Listen Up: New community radio station launched by the Foodhall Project

Foodhall Community Radio comes to Sheffield as a new venture devised by the Foodhall Project, a volunteer-powered community hub situated in the heart of the city.

With shows broadcasting every Saturday and Sunday, the project is bringing a whole host of new sounds and thought-provoking discussions chaired by a variety of voices. Last month, Exposed’s Eloise Feilden was able to grab a chat with one of the project’s producers Grace Thambyrajah (aka Gracie T, host of The Tiny Okra Show) to find out a little more about what Foodhall Community Radio is and how they’re helping to promote enjoyable, inclusive listening during these trying times.

First of all, what is Foodhall Community Radio and how did it all get started?
Foodhall is a multi-use social space, completely managed and owned by the community. It’s all about trying to implement the National Food Service in the UK, tackling a lot of social isolation, trying to integrate the community through different creative platforms, but at the forefront of that is making sure everyone has access to food. So everything that goes on outside of that main service all aims to promote inclusivity.

Foodhall Community Radio was born out of an idea from some events organisers (the branch of Foodhall called Lates) who organise all the parties they put on, and the money raised from these events goes directly back into Foodhall. Our aim was to make an accessible platform where the people who partake in the activities at Foodhall can also join in on this. Sheffield is kind of lacking a radio presence at the moment, so we thought Foodhall would be a pretty good place to start a new station. The organisation has a lot of great aims that we thought could be unified through radio, and one of our main points was trying to create a really balanced programme to make sure it was as inclusive as Foodhall is.

What kind of shows and music genres are you trying to platform within the programme?
We don’t really limit what kind of shows we take on, but we try to balance it between talk and music. We get a lot of political shows as well as a lot of music – everything from folk and country to underground Sheffield music.

The organisation has a lot of great aims that we thought could be unified through radio

You’re very community-oriented in terms of who is involved in creating the content, but specifically how does the project bring communities together?
Before the lockdown was implemented all of our meetings were completely open. We had all kinds of people from different backgrounds, some who were involved with Foodhall before and some that weren’t, all who wanted to get involved with the radio station. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 we have not been able to have these massive open meetings because it’s just not logistically possible anymore, so instead we have a Facebook group, which we advertise on our main public-facing page, and all the decisions that we make, all the promoting we do, it’s all put on this big Facebook group of about 200 people. It’s not the same as having these big open forums, but it’s kind of doing the job.

And how is the programme being created now that no one can meet up with each other or physically be together in the same space?
A lot of people obviously still work full-time jobs and have other struggles that have meant that they can’t be as involved in the planning as they might have been able to before the pandemic started, but there are about seven or eight of us that have volunteered to put the most time and effort into it. We’ve had about 90 applications so far – which is phenomenal – and we sent an email out at the beginning of the lockdown period explaining that we won’t be able to do live shows anymore because we can’t have access to Foodhall, but if people want to send us pre-recorded shows we will air them. We just do it on a first come, first served basis for now to make it fair. The idea is that people record their shows from home, and we offer a lot of advice and guidance about how to do that under these circumstances.

Your first broadcast was on 29th March. How has it been since then?
It’s been great. Originally we were just gonna broadcast on Sundays, but we had such a crazy amount of shows come in that we extended it to Saturdays and Sundays every weekend. It’s been lovely to see the community get involved even though everyone is so far away from each other. It’s nice, and it’s been quite a positive thing during the lockdown for people to tune in and interact virtually.

What are plans for the post-lockdown future?
We did start building a studio within Foodhall just two days before lockdown, and all our blueprints are drawn up; we just need to build things like tables and shelves. We’ve kindly had a lot of equipment donated to us, and Party for the People gave us a grant which was absolutely amazing because we don’t have a lot of funding as the project is just community based. The long term plan is to have a studio set up so that people can choose to record their shows live or continue to send us pre-recorded shows, and we’ll just carry on from here and see where it goes.

Tune in every weekend at: foodhallproject.org/community-radio // @foodhallcommunityradio // radio@foodhallproject.org // mixcloud.com/FoodhallCommunityRadio

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