Tag Archives: SRA

The big winner at the Student Radio Awards 2011

This year was the 7th Student Radio Awards I’ve been to (and yes, that does mean that I saw Greg James win Best Male in 2005). It was also one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to.

It’s on of the very few years where one or two stations hasn’t dominated the proceedings, with no one station taking home more than two gold awards and nineteen taking a gold, silver of bronze award. It’s always nice to have a variety of winning stations on the night.

After URN won Best Station for the second time in a row (a first), I won’t be surprised if there’s mutterings about why the same stations win – I could go into that but Andy Vale has covered that brilliantly on a guest post at The Pips. It’s definitely worth reading.

I’d also suggest a judges 1st time perspective of the night by Peter Donaldson of Absolute, and James Stodd’s pre-awards post about how to take advantage of being on student radio. As James says, student radio provides the opportunity to “try and fail” – you won’t get that again.

Obviously, the plaudits will go to URN for taking Best Station two years running: and rightly so. But personally speaking, I believe they were massively upstaged.

I’m talking about KCL Radio winning Best Live Event. For me it was the highlight of the evening.

Ideally I’d hope it ends any suggestion of judges bias but I know better than to say that: if only because the ~100% turnover every three years of students makes it unlikely. But it certainly proves that new stations have a level playing field at which they can can compete.

I need to go back to my own twelve months on the SRA executive in 2008-9. I was the Development Officer – not the most glamorous of roles but arguably the position that has most interaction with the wider radio industry in terms of policy making and structural proceedings (the others mainly deal with running the Association and organising the awards and conference – Development is less involved in that side of the SRA). There’s also the responsibility of answering the many emails asking for help – regardless of their origin (which led to a strange request from a French-Canadian asking whether I know anything about student radio stations and support groups from around the world… but I digress).

One of the last I received was from Fran Allfrey at Kings College London. They had no radio station and she wanted to set one up.

This type of email was fairly typcial – the bread and butter of my time being spent answering such emails. Fran’s enthuasism was far more obvious though, which led to a meeting in June 2009.

I thought it would take around two hours. 4 and a half hours in the KCL SU cafe later and basically a dump of everything student radio and SRA based in my brain led to a second meeting with the SU staff. At times it felt like the Spanish Inquisition with some particularly trick questions to answer in a way that would help get a station up and running but naturally it was far too easy for me to explain why student radio is awesome and that every uni should have a station to call it’s own.

My involvement ended there but I left the SRA knowing that I had made a difference to many stations and having possibly had a hand in getting a new one started…

From there launched a podcasting society to what is now KCL Radio, thanks to a £19,000 grant according to last year’s awards programme (I never thought I would reference one…).

So to walk away with a Gold SRA award is nothing short of astounding brilliance – especially for a station that is not even three years old and for a first ever outside broadcast. (the whole broadcast, along with the demo is online here).

So congratulations to KCL Radio – a well deserving winner.

Launching the Student Radio Survival Guide…. and the essential #SRACON Survival Guide

With the Student Radio Conference starting tomorrow, today is a good day for me to officially launch the Student Radio Survival Guide.

Having been a former Development Officer of the SRA for 2008-9 and having nearly seven years of involvement in student radio (2003-10), it’s seemed like a total waste to not use my knowledge of student radio. I originally posted on the old SRA forums, way back in March 2007, my intention to dump everything I’d learned about student radio into a single source. Following my election to the SRA exec, my intention was use my notes to put together a version for the SRA during an intended second year on the SRA exec, with a physical copy being sent out to all SRA member stations.

I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. So rather than let the draft notes I made go to waste, I’m launching it online.

You can find it at http://studentradiosurvivalguide.com. At the time of writing, it’s an extremely basic site with one article about the Student Radio Awards. It will be going through a redesign in the next few weeks and I’ll be adding content over the next few months. It should be content complete by the 2011 Student Radio Awards – possibly sooner. Since I’m going to Australia for 3 months at the end of the year, my deadline is to have the site complete before I go travelling.

I’ve yet to find a dedicated website that provides information that would be useful directly to student radio stations – there have been some good reference sites that have/had a similar focus to this, but usually are for a more general audience. And with the excellent Rad10 by Olly Benson having been closed (Olly was also a previous SRA Dev Officer) I’m please to launch an alternative.

I won’t be at the SRA conference this year – for the first time in 5 years. Feel free to share a link to the site – it’s run on WordPress so you’re more than welcome to leave comments/alternative suggestions.

