From their studio in a Hackney cafe, London Fields Radio serves up an eclectic mix of arty podcasts made by and for the local creative community. We asked station manager Kate Hutchinson what LFR is all about and how she picks new shows…
What’s your role at London Fields Radio?
I run all aspects of the radio station – I’m in charge of programming and the website. I’m the clubbing editor at Time Out magazine and freelance for various other publications, so this is something that I do in my spare time and weekends. It’s completely voluntary, something we do purely because we’re passionate about the idea of hyperlocal radio.
How does your approach differ from mainstream radio stations?
With mainstream radio, you have a playlist; therefore it’s sort of dictated to you what you’re going to be listening to by an unseen board of music directors. We don’t have a playlist and we’re internet only. There’s a little booth in the window of [Wilton Way] Cafe and the majority of shows are recorded from there within cafe hours, so you’ve got the noise in the background – the coffee machine whirring and chitter chatter. Then we upload the shows onto Mixcloud and that feeds back into our website.
How did LFR start?
They opened the cafe about two years ago. Someone suggested to David McHugh, the co-owner, that having a radio station in the corner might be a nice idea, so it’s something they built into it. Although it doesn’t dominate Wilton Way, the cafe is the cultural creative hub of the street and the radio station is the mouthpiece. 90% of the people who present [shows] live in the surrounding streets and they’re talking about the sorts of things that happen to them in the area, the characters they meet and how things are changing.
What do you look for when you're commissioning new shows?
We’re not interested in people who want to be the next Zane Lowe or Annie Mac. It’s very much an arts and talk-based station. While we pride ourselves on having great musical selection, it’s more likely to be someone who’s rifled through their grandad’s ’70s punk collection than [someone playing] new fresh dubstep.
There’s a great new show we’ve just got called Page One. This fantastic guy called Adrian just sent me a couple of paragraphs, and it stood out so much. He reads the first page of a book and that’s what his spoken word, books and poetry show is built around – it’s just a really interesting idea, rather than having a bog standard poetry show where you introduce someone and they read a bit.
What advice do you have for someone thinking of setting up their own hyperlocal station?
The idea with London Fields Radio is that it becomes a London-wide thing so eventually we’re going to have a Peckham radio, a Brixton radio and a Notting Hill radio so if people are interested in franchising our idea then they should come and speak to us! But if you’re thinking of setting up a hyperlocal station [elsewhere] I’d suggest you start small and focus on the quality of podcasts. Don’t try and do everything immediately – it’s not about becoming the next 6 Music. With London Fields Radio, we’re not branded, we’re completely independent and DIY. We have no budget – that’s what happens – however it means we are completely grassroots. If you have that mentality, only good things can come of it.
To pitch a show for LFR or to discuss setting up your own hyperlocal London radio station email Londonfieldsradiokate@gmail.com
Image: © Moritz Steiger 2011
Sign up to IdeasTap for advice, funding, opportunities and our weekly newsletter – with all the latest arts jobs.