Reform Radio: creative collaboration in Manchester
Northern Soul’s Helen Nugent chats to Reform Radio, a community of like-minded people in Manchester working together to create opportunities for the development of young people, especially those looking for employment.
Reform Radio’s hybrid approach is what sets it apart from the crowd. The initiative comprises a blend of live radio shows, on-demand podcasts and in-depth audio features on all the great artistic things happening in Manchester.
Northern Soul: How did Reform Radio get started?
Sam Oliveira, director of Reform Radio: Reform Radio was started by three friends, Rachel Roger, Jemma Tanswell and me. We’d graduated in the height of the recession and had experienced first-hand the adverse effects this climate had on employment prospects of young people in Manchester. With an interest and background in broadcast audio and applied theatre, we appreciated how helpful involvement in the arts had been during this time. After a consultation period, we noticed a real desire from young people in the area for an online creative platform that offered the opportunity to engage with high-end artistic experiences. And so Reform Radio was born.
NS: Who is involved with Reform Radio?
SO: Reform Radio broadcasts only a few live shows a week from a basement studio in Chorlton as it develops its reputation. Supporting the three directors are a dedicated team of 16 volunteers who are interested in not only developing their own artistic skills but wanting to develop a like-minded community of young people supporting each other and representing Manchester creatively. Some of these volunteers are already experienced, looking to help out, while others have come through one of our own creative outreach programs.
NS: What are the things that listeners should look out for?
SO: Live shows from Mica Millar (former Red Sky Noise front woman) who does the brilliant Manchester Music show; From Manchester With Love, a drum and bass master mix from scene legend and ex-BBC 1Xtra presenter Jenna G; T.Dot brings That’s So Random, an eclectic selection representing the output of his label Big People Music; Darka brings his brilliant mixing and selecta skills to his Body Move show, and joining us this season is UK Garage, hip-hop legend Fallacy, bringing the finest club music from across the globe. We also have series one of our Arts Council-funded radio drama Harry (series two on the way) as well as loads of content about creative events, gigs and festivals happening in and around Manchester.
NS: How does Reform Radio help 18 to 30-year-olds in the area?
SO: Reform Radio runs frequent creative engagement programs, aimed specifically at 18 to 30-year-olds not in employment, education or training. We use radio as a fun means to engage with this demographic and enhance transferable skills as well as offering pastoral support for tailored personal development. This has been a huge success for us, enabling us to support a significant number of people into work or education as well as offering in-house progression in delivering courses for future users as well as content and production for one of our industry standard live shows.
NS: What are Reform Radio’s goals?
SO: Reform Radio’s goal in the next three years is to establish itself as Manchester’s premier audio publication platform for representing what young creatives in the city have to offer. Around this we want to develop a community of young people who are using this medium to form more active and communicative communities that provide peer-led opportunities within them. This will be essential in allowing us to continue in our social mission of providing relevant and meaningful high-end artistic experiences alongside pastoral support especially for young people struggling to find employment.
NS: What are your success stories?
SO: Our first radio sitcom, Harry, has been a huge success story for us. It was developed during our pilot programme by our first group of participants as a vehicle for Reform Radio to go forward and artistically explore the real life experiences of the unemployed young people it engaged with. As part of Contact’s Future Fires programme they supported us to write a bid for the Arts Council and we’re the first in the history of that programme to be successful in first time of asking. As a result we got the means by which to work alongside award-winning writer Louise Wallwein to condense the experiences of a new group of unemployed people into six episodes of an amazing radio play. The results surpassed all expectations, with the group starring in it themselves and even finding time to deliver a sold out live performance at Manchester’s Contact Theatre in December. You can listen to the whole series and watch a video of the live event at www.reformadio.co.uk/harry.
NS: What are your plans for the future?
SO: Reform Radio is currently in negotiations about an exciting new space that will enable us to massively increase our capacity and our ability to deliver quality live shows that represent Manchester as well as offer more opportunities for unemployed 18 to 30-year-olds in the area. In the meantime, head to www.reformradio.co.uk and listen again to all our brilliant live shows and check out some of the amazing outreach projects we’ve conducted within the local area. If you want to get involved, visit the website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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