Community RSL Stations


As an adjunct to my work as a radio artist, for more than twenty years now I have been involved with setting up and running short term restricted service license (RSL) community radio stations, usually initiated by arts organisations as community art projects. Below are brief descriptions of some of the stations I have been involved with.

Working across four communities in Plymouth Nowhere Island Radio was a six day radio project broadcasting on 107.9FM. It was created by community arts project Take a Part to compliment the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project Nowhereisland. The station was conceived by sound artist’s Mark Vernon and Neil Rose who were also responsible for content and programming. Live broadcasts took place in four separate locations in Plymouth, Devon between the 8th and 13th of August.

Thinking about the idea of citizenship, what it means to belong to a place, how we feel about where we live, how we might start a new nation and what you might take with you if you were stranded on an island were just some of the themes that Nowhere Island Radio explored. This included live presented shows and pre-recorded features made with the four communities that hosted the broadcasts – Barne Barton, North Prospect, Whitleigh and Efford. Community events, interviews with residents and a regular ‘Nowhere Island Discs’ feature all formed part of the broadcasting schedule. Community members from the four areas could also volunteer to present live radio shows. Overall there were 30 presenters ranging from the ages of 8 – 80.

Alongside the spoken content audio artists and musicians were invited to contribute by developing soundscapes, test transmissions and radio experiments in response to Nowhereisland, the ‘island communities’ that hosted the station and themes that emerged around the idea and concept of a new nation. This included a series of test signals created by artists selected from an open call. These test signals played during ‘off-air’ times as well as opening and closing the broadcasts. Over 30 artists from 12 different countries contributed work to the broadcasts. 

Lumsden Live was a community radio station broadcasting live from the rural village of Lumsden in north-east Scotland between 18-22nd May, 2021. Initiated by Scottish Sculpture Workshop the station broadcast on 87.9FM with a simultaneous live stream.

Bringing together local communities with the wider BE PART network, the broadcasts set out to explore why and how people are joining together to take action with their communities.

People were invited to tune in, listen and to get involved with call-ins, discussions and responses running throughout the week. Programmes included discussions between activists and artists, meditations with the local landscape, artworks, interviews, Lumsden residents’ ‘take-overs’, soundscapes of the area and live discussion and debate with community groups and organisers.

My involvement was in training up programme makers and presenters, setting up the FM transmitter and studio, editing, soundscape production and studio tech.

Efford FM was a community radio station initiated as part of the Take A Part programme in 2010. Artists Sophie Hope, Neil Rose and Mark Vernon were commissioned to create a one-day community radio broadcast working with local people and community groups to generate content for the station. This included soundscape workshops with local schools, interviews with community figures and local historians, voxpops, audio tours of the area, sound portraits of people and their homes and a radio play developed with ‘Headspace’, an afterschool group and performed by a local amateur dramatics group. Many local characters were trained up as radio presenters taking charge of their own shows and the song requests came in thick and fast. In June 2011 Efford FM returned as a live webcast for ‘Take a Party’ – a community celebration of recent art and regeneration projects in the area.

The audio featured above is from a live audio-visual mix of material from the archives of both Nowhere Island Radio and Efford FM by Mark Vernon and Neil Rose, two of the artists behind the stations. They spent many hours sifting through the archives of these community based radio art projects, re-working selected elements to create a one-off live performance at the Plymouth Arts Centre on Saturday 24th November, 2012. Nowhere Island Radio and Efford FM are both initiatives of Take A Part

In 2001 Radio Tuesday undertook a residency in North Glasgow as part of the Royston Road Regeneration Project, initiated by the Centre. In an area rife with sectarianism, drug and alcohol problems and with significant levels of social depravation there were many challenges to face.

Their response to this unique situation was to set up an RSL community radio station to be run by local volunteers. They worked closely with young people from ‘The Moving on Project’, (a youth club set up by Molendinar Drugs Services) to create content for the broadcasts.

Volunteers with no prior broadcasting experience were trained up as DJ’s and presenters. The modest studio was a broom cupboard in St. Pauls church hall that also housed the water tank for the building. The sound of dripping water could be heard quite clearly on air in some of the quieter moments, especially if someone flushed the toilet. Despite this the ten-day broadcast was a huge success that gained momentum (and new listeners) daily.

At the end of the its first run the station was handed over to a board selected from the volunteers with the hope that it would continue on into the future. From these humble origins Bolt FM has gone from strength to strength and is still on air more than 20 years later.