AdviceAll ArticlesEntertainment

Tony Swinhoe on Pride Radio

In recent years the number of radio stations in the UK has risen, specifically those aimed at a LGBT audience profile.  This proliferation is down to the hard work from people like Tony Swinhoe, programme controller of Pride Radio North East, a volunteer-run project, which is often the envy of better financed enterprises. Ryan Houston talks to the broadcaster’s main  man bout the growth of the station and what’s on its way to LGBT radio in the North East.

How was Pride Radio North East formed and why?

It was formed as there was no outlet in commercial radio for LGBT people to have their own voice:  When was the last time you heard a commercial radio station congratulate two people on their civil partnership, or give a shout out for a lesbian lady wishing her partner a happy birthday?  This is why Pride Radio was formed, to allow LGBT people to express their views on air and have a say in their community. Actually, it was formed after a drunken evening over dinner with some friends where we struck upon the idea.  We then looked at how realistic it would be to set up.  We got some money together to put the entire infrastructure in place and began broadcasting online.  Last year we undertook our first Restricted Service License (RSL) for four weeks on 87.9FM and we received a tremendous response from the LGBT community.

What has made you continue the work and the development of Pride Radio North East?

The response from the community towards the station, our music and our presenters has been amazing.  They have given us so much support over the last 18 months from conception to where we are today.  It  is because of our listeners that we are continuing to develop the station in other areas and extend our involvement in the north east LGBT community.  We will be undertaking some major development work over the next 12 months too, from building extra studios to raising our profile within the community and some exciting new programmes.

Do you feel that there is a need for LGBT radio in the north east of England?

Yes absolutely!  The feedback we have received has been testament to that.  A  lot of our listeners are saying they wish were on FM full time so that they can hear us when they’re out and about in their cars.  Being in place has allowed us to support lots of LGBT initiatives such as the Pride events, Northern Proud Voices, Women4Women, Tyne Trans to name but a few.  Our ethos is to inform, educate and entertain through information & health bulletins and a wide range of music.  Our presentation team are all made up from the LGBT community and include very popular artists such as Ophelia B & Miss Rory.  We receive messages from people saying they wake up with Pride Radio, they listen to us at home and at work.  We are really a part of people’s lives now, which is a fantastic thing for all of us at Pride Radio.

What makes Pride Radio North East different from the other LGBT stations in the UK?

Everybody at Pride Radio are volunteers from the local LGBT community who are known for what they do outside of Pride Radio, because of this we understand and can talk about the issues which really affect the LGBT community today.  It sounds clichéd but we are really one big family at Pride Radio, from our  initial recruitment night back in April 2010 we met some fantastic people who all came on board and who are still with us today.  Through this we have amassed a large listening base which chats to us when we are out and about on the Scene or at Pride events, etc. and from our point of view it’s great to meet the people who are listening to us, to hear their ideas for the station and take those on board to make what we do even better.

The station has now officially celebrated its first birthday, how does that make you feel?

Incredibly proud!  Of the station and all of our volunteers.  If anyone had told me 18 months ago I would be a part of setting up Pride Radio I wouldn’t have believed it but now seeing what we have accomplished over the last 12 months has been amazing.  We have volunteers who had no previous broadcasting experience and can now give professional broadcasters a run for their money, it is remarkable to see it all happening.  We are continuing to go from strength to strength with the support of the bars on the scene and local organizations.

What’s coming next for the station in the future?

The biggest thing for us is applying for our Community Radio License, which will enable us to broadcast on FM full time.  OFCOM have announced another round of licenses and applications are being invited regionally.  The North East can apply next summer so rest assured we will be applying!  In the shorter term, we are planning some great new programmes for the Autumn so keep listening.