • providing work experience placements or internships
  • providing access to a local broadcast medium for publicity of events or particular pieces of work
  • offering media training and voice coaching to staff and young people

There are many more areas in which community radio stations could help schools, colleges and community groups.  Just get in touch!