8 days to go

As I blogged earlier this week, I’m leaving community radio station NE1fm 102.5.

There’s been some lovely tweets made in response to my announcement. One I liked lots was;

People like this are the backbone of community radio – and comm orgs in general – and we probably don’t say thank you as much as we should.

— Peter Sullivan (@ceemage) May 28, 2013

And the people who do run community projects are the backbone. They sit up at night worrying when others sleep, I know, I’ve been there many times before. So I’ve decided for the next 8 days to blog everything station wise I’ve done to give a minuscule insight into some of the roles management take on.

Last night I popped in to see Rob Davies. Friday’s 8-10pm show. We discussed some station management stuff, I wound him up, he tried to guess why I was leaving, and I tried to access his Twitter. Pretty standard.

I’ve started writing my hand over too. It’s hard to condense knowledge into documentation though and I’m not abandoning the project. I’ll still be at the end of the phone if they really need help. I was one of the backbone amongst a small group and I know intricately all of the wiring, routing and configuration of every single piece of equipment at the radio station. Only one other person comes close to knowing how it all works.

Recently when the station started running in mono I was able within minutes to direct a volunteer to the offending piece of hardware. There’s probably 1km of wiring powering the station and I could draw a picture of every single cable and every single connector. That’s hard to train others who perhaps don’t have the same technical brain. But it is skills and knowledge on offer to people who want to learn it.

I also wonder what I’ll do with my Saturday mornings. Religiously I connect in every Saturday morning to check over our logging system, our music servers and studio computers. At the beginning of every month (ie: today) I tidy up the logger into month folders, and take an older month off to backup at an external FTP location. I also run and save statistics from our website and online streaming services and show these to the volunteers so they get a sense of who’s listening where. I also spent the morning migrating the stations online streaming server to a new location, updating all of the links on the website, the code for the webplayer and then notifying listeners via social media. I finally then scheduled some pre-recorded programming. It’s just dawned on me that this morning was the last time I’ll do a lot of that.

So there’s an insight into one little bit, I’m going to have to take up making cooked breakfasts on Saturday mornings!

I’m leaving radio.

I’ve decided to leave radio. For now. I’ll never say forever because it was too much fun, and I will do it again.

I started out nearly 13 years ago when I went to the shop to get some milk, boring I know. But I remember it because it was like a life changing moment, they say. I saw a poster promoting a community project which was going to set up a local community radio station. Anyone could be a part of it. Seemed too good to be true. It wasn’t. I’ve still got tapes from a very young me trying to be a big radio presenter. I sounded terrible. I met some great people at that project, friends I’ve got for life.

Fast forward a few years and I took part in a group of community radio stations. It was fun, and sad when you had to turn off at the end of 28 days.

In 2006 I joined the board of CBIT, we were applying for a full time radio station licence. Everyone had their dreams, how it should go, how it should sound. We were successful and in June 2007 the 50th community radio station in the country started – NE1fm 102.5. Advice: The worst part about it was everyone had great ideas, and that created conflict. Find compromise. Get rid of people who cannot compromise. A famous exclamation I once heard was “I cannot be seen to be part of a project which does not use my software!”

NE1fm plays on the NE1. The postcode of Newcastle, and the fact anyone can take part. Some think it meant North East 1. It was a clever name. We set up before NE1 Ltd. Those people in blue coats in town. People thought they were our street teams. And I think they borrowed our “NE1 for.” advertising stuff.

In 2008 I became Chairman of the Board of CBIT. And until midnight June 8th 2013 that has been my role. It’s been hard, fun, challenging, rewarding and smashing. I didn’t think in 1999 I’d ever get to do what I’ve done.

Some achievements (some of these individual, some achieved as part of a group) include.

  • I’ve broadcast from Exhibition Park in a mammoth launch weekend.
  • I’ve broadcast from Tesco North Shields’ carpark when my Astra broke down.
  • I’ve broadcast from a caravan.
  • I’ve presented Kev & Nixxi for 198 shows!
  • I’ve broadcast from Blackpool
  • I’ve worked through the night fixing stuff when no-one else has been around.
  • I’ve trained a blind person to help them broadcast independently.
  • I’ve broken the rules.
  • I’ve ploughed hundreds of pounds of my own money into the project over the years in little things that add up.
  • I’ve seen ghosts in our studios!
  • I’ve chosen the project over family when I shouldn’t have.
  • I’ve had the same pair of DT100 headphones throughout those 13 years.
  • I’ve breathed in far too much crap building studios in dusty cellars.
  • I’ve stood up against people who think they could bully others.
  • I’ve broadcast from home. Always cool.
  • I’ve been firm but fair when dealing with problems. Always.
  • I’ve never judged anyone. Because I was judged.
  • I’ve remained loyal and trustworthy.
  • I’ve gained the respect of hundreds of people.

The above are what people who work in a team running community projects do. They are unsung heros. And they should be praised. They do everything others don’t want to. They put stuff first when they shouldn’t.

And I’ve worked with some great people. Hev Johnson, Elaine Parker, Dave Tansley, Rob Pears, Dave Hedley, Kyle Scott, Rob Davies. All hard working people.

I’m proud to have been able to bring Tony Horne and the Three Legends to NE1fm too!

My replacement has a tough job. The current financial state of the country is depressing. The Big Society was the flagship policy idea of the 2010 UK Conservative Party general election manifesto, they wanted to see many many more people volunteering. Their stated aim was to create a climate that empowered local people and communities. Instead from my perspective they ruined most projects by cutting the funding lifelines they relied upon entirely. And imposing draconian rules on others like community radio stations who often struggle.

What will I do in my spare time now? I’ve recently dug out my old Lego…