Community radio: two Manchester projects

Many young people love listening to the latest sounds on the radio. While some dream of hitting the airwaves themselves, this is usually an unobtainable ambition.

But in Manchester, local charity Radio Regen has helped more than 5,000 local people hit the airwaves via its two community radio stations since 1999.

Radio Regen’s director and co-founder, Phil Korbel, says: “It’s great to see so many local people using the stations to support each other either through helping to develop skills that will serve them well at school and in the workplace, or through simply imparting important information about local issues and opportunities.”

Wythenshawe FM (serving an area once known as the biggest council estate in Europe) and ALL FM (heard across the M6 corridor of Ardwick, Longsight and Levenshulme) are not only making local radio responsive and relevant to the needs of their community, but they are using radio as a development tool to engage with some of the hardest to reach members of their communities through workshops, training courses and projects.

Barkery Jammeh’s post as youth engagement worker at ALL FM is funded by Children in Need. He explains how the radio station gives people a chance to establish a profile for themselves and their concerns. “When making a show, I encourage the young people to decide for themselves what issues they want to talk about and how best to send their message out into the local community.”

Programmes have been made by local refugees, a group of disaffected teenagers who used portable recording equipment to make their shows in the street, and even children as young as 10. “The process that young people go through when making a show is educational in lots of ways,” says Jammeh. He leads sessions designed to help young people generate ideas and then decide which ones to use before taking them through the technical and creative procedures involved in turning them into actual programmes. “They learn how to practise, analyse their work and perform too,” he says.

Three youngsters from the Manchester Young Carers forum recently worked with Jammeh to devise a radio programme about their own interests, and to raise awareness of their support group. “It was great talking about football and which is the best team in the city,” says one young carer.

Rochelle Jones, the forum’s young carers development worker, says: “As well as boosting their confidence, making and presenting the show gave these young people a break from their role as carers and the opportunity to develop team-building skills.”

Local resident Nadia Ali adds: “The station is a good influence in an area renowned for gang culture where crime is often the result of teenagers having nothing to do.”

Like ALL FM, Wythenshawe FM is staffed by volunteers with only a small professional support staff. Built as a garden city in the 1930s, Wythenshawe is a largely white, working class area on Manchester’s outskirts that has been starved of opportunity. Its Benchill ward is one of the most disadvantaged in the country half the residents have no qualifications and extremely poor health, and there are high levels of unemployment, crime and one-parent families.

One of Wythenshawe FM’s volunteer presenters, Les Watson, explains how from the outset the station has had a positive effect on the local community: “Instead of hanging around shops and car parks, youths were ringing us up asking to be involved.”

It’s this sort of result that Korbel wants to see the government help to replicate around the country.

He says: “I hope the government continues to appreciate that community radio has massive potential to impact positively on many areas of life.”


● Go out into the locality and canvass opinion. Find out what people want in terms of entertainment, local information, and opportunities to learn.

● Design courses that give people a chance to learn skills that are transferable to the work place, such as communication skills, problem-solving skills, ICT skills, and creative skills.

● Provide opportunities for all ages.

● Work with councils and other local groups involved in caring for people to identify those who might benefit from targeted interventions.

● Lead the process of programme design but allow the participants to shape the creative process themselves so the end product is something they own.

Further information

Information on eligibility for funding

This article appeared in the 13 December issue under the headline “On the right wavelength”

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