Five years on the air

Left to right: Richard Dale, Becca Sproat, Lionheart chairman Garth Jeffrey and Yvonne Bell celebrate the fifth birthday of Lionheart Radio.
Left to right: Richard Dale, Becca Sproat, Lionheart chairman Garth Jeffrey and Yvonne Bell celebrate the fifth birthday of Lionheart Radio.

A RADIO station which started life with just 28 days to broadcast across rural Northumberland is about to celebrate five full-time years on the air.

Alnwick-based Lionheart Radio was originally formed by Peter Duddy and former district councillor Kevin Thompson, sending out its first transmission under a restricted one-month licence in June 2003.

It was the first broadcast of its kind in the area and lit a spark of enthusiasm which culminated in the granting of a five-year full licence from Ofcom, with the first official transmission going out on March 31, 2007.

Since then, Lionheart has been on the waves daily, operating from a studio at The Centre in Fenkle Street. The station is almost entirely volunteer-based and the programme content is locally-oriented using local presenters.

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the station is planning a 24-hour sponsored broadcast on Saturday.

Station chairman Garth Jeffery said: “We want to use the day to celebrate five years of community radio in Alnwick, and also to raise much-needed funds to help keep the station on air for the next five years. Local businesses are being asked to sponsor an hour each for just £20 and there will also be a chance for listeners to pledge at least £1 to the station in return for a mention on air.

“Volunteers from the station will also be manning a stall at the Alnwick Market all day on the Saturday to collect pledges.”

More than 200 people of all ages and backgrounds have helped the station and received training in media and presentation skills.

Garth said: “Many of them have gone to secure full-time jobs as a direct result of the increased self-confidence they have gained through being an on-air presenter. The nearest mainstream radio station is 35 miles away, which gives Lionheart Radio a unique opportunity to bring together the local community.

“It has been an exciting five years on air, with local news including the reprieve for RAF Boulmer, floods in Morpeth and Coquetdale, the abolition of Alnwick District Council and the resurgence of Alnwick Town FC.

“Some of our music programmes have gained cult listenership across the world as well as devoted audiences in the Alnwick area and we have featured nearly 100 local bands in the last five years.”

He added: “Ofcom has renewed our licence for another five years which is great news.But community radio is restricted by law to the amount of its income it can secure from advertising so we are very dependent on grants from local organisations and charities and our fund-raising events. Although we have had great success on air, it has been touch and go financially.

“We want to secure long-term funding streams so we can focus our efforts on the local community rather than continual fund-raising. It will also be good to see some of the other groups trying to start up community radio stations in the county gain full-time licences as I am sure we can work together to reflect what is happening across Northumberland.”

The station continues to look for new volunteer presenters. “We welcome people of all ages and interests,” said volunteer Richard Dale. “We would particularly like to meet aspiring breakfast show presenters. It is probably the most popular time for people to listen but an unpopular time for our volunteers.”

The 24-hour birthday broadcast starts at 9am on Saturday and continues non-stop until 9am on Sunday. Messages of support can be left on the station’s Facebook page, emailed via www.lionheartradio.com or delivered in person to the station’s stall, which will be in the Market Place on Saturday between 9am and 4pm.