At Reprezent Radio, young people not only programme shows and broadcast live, but train their peers to produce and edit content and actively campaign on a range of issues affecting young people. I spent a couple of days there to find out more.
Ailbhe is 22 and teaches other young people to produce radio shows. They learn professional skills including editing audio, driving the desks, planning a show, script writing, interview techniques, collecting vox pops, presenting live and on-air conversations. Participants work towards a Bronze Arts Award at the end of the course by building a portfolio to demonstrate their learning, creativity and reflection. Ailbhe also presents her own show on Monday nights and hopes to work in national radio one day. She described her journey to me:
Sefa [another member of Reprezent] trained me up which is how I got involved last year. Then I started coming here as a helper on the training session, and was given more responsibility… so it was kind of like a slow progression. This time I’m leading a session. With my radio show, I started out as a broadcast assistant, then you can work your way up either to a production role, or your own show.
It was apparent during my visit that part of Reprezent Radio’s success in appealing to a young audience, is rooted in the opportunities they give to the demographic they target. For example, when young people programme the shows, they conduct research by speaking to their peers about issues affecting them. Last week they made a series of shows about mental health, sharing facts, tackling stigma and inviting young listeners to share their experience through an open call out on-air for personal stories.
Giving young people a voice to reach their peers is entrenched in the ethos of this organisation. Gavin was referred to Reprezent four years ago as a volunteer mentor. Starting out at BBC Radio 1xtra as a presenter, he learnt radio production skills whilst broadcasting his own show and is now employed by Reprezent full time as Creative Producer. Gavin highlights the importance of young people having the space to represent themselves:
Why were the riots so youth focused? It boils down to a lack of cultural understanding and understanding of how young people think. If people in government and different positions of power were to understand more about a young person’s mind I don’t think that would have happened.
During my short visit I picked up some interview tips from Reprezent broadcasters, learnt more about planning a programme, and contributed to a show as a guest speaker. It struck me that the relaxed atmosphere at Reprezent provides near ideal conditions for personal development. The building itself establishes a safe territory; young people come and go throughout the day creating a feeling of wider community; they have total autonomy and control; delivery of a show is a marked achievement for each young broadcaster.
Clearly the peer led model is very effective in this community radio situation, empowering young people to share their creativity in a nurturing environment. Circuit aims to do exactly that using the visual arts as a springboard for young people to develop and share cultural practice.