A New Community Radio Station

Oct 19th - Nov 18th 2018 @ TACO!, London, UK
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

I was commissioned by artist-led gallery TACO! to develop a project researching the history of the old Thamesmead Community Radio Station and explore possibilities regarding developing a new station in the area.

Outcomes of the project included:

Resurrection and formation of RTM.fm, a new online community radio station for Thamesmead, including a month-long programme of shows. I assisted with some programming, including artist projects from: Kwame Augustine, David Gauthier, Karl Heinz-Jeron, Lisa Selby and Carl Cattermole.

I designed the studio interior which included: modular handmade tables based on the old Thamesmead logo, made from recycled plastic gathered from the Thames shore; modular seating using recycled foam; digitally and screen printed sound insulation curtains combining collages, archive imagery and RTM branding; screen printed wallpaper and framed text-based prints; RTM merchandise including mugs and t-shirts; animated video projection; neon signage; and I co-designed the station’s website.

I produced a 30-minute documentary on the history of the old radio station in Thamesmead, available here. The station’s history is unique as the first official community radio station in the UK and was originally broadcast on the local Rediffusion cable TV network. I also restaged an interview between local school children and their MP from the 1980’s, with the local MP Teresa Pierce and young people at St Paul’s secondary school.
And… every Sunday I cycled to the station along the river with a bag full of ambient, hip-hop, noise, classical, and other rhapsody for a weekly show I presented.

I also curated display of items relating to the history of community radio in Thamesmead between 1978-2009, and its broader roots. These included: items on loan from former Thamesmead radio presenters and Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre; items from my own collection including pirate radio tapes, free radio posters, amateur radio QSL cards, and various books and ephemera, including lithographs from 1877 of experiments in electromagnetism by Augusto Righi.

TACO! led on the majority of the programming, the technical aspects of broadcasting, and developed a programme of workshops and learning run in collaboration with Reduced Listening to support the development of people’s shows and skills.

We also set up a steering group for the development of the station comprised of presenters, volunteers and local residents.

The station has continued its life since this first trial and inception, and it continues to thrive under the auspices of TACO! with a lively programme of shows, and was recently part of a successful Creative People and Places grant award.

Further thoughts and gloss:

RTM.fm - A New Community Radio Station is the second iteration of a series I am developing of alternative ‘community-embedded technology-led institutions’, or socio-technical art spaces/places, or put another way: experimental cultural organisations that use art, technology and media in inventive ways. The first was The New Observatory at FACT, and I’m currently working on a third: A New Public Library, in collaboration with Nathan Jones and Exhibition Research Lab, Liverpool, and a fourth longer term organisation focused on art and horticulture.
The method developed in these first two projects is of intensive research into the history of a specific locally situated institution, such as the old Liverpool Observatory or Thamesmead Community Radio Station, and broader community, historical and philosophical research, then refunctioning and translating this process and learning as material toward developing and catalysing new renderings, new institutions.

I’m interested in how an expanded notion and practice of the ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ or synthesis of the arts can be employed to support such projects. For example, how diverse practices from print-making to archival research, web design to community activism, are necessary, and can combine, to create such hybridised spaces, which support open and experimental modes of organising and being. A particular question threaded through these projects is what new types of institution might we need to make, remodel, or dismantle. And going forward I’m keen to develop projects that more effectively prioritise alternative and ecological modes of organising and commoning at the outset and at their core.

I am also producing a publication digging into themes of community and radio as a sister project to RTM, akin to how my 'Obs' artist book, was a para-text or satellite to The New Observatory project.

Installation photography by Tom Carter

Polaroids of closing night party by Niamh Murray

See RTM instagram for more images and links to shows.