The conference – my survival guide:

  1. Expect some nasty hangovers – but try not to miss any of the sessions. You’ll be handing the other delegates an advantage if you miss anything. YOU could also hurt the SRA if you’re not at the AGM.
  2. If there’s several of you from one station at the conference, make sure someone is at every split session – the more you can take back to your station, the better.
  3. Talk to other stations!!!!! The worst thing you can do is not talk to other stations. I haven’t forgotten 2007, when everyone from my station bar myself ignored the Monday night social and played drinking games in their accommodation block. You get to see the people from your own station on a ridiculously frequent basis – you won’t get that opportunity with people from other stations.
  4. Read the AGM Agenda BEFORE the AGM starts on Wednesday morning. It’s a vital part of the conference – even if 90% of you disagree, you’re choosing the people who will run the SRA for the next 12 months. I’ve seen plenty of poor decisions made previously – even if there’s only one person standing, don’t be afraid to vote RON if you want someone else!
  5. Push the exec for answers – even if they’re leaving the SRA, their work (or lack of) needs to be questioned.
  6. To those running for SRA exec positions – you need to be 100% committed to the SRA cause. If you’re running because you want an extra + on your CV, you’re not running for the right reasons. You need to care. Simples. I did when I ran. I’ve got my doubts about some of the people who have run previously – make sure you don’t fall into that group.
  7. The big name celebs aren’t necessarily the best people to talk to at the conference – most of the speakers will stay for the evening. Feel free to challenge them at drinking – and take advantage! You’ll get more from speaking to the non-presenters if my own experience is anything to go by -
  8. READ THE AGM AGENDA!!! I’ve read Sarah’s 5 page report for this year. Whilst I’m no longer involved, having worked with Sarah I’ve found her to report the truth in the past. I’d place a lot of money that this year is no different – and it’s vastly important that her report is taken on board by everyone at the conference
  9. If you’re interested in running for an SRA officer position, go for it – there’s plenty of regional officer positions still available – trust me when I say that they’re a lot of fun to do.
  10. Don’t houdn the celebs. They’ll only get annoyed if you try to talk to them too much.
  11. Make notes. Sounds obvious, but it really helps you to plan long term for your station.
  13. Ask questions. Lots of them. You won’t get a better chance to get the information you want.
  14. Use Twitter – tag any tweet with #sracon and anyone who searches for the hashtag can find out what people are thinking/saying about different bits of the conference. Last year saw tweets appearing on the big screens in the main room – the same is happening this year. Take advantage.

It remains a disappointment that I didn’t get more time to shape the SRA and take it forward – take any chance you have to help it onwards. And have a good #sracon

…and it's goodbye from me

It’s It’s an odd feeling typing these words but following the conclusion of the  Student Radio Conference later today, I’ll be bringing 7 years of direct involvement in student radio to a close.

It was a tough call and one not taken lightly, but looking at the future from the wrong side of my 20s has provided a different perspective on where I should be heading over the next few years. I won’t bother going through the reasons – there’s far far too many and most won’t be of interest.

It’s been a very weird journey – I joined Burn FM in Birmingham mainly by chance, making a very impulsive decision to go on a mate’s Sunday afternoon show (having been out the previous night until 3am and feeling rough after waking  up in I’ve no idea where). But that first time in a radio studio, seeing a “big box with slidey things that play music” (i.e. a broadcast mixer) convinced me that radio was something I should have a go at doing – even if most of that first show was spent holding my head as being drunk turned into a hangover!

That was nearly 7 years ago, during which I’ve been a Head Engineer, Head of Imaging/Production, Station Manager at Burn and an SRA Regional, Exec and Admin officer. And student radio remains just as awesome now as it was then – a quick listen to the 2008 awards entries more than proved that (even if the week spent ripping 100 odd CDs and scanning over 500 A4 pages for the judges of the 2008 Student Radio Awards battered me somewhat…)

Seriously, check out stations that aren’t your own – it’s not like there’s a lack of choice! And there may be a good idea or five to pinch…

It’s been great seeing the SRA improve too – my first event being the now mythical l 2005 Student Radio Awards night (aka the one where Greg James won). They’ve simply grown beyond recognition over the last 5 years – something very few people get the chance to see. It’s a privilege to have had that opportunity (even if at the expense of a failed degree and a 2:2).

Beyond the awards, it’s been fascinating seeing both my old station, Burn FM, and the Student Radio Association change in so many ways over a longer period of time than most people get the change to see. Both have made huge steps forward over the years, even though my station did manage a step back thanks to the university not taking too kindly to this particular story making the headlines.

So what’s changed for the SRA and student radio? I’ll limit myself to 3 points, otherwise this list would become very long!

