Gloucester FM Community Radio Station, the Story so far…. After the demise of Vibes FM an illegal community radio station in Gloucester that specialised in playing Urban Music, I had a dream in 1997 that Gloucester had a legal community radio station that specialised in playing Urban music coupled with news, information and advice to empower, educate and entertain the citizens of Gloucester I embarked on what was to become learning curve for me and for many of those that I approached to support setting up a community radio station in Gloucester named Gloucester FM AKA GFM. Most of those I spoke to in Gloucester knew nothing about community radio stations and questioned why I felt there was a need to have local community radio station run by volunteers when there were already Severn Sound and BBC radio Gloucestershire broadcasting to the county. I Soon learned that the Forest of Dean had its own community radio station and had done numerous restricted service licence broadcast with volunteers from the Forest of Dean. However, it was difficult explaining that no two community radio stations are the same, and both mainstream radio stations were not meeting the needs of those that I knew wanted to hear Urban music 24/7-365 on the airways in Gloucester. My vision for Urban music led community station seemed to pigeon hole GFM, the benefits of community radio is far more beneficial to the area they serve when supported by local business and statutory organisations. Community radio provides radio services to individuals who are otherwise under-served by such services, it facilitates discussion and the expression of opinions that might not be aired on mainstream radio stations, provides training and better understanding of the community and the strengthening of links within it. On Friday 6th October 2000 GFM became Gloucester first ever community radio station, thus making history in Gloucester when Colin Riley became GFM first breakfast show presenter, the 22 day restricted service licence broadcast coincided with Black History Month, this was GFM first opportunity to empower, educate and entertain the citizens of Gloucester, up until then its my belief Black History month was something most people knew very little about in Gloucester and nationally. After the first broadcast, which we believe went reasonable well, an opportunity came up to take part in Access licence trial. The radio authority was looking for 15 community radio stations that were able broadcast 24/7-365 for 12 months. Each station had to submit a letter outlining the reason why it should be allowed participates in the Access license trial. With only one broadcast it was highly unlikely GFM would get the licence, GFM was not invited to participate. However, community radio in the county was represented by the Forest Dean radio; the access license trial went on right up until the Forest of Dean radio became the UK first registered full time community radio station CR001 in the UK in 2005. After the first broadcast in October 2000, GFM became a member of the community radio association in 2001, the CMR is now known as the Community Media Association, GFM is still a member of the CMA.
In February 2004 at Community FM conference in Manchester, I and other board members had the privilege of hearing Zane Ibrahim of Bush Radio, Cape Town taking questions from the floor. One astute questioner asked this: ‘How much of community radio is community, and how much is radio?’ Zane scarcely blinked before replying – to the surprise of some delegates – ‘90% community, 10% radio.’
This is of course a simplification. But it echoes the board experience that resources, energy and time are devoted overwhelmingly to non-broadcast activity. The volunteers make the radio. It’s the board role is to enable them to do it.
The relative importance of community against radio also applies to the output. Yes, good output is important. Interesting programming, clever scheduling and skilled presenters are vital ingredients. Some community stations will go so far as to bring in professional presenters to host key shows. That perhaps misses the point. One of the strengths of community radio is that it provides room for error.
From 2001 -2005 GFM 28 day restricted service license broadcasts coincided with the Gloucester festival and Jamaican independence celebration on 6 August, Gloucester is twinned with St Anne in Jamaica. GFM secured its full time community radio licence in November 2005 to broadcast, music, news, information & advice to the citizens of Gloucester 24/7-365, CR054. GFM commenced full time broadcasting on Friday 21 July 2006 Since we began full time broadcasting the cost to broadcast have grown each year. GFM monthly running cost is now nearly £2000. There have been 14 community radio stations that have closed or handed back their license including the Forest of Dean radio. There have been 13 community radio stations that handed back their full-time licence before getting on the air - either because their two years ran out or because the project folded, once a station has been given a license it has two year to get on air. There are currently 212 licensed community radio stations broadcasting on air and 242 valid licences, 30 stations are not currently on air. The total number of community radio licences issued to date is 269.
The fact GFM is still broadcasting is an achievement in the current economic climate, it’s our belief local business overlook the fact that GFM listeners contribute to the local economy when advertising their businesses, and we also know that most of GFM listeners do not listen to other radio stations in Gloucester. I encourage business to advertise with GFM, its cheaper than many believe, GFM will work with businesses to create a package that wont put a big hole in their pocket, GFM is a voluntary run not for profit organisation, therefore the emphasis is to help and support small, medium and large businesses, all the revenue secured from advertising goes toward keeping GFM on air and to continue its development. We are seeking a minute taker and fundraising volunteer with experience in writing funding bids and fundraising to join the board, more daytime volunteer presenters and volunteers who would like to read the news to join our news team, young people to join the young people community link show, someone with experience to manage and maintain GFM IT equipment and someone to develop and manage GFM website, facebook and twitter. GFM is unique in what it delivers to listeners, GFM promotes the delivery of services provided by local authorities and other public services, economic development and of social enterprises, employment, opportunities for the gaining of work experience;, social inclusion; cultural and linguistic diversity, civic participation and volunteering.
This year is without doubt when the dream I had in 1997 became a nightmare, It’s our belief GFM is an invaluable asset to the city of Gloucester and should we have to close down and hand back our license, it will be an enormous loss to the city of Gloucester.
There are currently 93 volunteers from 16 - 60 plus involved with GFM, we are constantly being approached by young people who want to join the GFM Family to do work experience, sadly we don’t have the finance to get the resources required to accommodate the requests.
Through out the life time of GFM there have been numerous volunteers that have gone to university, in 2012 Jonny wrote to GFM Community Link Coordinator:-
This is a just a quick e-mail really, as you may be aware, I got a place at
Bournemouth University to study Radio Production which I start in September. Obviously I will be moving away which means I will not be able to do the Friday show anymore, with this in mind, I thought perhaps The Friday Show on the 2nd of September might be a nice chance for me to say thanks to GFM and all the people that have helped me along the way, also to say goodbye!
I'm sure my university application would have looked more than a little empty without the opportunity that GFM has given me. Especially in giving me so much freedom to create the show and make it my own, I would like to thank you personally for this (especially for taking a gamble on me and Andy when we had only been with GFM a few months!) it meant a lot to be trusted to broadcast across Gloucestershire! Bournemouth University is the best in the country for the Radio course and I know I wouldn't have got in without my GFM experience, it really has been very valuable Also, I have been given a casual job at BBC Radio Gloucestershire doing little jobs here and there when I am back from Uni. Again, I would have had no chance getting a job with the BBC if it wasn't for GFM! If you ever need someone to come in and do a show at short notice in the Holiday periods, give me a call because I'm always happy to help out as much as I can. Thank you and the whole GFM Family for the help that I've received in my 3 years here. Jonny”
We want to continue to serve the community and to give the same opportunities like that given to Jonny and many more, you can help us to do this, you can donate online via www.gloucesterfm.com, or you can join others and set up monthly direct debit, the information is on the website. If you would like to pop in and meet us and give a donation please telephone 01452 525425 to make arrangements GFM next fundraising event is the GFM Awards & Fundraising Dinner & Dance on Saturday 5th October @ Wall Clubs; this year’s headline singer is Peter Spence from Birmingham with support from Gloucester’s IOP Community Choir, Wrenren and Monique & Friends. Tickets are £30 and tables of 10 are available upon request We are seeking raffle and auction prizes for the event, please telephone 01452 525425 if you would like to donate something for the raffle or auction Derrick Francis
Gloucester FM (GFM 96.6) www.gloucesterfm.com / www.gfmsave.com