Internal blog post
Operations Manager Update #26

How has Radio Verulam changed your life?

When I caught up with Nick this week, after being away for a month or so, I really got thinking about what Radio Verulam has done to enrich not only my life but the lives of all of you as volunteers.

I moved to the UK in March 2017, not knowing a soul in St Albans. Having come from an established community radio and journalist background in Australia, I felt completely out of my depth in trying to find my feet – not just career-wise, but culturally as well. A chance volunteer application to Radio Verulam found me sitting with Denise Parsons in July that year, talking about being a volunteer producer for Nick Hazell’s Thursday Verulam in the Morning show. From there, every Thursday I turned up as a volunteer (pregnant with my second child!) and Nick patiently and comprehensively explained the UK radio landscape, how to work Myriad, drive the desk and eventually present the show. I met Andy Waterfield a couple of months later and felt incredibly invigorated after he suggested ways, I could produce the current affairs Outspoken programme, formerly headed up by Pat Newland. Not only did I find a kindred spirit in all things baked goods, but equally an excellent sounding board and mentor for programming, content and my Honours dissertation. Around this time, Clive Glover also met with me and provided a lot of contextual information for my research, including UK community radio, the Hertfordshire area and of course, the history of Radio Verulam and vision for the station in the next few years.

After three months of volunteering, I got offered two-weeks work experience with BBC Radio 2 (Jeremy Vine) after the senior producer rang me to say, it was my Australian community radio experience and volunteering at Radio Verulam that clinched the deal. This was a groundbreaking moment for me, as my lofty dream as an Australian radio producer, like many, was to eventually be involved with the BBC. Four months later, I found myself accepting a BBC Radio 4 assistant producer position – bona fide – of which I would go on to produce for Woman’s Hour, Saturday Live and The Media Show.

Around December 2018, 18 months into my volunteering journey I was successfully shortlisted to be the part-time Operations manager. I had thrown my hat in the ring, when the opportunity arose, as I genuinely wanted to be part of transforming the station and making it a brilliant volunteer-led community radio organisation. Till now, I have worked with the board and over 90+ volunteers to ensure we stay relevant and integral to the community (local and global) we broadcast to and create a positive volunteering experience all round, whether people are in on-air or off-air roles, both are valuable to me.

Finally, in October last year, I finished my two and a half year-long Honours dissertation, “Fine-tuning radio’s digital age: Investigating the use of technology in the production practices of community radio stations, to help reimagine the social value of volunteer community radio producers” (a mouthful, I know!). Essentially, I spent from March 2017 – October 2019 researching and writing an 18,000-word dissertation on how technology and the online media environment has changed UK community radio station production practices and processes, including how these changes have affected stations content and their interactions with audiences. At this juncture, I have to say, Nick, Andy, Denise and Clive were tremendously supportive in enabling me to complete this. Over this time, I met many, many, many, volunteers across the UK, was kindly invited to a number of stations and in turn, observed firsthand, how people are using technology in radio production; things like software, mixing desks, digital media and equipment.

Now, why am I telling you all of this?

Because my volunteer experience has benefited me enormously and I bet for you too.

  • I fulfilled a fairly life-long dream of working for the BBC
  • Academically I achieved a Distinction and Academic Excellence Award from my university, putting me in a strong position to do a PhD (more study!)
  • The skills learnt from being a volunteer producer have been highly transferable into other modes of work
  • I’ve met people from so many walks of life and made some great friends

In saying this, knowing we need to collectively raise £12,000 to replace our equipment makes sense to me; especially after spending the chunk of my UK existence discussing how technology and equipment enable community stations to help volunteers broadcast! We all benefit from using the studio, as, without it, NO shows go to air! And also, importantly, in the last 12 months, I’ve seen how chuffed stations have been and what a DIFFERENCE it makes when they get a studio upgrade.

To put it into perspective for you, when I was in Australia recently, my former community radio ops manager said to me, “we need to raise $800,000 for a studio refit”!” Unbelievable I know. With that in mind, I’ve seen the great fundraising projects that are starting to get off the ground. Thank you to the volunteers who are taking the time to value what Radio Verulam does for their lives.

How you can get involved:

  • You can contribute by getting becoming a team member in an existing project (check the Facebook group)
  • Purchasing a brick (please tell your family and friends and encourage them to support what we do): https://radioverulam.com/wall/
  • Donate via a once-off payment or subscription: https://radioverulam.com/donate/

There are 90-100 volunteers and my expectation is that by the end of February, everyone is doing something to get us closer to our goal, as the output we produce is a collective, team effort. Wholly and solely created by volunteers.

Have a think about how Radio Verulam has changed your life and honestly, what would you do, and how would you genuinely feel, if being a part of your show was no longer a part of your life? I’d love to hear your stories about how the station has made a difference to you, so we can either share this or, get insights into what it means for you. One sentence or a novella is fine!

As always, feel free to drop me a line with any feedback or suggestions: leona.fensome@radioverulam.com