1) The conference – in Southampton many of the sessions had current students talking about why their station was so good and won several awards at the 2005 Student Radio Awards – not exactly the best in terms of the speakers, even if the beer was cheap and easy to squeeze a pint or two between every session. Now, we have Andy Parfitt speaking this year and Ashley Tabor last… along with a firm commitment  from Andrew Harrison of the RadioCentre to support student radio stations in having access to FM spectrum, should the proposed digital upgrade take place in 2015. It’s been getting better and better.

Even so, kudos is well deserved for Surge (Southampton), URY (York), URB (Bath), LSRFM.com (Leeds) and Fly (Nottingham) – good times!

2) Affordability/Value for money – The membership fee has remained static since at least 2005. But beyond the conference and awards, the SRA didn’t offer as much as it could have done. It now offers much more, particularly as of 2008/9 with the new brand, the Chart, I Love Student Radio… not to mention successful integration of Facebook and Twitter – a search for #sracon proves that.

3) The awards – mainly in that the entry process is now online, rather than requiring CDs and relying on Royal Mail – something I’ll take partial credit for, as it was clear that posting CDs wasn’t going to work following the massive increase in numbers (300 in 2005 has become 500 in 2008 and 2009). But the change of venue to the Indigo has also made a big difference. It’s substantially larger than the New Connaught Rooms (which had a max capacity of 600) and allows the SRA to offer cheaper tickets without food (and can hold something like 1,500 people if required).

It’s been a mind-blowing 7 years (or a quarter of my life) , initially being behind the microphone, latterly representing it – and it remains a best way to make some awesome, unique content (12 hour outside broadcasts come to mind) whilst providing opportunities to go further into the radio industry and offering the industry with a cracking one-stop shop for talent.

I went to uni not knowing that Birmingham had a student radio station, let alone that student radio was widespread across the UK – and fully expecting to be spending most of my uni life pushing for  a career of looking through telescopes and doing astrophysicsy black hole creation, rather than talking into a microphone and stripping out servers, rebuilding edit suites as outside broadcast studios and pushing for a career in radio. I made the right choice.

Thanks to everyone who I’ve met, especially those of you who has been brilliant to work with. There’s too many people to list but Mark, Sarah, Matt, Kate and Tim deserve a special mention for being awesome to work with on the 2008/9 exec. The rest of you know who you are! (btw Mark’s published his thoughts on leaving student radio last week – have a look here).

Feel free to play the Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition - it’s the one song that sums up my thoughts perfectly. It’s tough to be leaving, but I do so knowing that student radio and the SRA are stronger and more important than ever – and I’m pleased I had the opportunity to have done my bit.

I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

But I thought it best to end by going back to the beginning, of how chance meetings and connections at my hall in uni lead me down a 7 year path down the road of student radio – and the start of my involvement with the SRA 5 years ago, which started with the now mythical 2005 Student Radio Awards night (aka the one where Greg James won).

Developing Student Radio: it's my new job!

Once again, another long break from the blogosphere but it’s been a busy couple of months.

On top of having my dissertation to complete (now safely submitted), I’ve also been looking to the future: especially as the end of uni is looming.

I decided on standing for a position on the Student Radio Association Executive team at last year’s conference but had to decide which position…. well that was rather obvious for me.

So I went to Bath, having no choice but to miss all of the conference talks on both days thanks to an early Easter and uni being different and having the final week of term when most unis decided to have Easter.  Nevertheless, I was duly elected as the Development Officer.

To say I’m pleased is a masterpiece of understatement.  My role will be to support new stations to start and existing stations to maintain their quality of output.  At a basic level I have to keep an eye on the licenses for radio broadcasting: specifically OFCOM, PPL and the MCPS-PRS alliance, making sure I understand the latest versions of the licenses and which licenses student stations need to have.  Helping new stations start is also one of my main jobs.

It’s a voluntary position and is unpaid, so I will need to find paid work of some kind, hopefully in the radio industry if I get my way.

However the position has far more to it than the above.  The as yet unpublished Student Radio Survival Guide is nearly complete and I’ll be having a look at it before it’s sent out to student stations. 

I’ve also got a few ideas to play with, one of which I suggested over a year ago but discussion has really taken off in recent weeks… I’ll talk about it in more detail if the exec decides to trial the service.

I believe that student radio has more going for it than it has ever had: try finding a commercial station that has made better use of Web 2.0 than any in the student community.  Facebook is a good place to start, but even older Web 2.0 websites like Flickr have been more widely used than the commercial industry.

So if you do anything tomorrow, I suggest you try finding your local student station and give them a listen: chances are you might find something rather special.